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Projecting Phillies' 2020 Opening Day roster

January 15, 2020

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will have one of the highest payrolls in baseball in 2020, but do they have enough talent to run down the Nationals, Braves and Mets in the National League East? They will begin to find out next month, when Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will have one of the highest payrolls in baseball in 2020, but do they have enough talent to run down the Nationals, Braves and Mets in the National League East?

They will begin to find out next month, when Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first official workout on Feb. 12 at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla. The Phils’ front office could make a move or two before then, but is taking a crack at the Opening Day roster.

Here is our best stab, using only players on the 40-man roster or invited to big league camp:

Catcher (2): J.T. Realmuto and Andrew Knapp

The Phillies hope to sign Realmuto to an extension before Opening Day, but first, they will sign him to a one-year contract for 2020. That figure could be decided at the arbitration table. The Phils and Realmuto’s camp recently exchanged figures: Philadelphia has offered $10 million, but Realmuto has requested $12.4 million. Regardless of whether Realmuto wins or loses his hearing, the Phillies remain optimistic they can sign him to an extension afterward. (The Phils want to sign Realmuto to a one-year deal first, because it has 2020 Competitive Balance Tax implications.)

But there is no question the Phillies must lock up Realmuto for the future. He made the NL All-Star team, won Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards and finished 14th in voting for the NL MVP Award. Realmuto did that following a relatively slow start (.767 OPS before the All-Star Game, .892 OPS after the break). Knapp most likely will be Realmuto’s backup. He agreed to a one-year, $710,000 contract last month, avoiding salary arbitration. Knapp posted a .518 OPS in 81 plate appearances before the All-Star break, but a .760 OPS in 79 plate appearances after the break. If he replicates his second-half success next season, he will be more than adequate in a backup role. Philadelphia also has Deivy Grullon on the 40-man roster. The Phils could sign a veteran catcher, too.

Infielders (6): Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Didi Gregorius, Scott Kingery, Josh Harrison, Phil Gosselin

Hoskins, Segura, Gregorius and Kingery will be the Phillies’ everyday infielders. But where will Segura and Kingery play? Segura has never appeared at third base, and he had the best season of his career while playing at second in 2016 with the D-backs (.867 OPS and 122 OPS+). Kingery has played third, but his best position is second. It is a conundrum that will be sorted out this spring. The early bet is that Segura opens at second.

We have Harrison and Gosselin taking bench jobs, although predicting those roles at this point is a total crapshoot. (Ronald Torreyes played a couple seasons with Phillies manager Joe Girardi. He will be in camp as a non-roster invitee, too.) But if Kingery is playing primarily third or second, Girardi will want some versatility on the bench. Harrison has played second, third, short and both corner-outfield spots. Gosselin, who led Philadelphia with 10 pinch-hits last year, has played all infield spots as well as left and right fields.

Outfielders (5): Andrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley, Bryce Harper, Jay Bruce, Roman Quinn

If everybody is healthy, the Phillies’ projected everyday outfield is McCutchen, Haseley and Harper. Bruce can play left or right, plus first base. He provides serious power off the bench. Quinn is out of options, but he makes sense to carry anyway because of his defense and speed.

Odúbel Herrera was designated for assignment on Tuesday, after the Phillies claimed outfielder Nick Martini off waivers from the Reds. Herrera is expected to clear outright waivers and be outrighted to the Minor Leagues. He is a tremendous long shot to make the Opening Day roster. Martini, meanwhile, has the opportunity to make the team as a bench bat.

When a player's contract is designated for assignment -- often abbreviated "DFA" -- that player is immediately removed from his club's 40-man roster, and 25-man roster if he was on that as well. Within seven days of the transaction (it was previously 10 days), the player must either be traded, released or placed on irrevocable outright waivers.

Rotation (5): Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez

The Phillies say Eflin, Velasquez and Nick Pivetta will compete for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots in the rotation. Eflin really should be considered a heavy favorite for one of those jobs. (Nola, Wheeler and Arrieta are obvious locks for the first three spots.) Eflin had a 4.23 ERA, 4.39 FIP and a 102 ERA+ in 56 appearances (52 starts) over the past two seasons. Velasquez (4.88 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 88 ERA+ in 64 appearances/53 starts) and Pivetta (4.99 ERA, 4.40 FIP, 85 ERA+ in 63 appearances/45 starts) pitched behind him. The odd man out in this battle presumably will move to the bullpen. Velasquez or Pivetta seem better suited for a bullpen role. A chance remains that the Phils bring in a veteran starter on a low-risk deal to provide more competition in camp and depth for the season. Behind Eflin, Velasquez and Pivetta are Cole Irvin and top pitching prospect Spencer Howard, who could earn a promotion during the season.

Bullpen (8): Héctor Neris, Seranthony Domínguez, José Álvarez, Vìctor Arano, Adam Morgan, Ranger Suárez, Pivetta, Robert Stock

The Phillies pinned much of their 2019 struggles on their bullpen, but so far they have not addressed it. They essentially are betting on the bullpen like they bet on the rotation last season. They are hoping that Domínguez, Arano and Morgan will be healthy and return to form in '20, despite each finishing last season on the injured list with elbow injuries. If Domínguez returns as hoped, he will be a major upgrade. If not, the Phils could be in trouble. Philadelphia has time to find a reliever or two to provide competition and depth in camp. The Phillies could bring them in on incentive-laden deals. It would not be a surprise to see somebody like right-hander Tommy Hunter come to camp on a deal like that.

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