Did the Carlos Santana signing surprise you? What do you think about it?
-- James R., Tampa, Fla.
It surprised me. The Phillies said they planned to let their young players play, but perhaps they should have specified and said they planned to let their young players play, unless they can acquire a free agent without signing him to a megadeal. Santana will be paid $60 million through 2020. The length of the contract gives them flexibility for the future, especially because he is without a no-trade clause or buyout on a $17.5 million club option for '21.
So while the Phillies are locked into Santana, it's not like how the Angels are locked into Jose Pujols for four more seasons at $114 million or the Cubs are locked into Jason Heyward for six more seasons at $127.5 million. It is not crippling if something goes wrong.
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It will be interesting to see how Rhys Hoskins takes to left field on a regular basis, but I like the idea of Santana hitting next to him in the middle of the Phillies' lineup. Santana has a career .365 on-base percentage and a career .810 OPS and there is no reason to think he should not remain productive for the next two or three seasons.
Will the Phillies find a new starting pitcher before Spring Training?
-- Tom K., Phoenix
They said it is a priority, and I don't think the Santana contract changes that. In fact, it makes more sense than ever for Philadelphia to improve its rotation. The Phillies need to take a step forward next season, especially if they want to show Bryce Harper and others that the Phillies will be a good place to play for the next 10 years. A solid starting pitcher will help.
Why in the world would the Phillies even think of trading away one half of the best double-play duo in the National League?
-- Frank A., Warminster, Pa.
I appreciated Freddy Galvis as a baseball player as much as anybody. I loved to watch him play defense. (He should have won the Gold Glove Award.) He was an insightful player to interview. He was fun. I really enjoyed watching him develop as a leader in the clubhouse. In the first half of last season, I sometimes wondered how many players took losses personally. Galvis took losses hard. He hated it. He will be missed.
But J.P. Crawford showed enough last September to warrant a longer look. Is he as good as Galvis is defensively? Nobody can say that because Galvis was a Gold Glove Award finalist each of the previous two seasons. But Crawford impressed defensively whenever he played. He should be fine in the field. But I like the idea of playing Crawford every day because I think he has a higher ceiling offensively than Galvis. People have begging the Phillies to "play the kids" for more than a year. Well, it is time to give Crawford his shot.
On a scale of one to 10, what is the likelihood Chase Utley returns to Philly next season as a much needed veteran bench player presence?
-- Dan M., Long Beach Island, N.J.
I would say somewhere between zero and one. Everybody knows Utley is at the end of his career, but he grew up in Los Angeles and he lives in California full time. I see him finishing his career with the Dodgers and spending his retirement on the West Coast. The rumor that Utley was being considered as bench coach? He wasn't considered and even if he was I would have been absolutely stunned -- think the Santana signing times 10 -- if Utley stopped playing baseball and immediately jumped into a coaching job on the East Coast.