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Philly sports column: Phillies have decisions to make

The Philadelphia Phillies suffered an embarrassing collapse of their 2018 campaign with a record of 17-34 during the final third of the season. Although Gabe Kapler and his gritty, young squad were in possession of first place in the National League East on numerous occasions, they ultimately came up short during their most promising year in almost a decade. While many fans—myself included were beyond disappointed, there is still hope. If general manager Matt Klentak and the rest of the organization makes the right moves in the offseason, this squad could be suited for a legitimate NL East title run in 2019.

Over the summer there was plenty of speculation surrounding whether or not the Phillies would make a deal with the Baltimore Orioles for Manny Machado. However, Klentak didn’t believe in giving up his star pitching prospect, right hander Sixto Sanchez, (among other prospects) in exchange for the remaining three months of Machado’s contract. The move was a safe play considering the fact that Machado was going to be a free agent after this season regardless of who he signed for.

But now the Los Angeles Dodgers may be even more inclined to keep Machado with a new max-contract considering the big role he’s had in getting the Dodgers to the World Series.

The other big soon-to-be on the free agent market is Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals. Harper is a perennial all-star and Kapler has already said that Harper “might be the best player in baseball.”

Although the Phillies have the money to sign both Machado and Harper, it might be smarter to empty the wallet on one player to guarantee their commitment to the Phillies and the city of brotherly love. The Phillies will have 68.9 million dollars allocated to guaranteed contracts in 2019 out of 128.1 million dollars in total payroll,  and that leftover cap space would be enough to sign Harper or Machado for a long term deal making close to 40 million dollars each year. Regardless of whether or not other big time athletes want to come to the Philadelphia area (*cough* Lebron James *cough*), a contract like that would be one of the highest in baseball history and certainly worth the nine month stay in Pennsylvania for any athlete

Citizens Bank is a home run hitters’ ballpark, and if Matt Klentak has any sense or hope for this team in the future he’ll at least make an offer to sell the barn for Harper, who just so happened to beat Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the 2018 Home Run Derby. Can you imagine Harper batting third ahead of Herrera and Hernandez and then Hoskins coming in to hit clean up? The move for Harper feels like a no-brainer for Klentak, but regardless, the Phillies will need to land an all-star batter to remain competitive in 2019.

As far as the rest of the squad is concerned, Kapler will most likely let go of the plethora of free agents he signed for short one year deals in 2018 to help the Phils’ playoff push. Infielders Asdrubal Cabrera and Jose Bautista likely won’t be retained; Aaron Loup did not do enough in the shaky bullpen to earn a longer contract and although catcher Wilson Ramos came through with the bats when the Phils needed him, Kapler seems to be fully invested in Jorge Alfaro.

Look for the Phils to trade second baseman Cesar Hernandez as Scott Kingery will move over to his natural position for the first time in 2019. If the Phillies can use Hernandez to acquire another high-caliber pitcher on top of landing a guy like Harper, this squad will be in a better position for a playoff push in 2019.

Andrew Heller is a second-year graduate student majoring in English.

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