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Inbox: Will Phillies be aggressive this winter?

Beat reporter Todd Zolecki answers questions from Phillies fans
@ToddZolecki
November 5, 2019

How much are the Phillies prepared to spend in the offseason? -- @HeyAmyHugg Do you think the Phils are going to be aggressive this offseason? -- @DanielR35575415 For years, everybody pointed to the 2018-19 offseason because it included Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but the '19-20 offseason is every bit

How much are the Phillies prepared to spend in the offseason?
-- @HeyAmyHugg

Do you think the Phils are going to be aggressive this offseason?
-- @DanielR35575415

For years, everybody pointed to the 2018-19 offseason because it included Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, but the '19-20 offseason is every bit as important, especially for the Phillies’ front office, which is feeling the heat for missing out on the postseason each of the past two seasons. But it has the means to make the upgrades necessary to reach the postseason next year. It does not mean the Phils will sign Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but if they fall short there, there is enough remaining talent to sufficiently address their deficiencies.

Phillies managing partner John Middleton and the rest of ownership have proven they will commit money to the cause. Asked about exceeding the luxury tax this winter, Middleton said last month: “I’m not going to go over the luxury tax so we have a better chance to be the second Wild Card team. That’s not going to happen. I think you go over the luxury tax when you’re fighting for the World Series. If you have to sign Cliff Lee and that puts you over the tax, you do it. If you have to trade for Roy Halladay and sign him to an extension and that puts you over the tax, you do it. But you don’t do it for a little gain.”

Translation: If the Phils can acquire top-shelf talent, they will not let the luxury tax stand in their way. But they’re also not going to sign a bunch of mid-level guys to exceed it. Middleton wants difference-makers. He wants somebody that will make him feel good if Philadelphia is in an elimination game in the postseason. Cole, Rendon and Strasburg are those types of players.

The Phillies flushed the bullpen. What’s the plan?
-- @audidadx4

The Phillies have been burned the past couple of winters signing free-agent relievers. Pat Neshek barely pitched the past two years. Tommy Hunter and David Robertson barely pitched this season. It might make the Phils shy away from certain moves, but they must do something to improve the bullpen. Top free-agent relievers include Will Smith, Will Harris, Chris Martin and Daniel Hudson. Pitching coach Bryan Price could earn himself a bonus if Philadelphia successfully converts Nick Pivetta and/or Vince Velasquez into effective relievers. Both pitchers prefer to start, but perhaps Price can succeed where others did not.

Was the acquisition of Bryce Harper worth one additional win?
-- @pismo333

Do people really think the Phillies should have won 95 games because of one player? (Please look at the Angels’ record the past four seasons with Mike Trout.) The reality is Philadelphia would have finished worse without Harper. Wins Above Replacement is not my ultimate metric to measure a player’s impact, but it is worth mentioning here that he tied for 36th among offensive players with a 4.2 WAR (Baseball Reference) and tied for 25th with a 4.6 WAR (FanGraphs). He was one of the best offensive players in the Majors despite a slow start. There is no reason to think Harper cannot be better in 2020. If the Phils can get some pitching and address other holes in the lineup this winter, they should meet their expectations.

Is bringing 35-year-old Cole Hamels back a good move?
-- @OtterHooligan

It depends on the price and Philadelphia's feelings about how Hamels will bounce back from an oblique injury that caused him to struggle in the second half with the Cubs. But there are a lot of reasons to bring him back, especially if he is the second offseason addition to the rotation. Hamels was pitching well before the injury. He is a winner. He knows Philly. Lots to like.

What do you think the Phillies do with center field? Free agent, trade or content with Adam Haseley or Odúbel Herrera?
-- @M_Kelly44

It is time to cut ties with Herrera, who was placed on the restricted list for violating the league’s domestic abuse policy. Besides the off-the-field issues, Herrera has underperformed on the field each of the past two seasons. He had an 88 OPS+ in 736 plate appearances from 2018-19, which means he was 12 percent less productive than the league average. There are better options out there. I’m not sure Haseley has shown enough to enter the season as their everyday center fielder. It might be best to carry him as an extra outfielder. I’m not saying this will happen, but it would not surprise me to see Scott Kingery playing there next year -- depending on how the Phillies address their other offseason needs.

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