Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Phillies News

Finding a fourth infielder a top priority for Phillies

@ToddZolecki
December 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO -- The Phillies need somebody other than Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and Scott Kingery to start in their infield on Opening Day. Finding that fourth infielder has been their priority this week at the Winter Meetings. It could be free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has a big fan

SAN DIEGO -- The Phillies need somebody other than Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and Scott Kingery to start in their infield on Opening Day. Finding that fourth infielder has been their priority this week at the Winter Meetings.

It could be free-agent shortstop Didi Gregorius, who has a big fan in manager Joe Girardi. But because the Phillies have the $208 million Competitive Tax Balance on their mind -- they are roughly $20 million below it -- they might have to pivot to a short-term solution or two if Gregorius signs elsewhere. But the Phillies need to acquire somebody after they non-tendered Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco last week.

“That opened up a pretty glaring hole for us,” general manager Matt Klentak said.

The two biggest free agent infielders on the market are third basemen Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson, but there are no indications the Phillies are aggressively pursuing either. A source said on Monday that although the Phillies are keeping tabs on both infielders, Zack Wheeler’s five-year, $118 million contract is likely to be their biggest financial commitment of the offseason.

Phils make 5-year deal with Wheeler official

Klentak did not rule out anything, however.

“It’s all about making choices,” he said, “depending on who we might potentially add that might force us into a trade of somebody else, maybe not immediately, but at some point. It’s just about creating that proper balance. And as you know and we’ve made no secret of it, one of our goals later in the offseason is going to be to try to lock up J.T. [Realmuto] for the long haul, so everything we’re doing now, we need to make sure we leave some room to do that, because I think that’s important, too. I’m not going to guarantee that happens. I would like that to happen. But in any negotiation, you have to leave open the possibility that it doesn’t happen. But we want to make sure we operate this offseason to do everything we can to make our team as good as it can be but to also take care of our top guy.”

Gregorius makes the most sense for the Phillies because he would allow them to move Segura to second base or third base, with Kingery playing the other position. If Gregorius signs elsewhere, the Phillies will pursue infielders -- such as Brian Dozier, Todd Frazier and Starlin Castro, among others -- on short-term deals.

“We can go a shorter-term variety, we can look at a longer-term solution, we can look at the trade market, we can look at the free agent market and we can look into piecing it together with multiple players potentially, which not only would help the starting infield but would improve the bench,” Klentak said.

Klentak wants to maintain some flexibility because the organization is confident that top prospect Alec Bohm could be in the big leagues by the summer. But although the Phillies seem hamstrung by their lack of willingness to go above the CBT, Klentak is optimistic about the team’s chances to win next season.

“We are definitely building a team that we expect will contend in 2020,” he said. “I think we’re coming off a season with a .500 record in a tough division where a lot of things went wrong. I think as a baseline, with the core of that team returning still in their prime, with projection and improved health, I think it’s reasonable to project that next year’s team in the absence of any other moves could improve over last year. Then when you layer on a frontline starter and the additional resources that we have to add more still, I think it’s very reasonable to project that this team will be competitive.”

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