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Phillies' Spring Training needs? Get their man

December 20, 2018

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will enter 2019 a better team than the one that finished 2018.But how much better are the Phillies? They have upgraded the outfield and at shortstop. They have upgraded on defense. Steamer projects Andrew McCutchen as a 2.9 WAR player and Jean Segura as a 2.6

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies will enter 2019 a better team than the one that finished 2018.
But how much better are the Phillies? They have upgraded the outfield and at shortstop. They have upgraded on defense. Steamer projects Andrew McCutchen as a 2.9 WAR player and Jean Segura as a 2.6 WAR player in 2019. Only Rhys Hoskins (3.6 WAR) is projected as a better position player than Philadelphia's two most notable offseason acquisitions. But there could be bigger and better upgrades on the horizon. Manny Machado (5.2 WAR) and Bryce Harper (4.9 WAR) remain free agents. One of them would provide the Phils' biggest jump in talent.
The Phillies still have work to do before Spring Training if they want to win the National League East. Here is a look at their to-do list before reporting to Florida:
1. Get that superstar
Phillies fans have been gearing up for this offseason for years, expecting them to sign Harper or Machado. Everybody expects they will land one, but at this point it would not be a surprise if they landed neither. The Phils prefer Machado over Harper, but their fans seem to prefer Harper. These are difficult decisions. They are especially difficult when talking about a contract that could exceed $300 million.

2. A starter
The Phillies fell short in their pursuit of Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ. They do not seem interested in Dallas Keuchel and might not want to pay the price for Corey Kluber. It leaves them with … Mike Minor? The Phils and Rangers have talked about a trade, but if no deal is struck there or elsewhere, Philadelphia could open camp with the same rotation that finished 2018: Aaron Nola, Jacob Arrieta, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez. That group struggled the final two months of the season, but the Phillies believe in the predictive powers of FIP and the FIPs say they will be better in 2019.
3. A closer
Manager Gabe Kapler felt fine navigating last season without a true closer. But the Phillies could give him one, if they sign somebody like Zach Britton. But even if the Phils don't sign a closer, they are expected to add some back-end depth to the 'pen. It would allow Kapler to mix and match Seranthony Dominguez, Hector Neris and others in the late innings. Remember: a way to offset the lack of rotation enhancements is bullpen enhancements.
4. Anything else?
The Phillies will be connected to pretty much everybody in the coming weeks because everybody expects them to do something big. So until Harper and Machado are signed; until Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto is traded; until Kluber is traded; until free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas is signed; Philadelphia will be connected to them. The thing is that the Phils have talked to the agents and teams about each of these players: they have left no stone unturned, so it would not be a surprise to see them make a big move or two in the coming weeks.

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