Phillies

Bryce Harper (34) warms up with his bat

Phillies’ off-season was a success

Phillies 2019 off-season will make them true contenders

Phillies fans are going to continue to anxiously check Twitter to see if Bryce Harper has signed thirty-seven times a day. This craziness we all know and have pretty much accepted. This type of mania comes with attempting to acquire the best player in the National League. Aside from all of that, the Phillies have actually had a pretty successful off-season. Let’s take a little trip down Phillies memory lane to recap what has transpired since the beginning of this past December.

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Rejuvenating the lineup

It certainly would be crushing not to see Harper in red and white pinstripes for the next 10-12 seasons. However, the lineup has been solidified even without Harper, which will help the club contend for the postseason.

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The first major addition solved two very important issues for the upcoming season. First, Rhys Hoskins will no longer have to play left field in 2019. And secondly, the club no longer has to pay first baseman Carlos Santana $20 million for the next two seasons.

These problems were solved when the Phillies traded Santana and infielder JP Crawford to the Mariners for All-Star infielder Jean Segura on Dec. 3rd in a five-player deal. Segura finished 2018 hitting .304/.341/.415 (BA, OBP. SLG) and added 20 stolen bases. Nothing should stand in the way of him earning his third All-Star game appearance in 2019.

Nine days later, the Phillies added veteran outfielder and former National League MVP Andrew McCutchen. He signed a three-year, $50 million deal and finished 2018 hitting .255/.368/.424 with 20 homers and 65 RBI.

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The Phillies’ defense, which was a major flaw in 2018, is now much improved. In 2018, the Phillies committed the second most errors in all of Major League Baseball with 121. The outfield defense should be much better, as McCutchen is a significant upgrade defensively in left field over Hoskins.

Despite not (yet) landing Harper, the organization has improved the roster by fixing glaring holes. Manager Gabe Kapler now has much more flexibility to improve the offense and defense that were both inconsistent for most of last season.

Holding down leads

The Phillies finished last season with 80 wins, their most since the 81 win campaign in 2012. But losing leads in late innings became a problem down the stretch last season and their lead in the NL East was overtaken by Atlanta. This issue was resolved by adding quality pieces in the bullpen, with the addition of David Robertson, Jose Alvarez, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos.

Robertson and Pazos would be my two biggest bullpen additions, as both tallied sub-3.25 ERAs and pitched 50+ innings last season.

In 69.2 innings last season with the Yankees, Robertson allowed only 46 hits, struck out 91 batters and compiled an impressive WHIP of just 1.033. In 50 innings last season with the Mariners, Pazos struck out 45 batters and had an ERA of 2.88.

Going forward, Hector Neris needs a full season pitching the way he did last September. Seranthony Dominguez needs to continue to improve on his stellar rookie campaign. If they both prove to be consistent, this bullpen, along with the aforementioned four relievers, can become a real strength in 2019.

What should we expect from 2019 Phillies?

Even without Harper, this season’s Phillies are vastly improved and should, at the very least, compete for a wild-card spot. Defensively, the team should be better, especially in the outfield and up the middle. With the additions of McCutchen and Segura, the offense should be steadier than last year. With Scott Kingery and Cesar Hernandez hopefully having better seasons, the offense will be able to keep up with the other top NL teams.

There should be optimism within the fanbase for 2019. And who knows, maybe Zach Ertz has the Midas touch. If Harper does become a Phillie, is there any reason not to have World Series expectations? Maybe that’s a tad premature. But one thing’s for sure, there won’t be many empty seats at Citizens Bank Park next fall.

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ALL STATS VIA BASEBALL-REFERENCE.COM