With a talented young outfield, a strong second half from Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery likely to spend a bulk (or maybe all?) of the 2018 season at the major league level, the Philadelphia Phillies have a chance to have a pretty good lineup next season. Their pitching staff? That needs some work.
Aaron Nola seems likely to be the team's Opening Day starter in 2018, with Jerad Eickhoff and Ben Lively very likely to join him in the rotation. The final two spots in the rotation are up for grabs, with perhaps one of those two voids likely to be filled by an external veteran.
According to Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe, the Phillies have recently been scouting one potential veteran free-agent, Boston Red Sox RHP Doug Fister:
Right now there are two types of scouts at ballparks — those watching perspective playoff opponents and those watching potential free agents. Fister is getting a lot of attention. The Mets, Phillies, and Royals have had scouts watching his outings of late. Fister can be a free agent after this season, and this time he probably won’t have to wait until late May to sign a major league deal.
Fister, who will be 34 before next season, has had a nice bounce-back campaign for the Red Sox in 2017. In 15 games, 12 of which have been starts, Fister has a 4.40 ERA, with his FIP (4.07) suggesting that he's been even better than that. Perhaps more encouraging, as Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs pointed out last week, is that Fister's velocity is back up a few ticks this season.
Fister is not the No. 2 or No. 3 starter that he once was, but if he's able to duplicate this performance in 2018, he would be a good fit for the Phillies at the right price. The team may prefer a more stable veteran free-agent target, even if said pitcher isn't as good as what a healthy Fister is. But certainly, it makes sense to monitor Fister.
There's a good chance that if the Phillies sign a veteran starter this offseason, they'll have more than five capable starting pitchers in Spring Training. That could mean that someone like Nick Pivetta or Jake Thompson opens the season at Triple-A, and/or the team alters the respective roles of Mark Leiter Jr. and Vince Velasquez.