The outfield is very crowded, and with more outfield prospects like Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley on the way, how seriously will the Phillies pursue Bryce Harper next offseason? Wouldn't Manny Machado make more sense? Do you foresee a major outfield trade for starting pitching?
-- Jason S., Havertown, Pa.
These questions will be easier to answer at the end of the season. Sure, if Rhys Hoskins, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams each have productive seasons, perhaps the Phillies look elsewhere. But what are the odds everybody stays healthy and productive and looks like a better long-term solution than Harper, who is one of the most repected hitters in baseball? But your point is a good one. If the Phillies can sign only Harper or Machado -- of course, who says they can't take a run at both? -- Machado might make more sense because the Phillies have fewer options at third base and shortstop.
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It still seems likely the Phils will acquire a starting pitcher before Spring Training … or at least by Opening Day. They want one. They need one. But should they trade for one? Enough free agents remain on the market that it might make more sense for the Phillies to bide their time and look for a good bargain rather than trade a top prospect or two. I have said this before: Teams can always find pitching when they truly need it. It makes more sense to me to make that big trade when the Phillies are on the cusp of winning. They're just not there yet.
• Moniak, Haseley among Phils on Top 100 Prospects list
Why did the Phillies sign K-Rod?
-- Ryan K., Voorhees, N.J.
Francisco Rodriguez signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. The Phillies (and every other team in baseball) make moves like this all the time in January and February. Simply put, it's no risk, high reward. If Rodriguez pitches like he pitched last season with the Tigers, he will not make the team. But if he somehow turns back the clock and pitches like he did in 2016, he could make the 25-man roster and help a bullpen that needs to be a team strength. There is really no downside to it. It's not like he's been guaranteed anything, regardless of how he pitches. He will need to pitch well this spring.
How does hiring a manager with no MLB managing or coaching experience "accelerate the rebuild," as you have reported?
-- Jeff M., Warrington, Pa.
Because it changes expectations. The Phillies acknowledge this. Look back at a couple of the comments Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and president Andy MacPhail made in September and October. The day the Phillies announced that Pete Mackanin would not return, Klentak said, "We have reached a turning point in this rebuild," and, "We have reached the critical phase I alluded to earlier. I think it is time for us to turn the page and start looking forward to the future."
MacPhail then said in October, "The GM only gets so many managers. If you make this move, you're going to increase the scrutiny on yourself. Are you prepared for that? [Klentak] understood. He's unafraid. He feels like it was the appropriate time."
It doesn't matter that Gabe Kapler has never managed or coached in the big leagues. The timetable changed the moment Philadelphia changed managers. The Phillies believe they have a core in place that is close to winning. It might not happen this season, but they certainly expect to have a winning product on the field in 2019.
How many more chances will the Phillies give Maikel Franco?
-- Yehudah C., Atlanta
This is likely the final one, particularly with Machado a free agent after the season. Franco needs to show some real improvement. If he does not, the Phillies could try to sign Machado to play shortstop (he is moving there this season with the Orioles) and move J.P. Crawford to third base.