Who do you think starts in the Phillies' outfield on Opening Day? Odúbel Herrera? Roman Quinn? Aaron Altherr? Nick Williams?
-- Brian S., Clearwater, Fla.
This is a tough question to answer, because the offseason hasn't started yet. Everybody knows Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wants at least one hitter with a proven track record to be added to next season's lineup. After all, the Phillies ranked last in baseball with 610 runs.
I believe the Phillies will acquire an outfielder, but I'm not sure it will be somebody like Ian Desmond, who will require a lucrative, multi-year contract. That said, if I had to guess today, I would say Herrera is the only lock. Quinn showed flashes of brilliance in September, but he also needs polish. Altherr did not fare well returning from wrist surgery, but a strong spring could change the team's feelings about him. Williams faded hard in August, so I've got to think he will open the season in Triple-A.
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Will the Phillies trade Cameron Rupp this offseason?
-- Dennis M., Ruidoso, N.M.
Believe it or not, I get asked this question a lot. Do people assume Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp are guaranteed to become superstars? I'm not sure why people think that way, considering "can't miss" prospects don't always meet expectations. Personally, I don't see the Phillies trading Rupp this winter, unless they get an offer they can't refuse, because he is the only proven catcher in the organization. Despite late-season struggles, Rupp ranked eighth out of 19 qualified catchers with a .752 OPS. Alfaro and Knapp have potential, but they haven't done it yet. Rupp has.
Is there any consideration of trying to resign Ryan Howard at less than the $23 million?
-- Jeff M., Warminster, Pa.
The ceremony for Howard on the final day of the season -- the year's coolest moment, in my opinion -- was Howard's farewell. He will not be back.
Why do you think Nick Williams was not a September callup?
-- Jack C., Malvern, Pa.
Simply put, Williams did not play well in August. He was hitting .291 with 27 doubles, five triples, 10 home runs, 53 RBIs, 18 walks, 91 strikeouts and a .791 OPS in 399 plate appearances through July 29. He hit .161 with six doubles, one triple, three home runs, 11 RBIs, one walk, 45 strikeouts and a .478 OPS in his final 128 plate appearances. It had nothing to do with being benched a couple times earlier in the season. (A story blown way out of proportion, in my opinion.) I believe if Williams had continued to hit the ball well, he would have been promoted in September.
What are the chances Dylan Cozens or Rhys Hoskins will see time in the big leagues next season?
-- Ed S., Newton, N.J.
It's really up to them. I assume both will start in Triple-A, and if they hit the ball well, they could be up at some point.
Do you think the Phillies will sign Jeremy Hellickson and/or Jeanmar Gómez again?
-- Steve S., Kailua, Hawaii.
Hellickson will be a free agent. The Phillies will make him a qualifying offer, but I expect he will reject it and sign a multi-year contract elsewhere. Gomez is eligible for salary arbitration, so he is under team control. MLB Trade Rumors projects Gomez's arbitration salary to be $4.6 million. The Phillies need relievers, so while he is not the team's closer of the future, he has value in 2017. But if the Phillies feel Gomez's price is too steep, especially if they plan to try somebody else in the closer's role, they could move in a different direction.
Is César Hernández part of the Phillies' long-term plans?
-- Joe G., Erie, Pa.
At the very least, he is part of their short-term plans. The Phillies need hitters that get on base, after finishing 29th in baseball with a .301 on-base percentage. Hernandez's .371 on-base percentage ranked 22nd out of 146 qualified hitters. The fact Hernandez gets on base makes him valuable, but whether or not he is a long-term fit remains to be seen. He makes too many mental mistakes on the field, he stole just 17 of 30 bases and he doesn't hit for power. Freddy Galvis could move to second if and when J.P. Crawford warrants a promotion.
The Phillies preach hitting, but Galvis changed from a contact hitter to a home run/strikeout leader.
-- Sam D., Tulsa, Okla.
First, let's not forget that Galvis is brilliant defensively. He could win a Gold Glove for his work at shortstop, which should not be undersold. He is immensely valuable in that regard. Second, Mackanin and the coaching staff love him. He's smart, he's got great instincts and he's a leader in the clubhouse. I'm not as enamored with Galvis' offensive season as others are. He hit 20 home runs with 67 RBIs, but there were more home runs hit this season than in any season since 2000. In other words, a lot of people hit home runs this year.
More importantly to me, Galvis ranked last in baseball with a .274 on-base percentage. I'd much rather Galvis hit 10 home runs and bump up his OBP 30 or 40 points than hit 20 home runs and constantly struggle to get on base.