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Looking ahead to shaping Phils' 2020 roster

@ToddZolecki
October 3, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- So what’s happening this week at Citizens Bank Park? It turns out, nothing. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has been coming to work every day, planning for the Phillies’ future, even though he has not been told if he will return next season. A decision about Kapler had been

PHILADELPHIA -- So what’s happening this week at Citizens Bank Park?

It turns out, nothing. Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has been coming to work every day, planning for the Phillies’ future, even though he has not been told if he will return next season. A decision about Kapler had been expected this week. Specifically, it had been expected Wednesday. But now there might not be an announcement until next week.

What’s the hold up? There are countless theories, but the simplest explanation is often the best one: Phillies managing partner John Middleton has not made up his mind yet. Middleton spent last week with the team in Washington. There is little question he used that time to try to learn more about Kapler and his coaching staff. He might not have all the answers yet.

Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and others publicly issued their support for Kapler following Sunday’s series finale. Harper said if anybody from management wanted to call and pick his brain about the direction of the franchise, they should.

You can bet that Middleton and Harper have talked or will talk.

Kapler just finished the second season of a three-year contract. Two late-season collapses have Middleton wondering if a change is needed. The Phillies finished 80-82 last year and 81-81 this year. The Phillies’ 20-36 (.357) record the past two Septembers is the fourth-worst record in baseball in that span. It is a concern moving forward.

Some have theorized that Kapler cannot enter next season as a lame duck, so either he needs to be dismissed or have his contract extended. That is not true. Former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel entered the 2007 season as a lame duck. He thrived, leading the team to its first National League East title since 1993. Other managers have entered a season as a lame duck, too. It is not ideal, but sometimes it is the best option.

In the meantime, as another October begins without the Phillies in the postseason, here are some things to know about the Phillies’ 40-man roster:

Who will be free agents?

Corey Dickerson, Tommy Hunter, Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Juan Nicasio, Sean Rodríguez, Drew Smyly and Nick Vincent are scheduled to be free agents. Jake Arrieta, Jared Hughes, Pat Neshek and Jason Vargas each have club options or an opt-out clause.

The only player that is a lock to return is Arrieta. He can opt out of his contract, but he will not exercise that right following season-ending surgery in August to remove a bone spur in his right elbow. He will make $20 million next season.

What lies ahead for Phillies' starting staff?

It would not be shocking to see Dickerson or Miller return, depending on the price. Hunter is interested in returning, but it would happen only on a heavily incentive-laden deal. Smyly showed enough to warrant an invite to big-league camp on a Minor League contract.

Hughes has a $3 million club option or a $250,000 buyout. He had a 3.91 ERA in 25 appearances with the Phillies, but an alarming 6.47 FIP. If the Phillies think they can fix Hughes, maybe they pick up the option. Vargas has an $8 million club option or a $2 million buyout. His option most likely will be declined. Neshek has a $7 million club option or a $750,000 buyout. His option will be declined.

Who is eligible for salary arbitration?

The Phillies have 15 players eligible for salary arbitration: José Álvarez, Jerad Eickhoff, Zach Eflin, Maikel Franco, Phil Gosselin, César Hernández, Andrew Knapp, Adam Morgan, Mike Morin, Héctor Neris, Blake Parker, Jose Pirela, Edubray Ramos, J.T. Realmuto and Vince Velasquez.

The date to tender contracts to those players is Dec. 2.

There are some interesting decisions here. Alvarez, Eflin, Neris, Realmuto and Velasquez can be considered locks. (The Phillies hope to sign Realmuto to a multiyear contract extension in the offseason.) Morgan could be put into the ‘likely’ category. Hernandez, Knapp, Morin and Parker are on the bubble for various reasons. It seems unlikely that Eickhoff, Franco, Gosselin, Pirela and Ramos are tendered contracts.

Hernandez is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility. He slashed .266/.345/.385 with a 93 OPS+ the past two seasons, meaning he has been seven percent less productive than the rest of the league. It might be time to move Scott Kingery to second base. Franco’s time in Philly probably is finished. He has slashed .247/.299/.427 with an 89 OPS+ the past four seasons. Because of his lack of production at third base, it would be surprising if he returns.

Who is under contract?

Bryce Harper ($26 million), Arrieta ($20 million), Andrew McCutchen ($17 million), Jean Segura ($14.25 million), Jay Bruce ($13 million, most paid by Seattle), David Robertson ($11 million), Aaron Nola ($8 million), Odúbel Herrera ($7 million) and Kingery ($1.5 million).

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