Anonymous Exec on Phillies: “I have a feeling they will go after someone big”

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor

For a few years now, Philadelphia Phillies fans have had their eyes on the 2018 MLB free-agent class, one that has a chance to be the greatest in the history of the sport. Just a year out from a free-agent class that could potentially include Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw, there is apparently speculation around the league that the Phillies could wet the appetite of fans this offseason.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com did an "informal poll" where he asked different agents and executives around the league which team could emerge as a mystery team this offseason. There appears to be a feeling that general manager Matt Klentak could be aggressive this offseason:

Who will be the surprise teams this offseason?

An informal poll of executives and agents produced a variety of guesses, with the Phillies coming up more often than any other team.

There is a feeling within the industry that Philadelphia GM Matt Klentak is biding his time with an eye toward next offseason's mega free-agent class. 

One executive went as far as saying that he thinks the Phillies will try to make a major acquisition:

"They say they aren't doing anything, but I have a feeling they will go after someone big," one executive said.

President Andy MacPhail told the collective media, which included Matt Breen of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that the Phillies are likely to have a "relatively low payroll" in 2018. He actually said ownership initially wasn't happy with that idea, but came around. Perhaps he said that because it was true. Or perhaps the Phillies are laying low, as the executive suggested, ready to strike if the right major deal presents itself.

The question then becomes, what would said potential big move be?

Feinsand mentioned the possibility of signing Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn in an attempt to make the team more attractive next offseason. However, this feels unlikely. Both have qualifying offers attached to their respective free-agent candidacies, meaning that the Phillies would have to surrender draft compensation and pay them a decent amount to land their services. It's also worth noting that while both would improve the pitching-needy Phillies, neither feels like "someone big."

The team does continue to be connected to Miami Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Landing Stanton, the likely National League MVP, seems increasingly unlikely. Matt Gelb of The Philadelphia Inquirer reported earlier this week that the Phillies haven't had "substantive talks" with the Marlins involving Stanton. Yelich, who will be 26 next month, probably still hasn't peaked and is under team control through 2022 at a team-friendly rate. But it feels like the Marlins may want to keep Yelich, especially if they move Stanton, who is a franchise-icon for an organization that doesn't have many of those. If they were to trade Yelich, it would likely take a bounty to acquire him.

Frankly, with a young, cheap outfield of Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr, it's fair to wonder if trading for a star outfielder would make sense for the Phillies. That would likely involve trading talented young pitching (an area of need for the Phillies) for a position that the team is already organizationally deep at. Next offseason, Bryce Harper, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew McCutchen, Marwin Gonzalez and A.J. Pollock are among the outfielders that can become free-agents. So if the team wants to land an elite outfielder, that may be the best way to do it.

Trending: Veteran Outfielder Jon Jay Would be a Good Fit For The Phillies

Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports did report yesterday that the Phillies are interested in Cleveland Indians free-agent first baseman Carlos Santana, who would constitute a big move. Again, though, the fit is questionable. He has a qualifying offer attached to him, and would be signing a pretty lucrative deal to play a position that the Phillies don't really need. Rhys Hoskins could play outfield, but he's a better fielder (and probably a better hitter) when he plays first base.

If the Phillies were to make a big move this offseason, as the one executive suggested they may, trading for a controllable pitcher may be the best route for them to go. For a variety of reasons, Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta don't make sense for the Phillies at this juncture. They do, however, need a front-line pitcher. 

Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reported in July that while the Phillies were going to sell at the non-waiver trade deadline, they had inquired on some controllable starting pitchers. In my preview of this week's general manager's meetings, I suggested that Klentak and the Phillies brass should be aggressive on the trade market for starting pitching, perhaps picking up where they left off in the summer. Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer and Gerrit Cole are among the options that I suggested the Phillies could pursue.

The idea of pairing one of those starters at the top of the rotation with Aaron Nola for the time being – with Sixto Sanchez likely to join the team at the end of this decade – would make the Phillies more attractive to potential free-agents next offseason. The league-best financial flexibility that the team has won't hurt either.

It seems to be the worst kept secret in the world that the Phillies will be very active next offseason in attempting to return to contention. Whether they begin to lay the groundwork for that this offseason remains to be seen.

H/T NJ Advance Media