PHILADELPHIA -- Everybody knew last winter that the Phillies planned to pursue free agents Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Patrick Corbin. They got Harper in February.
It is more difficult to know which way they will go this offseason. Phillies manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night’s Phillies Charities party at Citizens Bank Park that he had spoken to a few free agents. Pitching has been the focus, he said. And on Wednesday, the Phils agreed to a 5-year deal with Zack Wheeler, according to a source. But the Phillies need infield help, too. Girardi managed Didi Gregorius for three seasons with the Yankees, and the Phillies are interested in signing him, especially after they non-tendered second baseman César Hernández and third baseman Maikel Franco on Monday.
Girardi said he has not spoken to his former Yankees shortstop recently, but he praised him.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Didi and what he’s been able to accomplish,” Girardi said. “You have to remember, I got him when he first came over and he was replacing a legend [in Derek Jeter] and how difficult that was, and to see the growth that he made was really pleasing to me. ... He’s a real character guy and he’s a real hard worker that is a really important clubhouse presence. I felt that he was important to the clubhouse in New York in what he brought every day.”
The Phillies had to acquire at least one starting pitcher to improve the rotation. And with Wheeler, they have. They also need at least one infielder. If they sign Gregorius, they could slide Jean Segura to second or third base. Scott Kingery could play the other spot. If the Phillies sign a third baseman like Josh Donaldson, they could keep Segura at shortstop and play Kingery at second base.
There are scenarios where Kingery plays regularly in center field, too.
“The fact that Scotty can play so many positions, the fact that Segura can play different positions, the fact that [Adam] Haseley can play different spots in the outfield, it really just opens up a lot of doors for us,” Klentak said.
Klentak said it’s reasonable to expect top prospect and third baseman Alec Bohm to “impact our Major League club at some point next year. I don't know when that will be. I don't know what the circumstance will be that will lead to that. But I think if he continues on his development path, I think it's very reasonable he could factor in for us next year. That's something we need to consider as we make the rest of our offseason decisions.”
If the Phillies do not sign Cole or Strasburg, they still have options for the rotation. Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamelsare fits. Hamels is willing to resign with the Phillies on a one-year contract. If they can land Wheeler and Hamels, the Phillies’ projected rotation would be Aaron Nola, Wheeler, Hamels, Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin.
“I think it’s going pretty good,” Girardi said about the team’s pursuit of pitching. “Matt has worked really hard, and he knows it’s important that we add pitching. You go into a season thinking that you’re going to need five starters and you always need six, seven, eight because things happen. They have been working hard, and we keep our fingers crossed.
“I feel good about what they’re doing. It’s not just the pitching that we’re trying to address. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. When you start to talk about spending money on free agents, it’s the combination of free agents that is important. If you’re able to get this one guy, it might change what you’re able to do with a couple other people and so on and so forth. It’s the combination.”