The Philadelphia Phillies stood relatively quiet during the Winter Meetings this week, adding a pair of veteran relievers in Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter but doing little to change what had been a relatively quiet offseason.
That changed in a big way on Friday, when general manager Matt Klentak made a pair of major moves, one a trade that was relatively expected, the other a free agent signing that was very much a surprise.
First, the predictable: the Phillies traded shortstop Freddy Galvis to the San Diego Padres for right-handed pitching prospect Enyel De Los Santos.
Debuting in 2012, Galvis was the longest-tenured player on the Phillies roster but with highly regarded prospect JP Crawford ready to take over, it was always a matter of time before the defensive wizard was moved. Reports have been swirling about the Padres as a potential landing spot for about a week and now, the shortstop job is definitively Crawford's.
The return could be quite good. De Los Santos, who will turn 22 later this month, was the #13 prospect in the Padres' system and instantly becomes one of the Phillies' top 10 prospects. He spent 2017 with the Padres' Double-A affiliate in San Antonio and pitched well in his first year out of A-ball. In 26 games (24 starts) he was 10-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 150 innings. He struck out 8.3 batters per nine and had a K/BB ratio of 2.88. If that ERA looks relatively pedestrian, remember that the Texas League is notoriously hitter-friendly, inflating the numbers even the best pitching prospects.
With a fastball that hovers between 93 and 95 MPH, a competent curveball and a changeup that has the potential to become an out pitch, De Los Santos could develop into a reliable middle-of-the-rotation pitcher to compliment Aaron Nola at the top. He'll likely be ticketed to Double-A Reading to start the year, but don't be surprised to see him promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley or even poke his nose into MLB.
As for the free agent signing, the Phillies surprised people by securing the signature of first baseman Carlos Santana. The deal is for three years and $60m, pending a physical.
Santana had spent his entire career up to this point with the Cleveland Indians, and he was one of the key members of the 2016 AL champions. He has an excellent approach at the plate, draws a ton of walks. He finds the gaps well, and his power, which has yielded an average of about 22 homers a year, will likely be enhanced playing in Citizens Bank Park. He also brings strong defense to first base and was a Gold Glove finalist this season.
Santana is certainly an excellent piece to add but, as we pointed out last month, this creates something of a roster logjam—at least for now.
Santana's arrival will push rookie phenom Rhys Hoskins, a natural first baseman who moved to left field after being called up in August to play him alongside incumbent first-sacker Tommy Joseph, to the outfield full-time. That means that the other two corner outfielders on the 25-man roster, Aaron Altherr and Nick Williams, will fight for one spot in right.
Altherr had a breakout season last year, and Williams had a rookie season that was just as good, if a lot less spectacular, than Hoskins'. Neither one of them deserves to be a fourth outfielder. Beyond them, the Phillies have a glut of talented outfielders in their farm system, including top prospect Mickey Moniak, 2017 first-rounder Adam Haseley, Dylan Cousins, and Roman Quinn.
Given this clog in the pipeline, there's a clear conclusion to draw: Klentak isn't done. One of these corner outfielders, most likely Altherr, is likely to be the centerpiece of a bigger trade. Right now the starting rotation can best be described as Nola followed by a lot of average pitchers, so that trade is likely to involve a starting pitcher. Given the strength of the Phillies' system, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see the team putting together a package for a guy like Chris Archer.
There are some downsides to Santana's arrival. Moving Hoskins back to the outfield means sacrificing some defense in left. Hoskins played hard out there but it's not his natural position and his range will leave something to be desired. That could turn into an issue with such a shaky rotation. All in all, though, Santana's arrival brings with it more positives than negatives.
When Pete Mackanin was reassigned to the front office in September, it was assumed that Klentak had decided that the time was right to speed up the team's rebuild. Both of Friday's deals prove that. Trading Galvis cements Crawford as the team's everyday shortstop going forward, while Santana brings a great bat and a ton of playoff experience he can impart to a young player. It creates a traffic jam in the outfield for now, but can't be the end of Klentak's machinations. Look for at least one more big trade between now and Spring Training as the Phillies build to the 2018 season. This team could turn the corner a lot faster than anyone thought.