2 Philadelphia Phillies sticky questions will be winter obsessions

The questions about what the back-to-back playoff Phillies must do to improve might take a back seat to dealing with two veteran players' contract situations for a few months.
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game One
Wild Card Series - Miami Marlins v Philadelphia Phillies - Game One / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

As though there aren’t enough polls a year out from the presidential election, Inquirer.com has chosen to give Philadelphia Phillies fans a “say” in who should stay and who should go before the team breaks Spring Training camp in March next year.

If you have a subscription, you can access this poll by this link. If not, ask someone to gift the article. Or you might consider this: The Phillies offseason this boils down to two basic questions. The first is whether to offer free agent Aaron Nola, a nine-year Phillies veteran, a new contract and for how long.

The second has to do with whether Rhys Hoskins is re-signed because he is a domino player. What’s that, you say? Here’s how Hoskins is a domino: If he is signed, he sets up a chain reaction because he can only be signed for one of three purposes — as the first baseman or the designated hitter, or possibly as a combination of those roles with some significant switching. All three choices kick off other dominoes falling.

Hoskins now has a surgically repaired elbow and a surgically repaired leg. The slots given for this player above are the only ones Hoskins can fill, and the team likely doesn’t want to totally or significantly reduce any following-domino teammate’s playing time from 2022 because of Hoskins “taking over” either slot.

If he takes over at DH, Kyle Schwarber sits a lot because he really hurts the team’s defense. That’s the short chain.

However, if Hoskins takes over first base, then Bryce Harper moves to right field (not the bench), moving Nick Castellanos to left (or the bench), moving Brandon Marsh to center (or the bench), moving Johan Rojas to … where? Triple A? We’re sending our best defensive outfielder off the field? We know that Phillies president Dave Dombrowski has already said Rojas will compete for the center field role.

That’s the longer chain resulting from reinstating Hoskins at first base. You can poke or prod at it, suggesting trades of any of the pieces in the chain, except Harper, of course.

What’s fairly plain, though, is that retaining Hoskins at this point creates unpleasant effects.

Cut Schwarber at-bats significantly or trade him? He led the team in home runs, drove in 104, and is almost as popular at Harper.

Cut Castellanos at-bats greatly or trade him? He led the team in RBI (106).

Cut Marsh at-bats or trade him? He’s just hitting his stride as a young hitter, and he’s a very good outfielder.

Well, what do the fans say, so far? The day the Inky poll opened, 70 percent of the fans voting were endorsing Aaron Nola for some kind of contract.

Sixty-five percent had apparently forgiven Nick Castellanos for falling into a slump in the late postseason. Almost two out of three still want him around, which is nice since his current contract runs through 2026.

Finally, 50 percent want to re-sign Hoskins. Perhaps the memory of his 18 home runs in his first 34 games as a rookie is fading. Perhaps the fact that he didn’t homer in the next 16 games hasn’t faded. Those two stats set a pattern for his career.