One of the most interesting storylines heading into the 2017-18 offseason for the Philadelphia Phillies was how the infield would be addressed.
The Phillies have either a logjam or outright uncertainty at every infield position, at least at the moment. At first base, the sensational Rhys Hoskins was initially moved to the outfield in deference to incumbent Tommy Joseph, but it's assumed that the Phils will move on from Joseph in some form by the beginning of the season. At third, Maikel Franco is entering a make-or-break year after constant regression from his 2015 rookie breakout. If we include catchers for the sake of argument, the team will have to choose between Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp as the second catcher beside the promising youngster Jorge Alfaro, who is a lock to be on the roster because he can't be optioned this year.
Then there is the middle of the diamond.
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez is an on-base machine and a good fielder, and he's fast enough to be an elite base stealer if someone polishes his technique. Shortstop Freddy Galvis improved his rate stats at the plate enough to make himself a far better overall hitter than he was in 2016. He's far from elite as a hitter, but his bat is finally catching up with his glove, which is one of the very best in all of baseball.
Their jobs would be locks under normal circumstances but on a rebuilding team like the Phillies, players like them should always have an eye on the minor leagues. It so happens that two of the team's best prospects are getting larger in the rearview mirror—and now the Phillies have started fielding trade offers for their starting double-play tandem.
According to Jim Salsbury of NBS Sports Philadelphia, the Phillies have received offers for both of their infielders. So far, no one has impressed the team enough to make discussions serious and while the Phillies are open to trading one or both, they aren't actively shopping them and would be perfectly content to keep hold of them heading into the season.
If one were to get traded in the offseason, it's likely that it would be Galvis. The longest-tenured member of the Phillies is being pressed for playing time by JP Crawford, whose second-half surge last season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley salvaged his value as a top prospect. He flashed plus defense from several positions, and his bat is coming along. Fans have been waiting on Crawford for several years now and given how the Phillies have presented him to the press this winter (he was at the team's Christmas tree lighting at Citizens Bank Park and made an appearance with Hoskins last week at a 76ers game) the team expects him to be a big part of the squad sooner rather than later.
Hernandez is simply a more valuable player than Galvis, so it makes sense to keep him longer. It would also allow the Phillies to keep the service-time clock of his pursuer, Scott Kingery, in stasis for the time being. But make no mistake: Kingery, who dominated at Double-A Reading and stayed close to that level after being promoted to the IronPigs, will be on the MLB roster at some point this year.
What to do?
The Phillies are in a major bind this year. They ended the season rotating Crawford between second, shortstop, and third to give him playing time. They might get away with doing that again for a month or so, but it's not a viable long-term strategy. If Crawford and Kingery press the issue, the Phillies will have to move Galvis and Hernandez.
Hernandez would generate a ton of interest. The Los Angeles Angels, who are trying to build a team that will convince Mike Trout to stay long-term, have long been reported as having a keen interest in Hernandez. The Halos had the worst production in the majors at second base last year, so he would be a huge upgrade. The problem for Angels GM Billy Eppler is that he's sitting on one of the league's worst farm systems and is unlikely to give the Phillies the value they want in return.
As for Galvis, he's likely destined for a similar role on another team—keeping the shortstop position warm until a top prospect comes along. That's the logic behind Ken Rosenthal's report in The Athletic, which asserts that the Padres are showing interest. Galvis would be a stop-gap for the Friars until top prospect Fernando Tatis, Jr, is ready. It would also show a short-term improvement as they reach the tail end of the race for Shohei Ohtani.
The Phillies will be content to stand pat for now, which is fine. There's no need to jump at things. Crawford still has a few things to prove and Kingery can be stashed in Allentown for a bit longer yet, and teams will be more willing to expend prospects as the season progresses and their needs become clear. But eventually, the situation in the infield will cross the line from having good depth to having a detrimental logjam. The likelihood of at least one of Crawford and Kingery forcing the issue by the middle of the season, much the way Hoskins did last year, is high. For the team to progress, both players will likely have to move on.