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Inbox: How will Phillies upgrade rotation?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from Philadelphia fans
@ToddZolecki
November 15, 2019

Can you outline a successful offseason that does not include signing either Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole? -- @HOF\for\Charlie Cole Hamels deal done yet or … ? -- @zoowithroy Obviously, it would be best for the Phillies to sign Cole or Strasburg, but they still have options if they cannot

Can you outline a successful offseason that does not include signing either Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole?
-- @HOF_for_Charlie

Cole Hamels deal done yet or … ?
-- @zoowithroy

Obviously, it would be best for the Phillies to sign Cole or Strasburg, but they still have options if they cannot sign either. Some combination of free agents Zack Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner and Cole Hamels would upgrade the rotation. Wheeler and Bumgarner both received a qualifying offer, which means the Phils would lose a Draft pick to sign either player. I can see Philadelphia forfeiting one Draft pick to sign one of them, but not two to sign both.

This is why Hamels remains such a no-brainer, especially if he is willing to sign a one-year contract. He costs only money, not prospects or Draft picks. Steamer projects Hamels to finish 10-11 with a 4.51 ERA in 174 innings in 2020, with a 2.2 WAR. (If Steamer’s WAR projection proved accurate, that would have made Hamels the Phillies’ second-best pitcher in '19.) Of course, Hamels believes he will be better than that, and feels like his struggles at the end of ’19 with the Cubs were the result of rushing back from an injured left oblique.

Hall of Fame general manager Pat Gillick likes to say there is no such thing as a bad one-year contract. Typically, that means taking a flier on somebody. But Hamels is not a flier. He is better than that. And even if he pitches to his Steamer projection, he would still upgrade the back of the rotation.

So say the Phillies sign Wheeler and Hamels to pitch alongside Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta and probably Zach Eflin. Theoretically, it allows Philadelphia to spend is entire spring preparing Vince Velasquez and/or Nick Pivetta to pitch in the bullpen. It is not the preference of either pitcher, but manager Joe Girardi and a good pitching coach like Bryan Price might be able to convince them to give it a shot and be good at it. I am not suggesting Velasquez and Pivetta are the only moves the Phils would make to fortify the bullpen -- they need to find another reliable arm or two -- but they could give the club a couple more options.

Mike Moustakas makes sense at third base. Anthony Rendon would be great. Josh Donaldson would be, too. But Moustakas will cost less, which would give the Phillies financial flexibility to do other things. It might allow them to find an everyday center fielder or maybe even make another move to upgrade the infield.

Scott Kingery’s versatility allows them to be creative here. For example, they could sign free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius, move Jean Segura to second and move Kingery to center field. Or they could keep Cesar Hernandez at second, move Kingery to center and invest more into their rotation and bullpen.

But for the Phillies to have a successful offseason without Cole or Strasburg, they need to add two quality starting pitchers, a legitimate third baseman and a couple of reliable arms for the bullpen. It can be done.

Who will be the starting third baseman on Opening Day 2020?
-- @hamsinkie76

I’m going with Moustakas.

Who is the Phillies' hitting coach?
-- @steveroth21

The Phillies should have an announcement next week. Nationals assistant hitting coach Joe Dillon and former Phils hitting coach Matt Stairs interviewed. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Philadelphia has zeroed in on Dillon, who got a strong recommendation from Washington hitting coach Kevin Long, who worked with Girardi for the Yankees from 2008-14.

Realistic chance they can make a trade for Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts or Kris Bryant?
-- @robfrancks

The Phillies have the financial might and motivation to acquire any one of these players, but I have trouble seeing how they match up. Philadelphia has legitimate talent at the top of its farm system (i.e., Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard), but it thins out fast after that. The Phils' system probably ranks in the 16-20 range, according to MLB Pipeline. Could the club put together a package to make the Indians, Red Sox or Cubs think about sending their superstar to Philadelphia? Perhaps, but a trade like that would leave the Phillies bare. I’m not sure the front office would do that.

Is Girardi going to keep his no-facial-hair policy?
-- @thephillyguy

I think Bryce Harper’s beard is safe.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .