With the “Montgomery-out, Middleton-in” rumors subsiding—at least for the short term–it’s time to take a look back at the final weeks of the Phillies baseball season as they begin the daunting task of “retooling” with many weighty contracts remaining on the books. When a team like the Phillies find themselves wallowing in the basement for most of the Major League Baseball season, die-hard fans hold out hope for the September call-up season. This is the time when rosters expand and organizations can bring up a few of its younger players, hopefully to show some glimpses of hope that next season will be different. Here we take a look at the Phillies players recalled later in the season, and an analysis of how things played out for them this past month.
He may have won over a spot on the 2015 roster just by his defense alone. While one of the knocks against him was his slow foot speed and an assumed lack of range at third base, Franco made some of the most spectacular plays no one saw this year (the Phillies were practically eliminated from the postseason before Franco got a chance to play on a regular basis). While incredibly streaky for the first several months at Triple-A (he told me he HATES the cold weather with a passion), his bat warmed up enough over the summer that the Phillies tried playing him at the major-league level against mostly left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, Franco never really hit his stride offensively and further clouded the issue of what the Phillies should do with their corner infield situation (Franco also looked adequate playing first base). One may pencil him in as a platoon-option to start next year, but don’t be surprised if he continues to struggle for the first two months of the 2015 season.
It was a curious season overall for Rupp—a guy who appears to be about as ‘old school’ as they now come when talking about playing baseball the way it should be played. He impressed the Phillies brass with his defensive ability and surprised them a bit with his strong arm and knack for throwing out base runners. However, Rup took a major step backwards in terms of his offense. Triple-A Manager Dave Brundage would often speak of Rup’s ability to hit in clutch situations—unfortunately he did get many chances to hit with men on base, and batted a pitiful .165 (.555 OPS). In limited latter season opportunities, his major league numbers weren’t much better, calling into question his ability to be a capable MLB backup catcher. He’s an incredibly good guy who calls a nice game behind the dish. I hope he can turn things around in 2015, but don’t be surprised if the Phillies look to add more upper-level organization depth at this position this winter.
Cesar Hernandez/Freddy Galvis
Both of these players have very similar skill-sets: Hernandez is a better offensive threat while Galvis has the defensive edge. Galvis got more playing time in September and looked to be swinging the bat well enough to earn him the inside track between these two players for what now looks to the utility infield position for next year. Hernandez, who hits fastballs well, which is usually a good characteristic of a pinch-hitter, really didn’t overwhelm anyone in his limited at-bats in the season’s final month. Both of these players are out of options, which means whoever doesn’t make the Opening Day ’15 roster could be lost to another team. One of the many question marks for this offseason will be if the Phillies can trade Ryan Howard, possibly allowing Chase Utley to be moved to first base, which would save him some wear-and-tear. If that occurs, Hernandez and Galvis (along with possibly Cody Asche) would probably compete for the second base position, with the loser having a chance to stick around as the extra infielder.
Signed as a guy to add stability to the back end of the bullpen, Adams never stayed healthy long enough in his two-year stint to make a difference in Philadelphia. The Phillies will certainly not pick up his $6-million team option for 2015 and even though he returned to the parent club in September, he fell well short of the 60-inning qualifier that would allow his third-year extension to kick in. He was overheard saying that he felt guilty signing a 2-year, $12-million contract yet barely saw extending time due to injuries. If Adams truly does feel bad about not helping the team, he might be brought back in an incentive-heavy contract to give some experience and mentoring skills to what will be a young pen next year, especially if they find a way to unload Jonathan Papelbon this offseason.
Tony Gwynn Jr.
It was a tough year for one of the nicest guys in the Philadelphia clubhouse this season. Gwynn started the year on the Opening Day roster, but eventually lost his job to Ben Revere. Tony then lost his Hall of Fame father, and one of the classiest athletes ever, Tony Sr., followed by a demotion to the minor leagues. This one-time prospect’s future is probably not with the Phillies, unless Revere is moved. One of the primary jobs for the front office is to upgrade the offense in the outfield, and Gwynn’s roster spot is one of the most likely ones to be replaced by whatever additions take place.
Luis Garcia/Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez
Two guys with electric stuff who came into the organization from very different situations. Garcia was out of baseball a few years ago but worked his way back to become the top pitcher in the Phillies farm system (as evidence by his winning of the Paul Owens Award). I talked with Luis a few times this year and he is loving every minute of his second chance with the organization and, when he has command of his pitches, is incredibly tough to hit against. Gonzalez, like Garcia, has been erratic this September, and neither pitched well enough on a consistent basis to lock in a spot for 2015. The hope was the Gonzalez, highly touted when initially signed, would show enough to give you reason to think he could slide into one of the open starting pitchers’ slots for next year. However, even when he had success in Triple-A he didn’t always show the aggressiveness needed and seemed too fine with his pitchers, to give you reason that he could be counted on going forward as anything more than a long-man. Gonzalez is owed two more years on his $12-million deal, forcing the Phillies to be patient with him. At the same time, it will be hard for the team to justify keeping two roster spots for right-handed relief pitchers with control issues when they are so many other issues to address.
It will definitely be an intriguing offseason for the Phillies, who have many holes to fill if they have any hope of competing for a playoff spot next year. The members of the front office claim they are ready to move in a new direction, but I remember Ruben Amaro Jr. making similar suggestions after the 2012 season, only to have the team remain mostly status quo. Trading big-money contracts like Howard and Papelbon will not be easy. The Phillies must upgrade their offense, bench and starting pitching with very few bargaining chips to use in trades (save Cole Hamels and Chase Utley) and very few quality options in the free agent market. Unfortunately, the team got very limited reasons for optimism from what they saw from their September roster additions and very few questions resolved about many of the team’s current players. Once the MLB postseason concludes, watch for the Phillies to start laying the groundwork to hopefully revamp the team to be more competitive for 2015.