LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Phillies plan to make a little more noise this offseason.
No, they are not expected to sign Jacob Arrieta or Yu Darvish or send a talented package of prospects to the Orioles for one season of Manny Machado. But now that the Phillies agreed to contracts this week with relief pitchers Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, they are expected to pursue starting pitching. Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich? The Phillies have the prospects to acquire the big-time talent, so if Miami wants to trade him, one can bet the teams will talk.
"I would be surprised if we did nothing else," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. "My expectation is that we will have another move before we go to Spring Training."
Klentak indicated the Phillies feel no pressure to find a starter in the coming days. The starting-pitching market remains flooded, in part because the asking price for free-agent starters, even ones not named Arrieta and Darvish, is high.
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The same can be said for the starting pitching available via trade. The Phillies have contacted the Royals, who have made Danny Duffy (owed $60 million through 2021) and Jason Hammel ($12 million mutual option in 2019 or a $2 million buyout) available, as well as other clubs.
"I couldn't handicap the way it'll happen or even if it'll happen," Klentak said. "I think we're continuing to stay engaged with some agents. There's a few teams we've talked to about trades, some short-term options, some more controllable options. I just don't know.
"We've said as an industry, we've thought this, the Phillies have talked about this for a long time: It's so important to be able to develop your own starting pitchers, because to acquire them in a trade is incredibly expensive in terms of player capital and to acquire them in free agency is incredibly expensive in terms of total dollars. Maybe never in our history has it been more important to develop starting pitchers."
But a veteran starter would help the cause. Aaron Nola (3.54 ERA in 168 innings) is the only safe bet to make next season's rotation. Jerad Eickhoff (4.71 ERA in 128 innings), Vince Velasquez (5.13 ERA in 72 innings) and Zach Eflin (6.16 ERA in 64 1/3 innings) finished last season on the disabled list, but Klentak expects them to be ready to compete for jobs in Spring Training.
The rest of the group includes Nick Pivetta (6.02 ERA in 133 innings), Ben Lively (4.26 ERA in 88 2/3 innings), Jake Thompson (3.38 ERA in 46 1/3 innings), Mark Leiter Jr. (4.96 ERA in 90 2/3 innings) and prospect Thomas Eshelman.
The uncertainty there is why the Phillies got Neshek and Hunter to fill out the bullpen.
"If we're carrying an eight-man bullpen and it's eight quality guys, when Vince Velasquez has his five [innings] and 100 [pitches], we may not feel the same pressure to put him out there to start that inning because we've got an extra guy in the bullpen and we're not worried about what the drop off is in the sixth inning," Klentak said.
Klentak said the Phillies are unlikely to acquire a third reliever this offseason -- think along the lines of Addison Reed -- unless it comes on a one-year deal before Spring Training. The Phillies want to keep some flexibility in the bullpen with players they can option to the Minor Leagues. Relievers like Adam Morgan and Luis Garcia are out of options.
Klentak said the Phillies could add a veteran player for the bench, if it makes sense, but he also can see a scenario in which Roman Quinn is the team's fourth outfielder on Opening Day.
But at the moment it sounds like there is nothing imminent, even as the hotel lobby buzzed with talk about controllable position players on the move.
You know, like Yelich.
"Not really," Klentak said.
Rule 5 Draft
The Phillies have the No. 3 pick in Thursday morning's Rule 5 Draft. Neshek and Hunter have not been placed on the 40-man roster, so the Phillies have room to select a player, but they are more likely to draft somebody, then trade him to another team.
The Phillies have no strong indications that they will lose a player in the Rule 5 Draft.