As he prepares to attend his second MLB Winter Meetings as the Philadelphia Phillies general manager next week, Matt Klentak may have a few dark horse moves up his sleeve.
While the rumor mills surrounding the still rebuilding Fightin’ Phils have been relatively quiet, there have been some whispers of possibility. In the usual game of whisper down the lane, a couple of the Phillies’ starting position players keep popping up. Those two players are catcher Cameron Rupp and second baseman Cesar Hernandez.
Rupp is now 28 years old and coming off a solid season. It was his first as the clear-cut #1 catcher in Philadelphia. Rupp hit .252 over 419 plate appearances in 105 games. He ripped 16 homers and 26 doubles, while knocking in 54 runs. He also drew praise for his defense and handling of the staff.
Hernandez is 26 years old and coming off his first full season as the unquestioned starter at second base. He did see plenty of action in 2015, especially following the trade of Chase Utley.
Hernandez led the Phillies with a .294 average and .371 on-base percentage, and his 17 steals were tied for second on the club. The switch-hitter also led all of baseball with 11 triples.
WHAT MAKES RUPP AND HERNANDEZ ATTRACTIVE?
Rupp is now arbitration eligible, and cannot become a free agent until after the 2020 season. He has made just over $1.5 million thus far in three big league seasons.
Hernandez has the same arbitration and free agent status and time frame, as well as the same salary history.
Bottom line is, these are two players who are extremely affordable, and who have big league starting experience. They also have solid reputations in the locker room.
Rupp could start for some teams, and at least be a reliable backup for a contender. Hernandez would bring speed to the lineup of a contending team who might need that element.
These would surely be modest deals, with the Phillies receiving mid-level prospects in return or possibly a relief pitcher who could slot into their bullpen mix.
“Sometimes there is a player or players out there that fit what you’re trying to do, that fit the timeline, fit your narrative,” said Klentak per Ryan Lawrence at The Philly Voice. “And if it’s there and it works, you pounce on it. There are going to be other times when it’s just not there. And I’m a big believer that you don’t force things if they’re not there.”
There have been rumors that the Phillies could shop their Player of the Year, outfielder Odubel Herrera, as well as power starter Vince Velasquez.
It’s my belief that the Phillies are not going to be big players at these Winter Meetings, or at any point over the offseason.
There is absolutely no reason for them to rush now, when they have youngsters who need playing and evaluation time in 2017. Also when the free agent markets of 2018 and 2019 look like potential franchise-makers.
The big names are unlikely to actually be pulling on Phillies pinstripes next season. However, some modest moves could come down. Moves like deals involving Rupp and Hernandez.
And as Klentak himself said, if something comes to them that works, expect them to “pounce on it.” Just don’t expect that to be anything which suddenly catapults them to contending status in the 2017 season.