Phillies: Playing the southpaw starters’ sweepstakes

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Kikuchi is the wild card in the free-agent market. Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images.

With winter ahead for the Phillies, acquiring a left-hander for the rotation with a trade or a signing is a strong secondary need general manager Matt Klentak is hoping to accomplish before Jan.1 if he can.


Addressing a glaring hole:       

While the Philadelphia Phillies have a handful of promising starters, they mostly have one thing in common: They are right-handers. But this offseason Klentak has many portsiders he could pursue. And even though this situation is basic, expect some unorthodox possibilities as well.


“The rules are changed now, there’s not any way to build a team today. It’s just how much money you want to spend. You could be the world champions and somebody else makes a key acquisition or two and you’re through.” – Whitey Herzog

In the rotation, the red pinstripes have Aaron Nola, Jake Arrieta, and three flamethrowers in different stages of development: Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta. Basically, a pitcher accumulates 60 to 90 starts before making an impact, and the three righties are between 46 to 76.

Opening 2019 with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Ranger Suarez and Cole Irvin have worked three and zero MLB starts respectively, so they are green. But these southpaws will spend most –if not all– of ’19 with the Allentown affiliate. Ergo, Klentak could either sign a free agent or deal prospects for a lefty.

The Seattle Mariners and the Arizona Diamondbacks control left-handers the higher-ups have interest in. As for free agents, two are seeking multi-year contracts, and one Japanese arm will soon be available. Ideally, a portsider would slot between Nola and Arrieta.

Early attention was on Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin, but they are both finesse pitchers. In other words, Keuchel has had some up-and-down seasons, but will Corbin also produce similar results?

While Keuchel and Corbin are familiar names, Yusei Kikuchi is the top Japanese hurler many organizations are considering. His NPL (Nippon Professional Baseball) team will be posting him by Dec.1, and he’ll have no shortage of suitors. Yes, Klentak will be among them.

As for a swap. Arizona has not achieved postseason glory, and Robbie Ray had a disappointing 162 after a sparkling 2017: 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA. Regarding James Paxton, Seattle is taking calls, but their decision will depend on retooling or rebuilding after falling short of their championship aspirations.

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