The Phillies made official Carlos Santana's four-year, $60 million deal Wednesday, but after adding a home run hitting, pitch-taking veteran bat for the middle of the young team's order, some big questions remain unanswered.
A press conference with Santana himself, new manager Gabe Kapler and GM Matt Klentak didn't really provide concrete answers Wednesday. If Santana is playing first base, what will happen to Rhys Hoskins? If Hoskins plays right field, will the Phillies trade Nick Williams or Aaron Altherr? Will they use a platoon?
"This is going to give an an opportunity to mix and match and give them the best opportunity to succeed by matching them up effectively," Kapler said.
After the arrival of Santana, Kapler reached out to Hoskins who he said was very understanding about the signing. He claims the other affected players, too, were on board with the Phils' strategy. There is an abundance of young talent now on the 25-man roster, and a lot of pieces for rookie manager and analytically-minded Kapler to play with.
"We have talked about this all offseason, since Kap arrived," Klentak said. "The game is evolving. We are moving past the days of a cookie cutter line up the same every day."
The indication is that the Phillies will employ a match up based approach to batting orders. But there is another possibility. Would the Phillies consider moving Williams, Altherr or Hoskins while their stocks are sky high in an effort to nab a top of the rotation starting pitcher? The Santana signing shows perhaps the team is looking to take advantage of a middling NL East (with the Braves and Marlins in full tank-mode and Mets left unimproved). It might be a good time to strike.
Efforts to trade away second baseman Cesar Hernandez haven't yielded any results, as an attempted trade fell through earlier this fall. But they already moved Freddy Galvis and moving Hernandez — who has hit .294 in each of the last two seasons — opens the flood gates for red-hot slugging second baseman Scott Kingery to ascend to the MLB starting role.
Using a high-potential outfielder and Hernandez could offer a tantalizing opportunity for a team shopping a pitcher.
"We need to do everything we can to win at Week 1 of the regular season," Klentak said. "We will try and add the best pitcher we can. The trade market is very expensive for the young controllable starters, the free agent market for the better starters is expensive in it's own way. We have to make sure we have the right balance to find the right fit."