With the official announcement that the Philadelphia Phillies have signed four major league veterans to minor league contracts and given them invites to major league spring training, we can try to handicap each player’s chances of making the club.
Roster depth is important, a lesson that was reinforced by the season that the Philadelphia Phillies went through in 2019.
Owing to that, the front office has made a few moves this offseason in an attempt to address the issue, recently announcing that four major league veterans have been signed to minor league deals with a chance to impress the Phillies enough in spring training to earn a roster spot.
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None of these players can be viewed as “high reward”, but competent play from the support staff is always a good thing to have when your best players are injured/struggling/simply need a day off.
So, of the four players that the Phillies are planning to bring in – Mikie Mahtook, Matt Szczur, Phil Gosselin and Josh Harrison – who actually has a chance to stick, and who is just a shot in the dark?
Probably the least familiar name on the list, Mahtook didn’t see much MLB action last season, playing in just nine games for the lowly Detroit Tigers.
But the 30-year old outfielder has actually shown glimpses of being a useful contributor in the past, mostly during his 2017 campaign when he hit 12 home runs and had 38 RBI in 109 games.
This could be Mahtook’s last chance to make his mark in the majors, so he’ll be highly motivated. Ultimately, I don’t think it will happen for him, but you never know. There’s always a possibility that the Phillies move on from Jay Bruce during the offseason, opening an outfield depth spot.
And with Roman Quinn‘s constant health issues and the likelihood that the Phillies will somehow find a way to get Odubel Herrera off the roster, Mahtook could be the beneficiary of a strong spring. Still, it’s unlikely.
Chance to make the team: 2/10
Szczur is largely in the same boat as Mahtook, but he does have the potential “local boy makes good” angle working in his favor. Born in Cape May and a graduate of Villanova, Szczur will surely give everything he has to re-establish himself as a viable player after a disappointing two-year stint with the San Diego Padres.
At any rate, he’s a great player for everyone to root for. While still a student at Villanova (and a two-sport star), Szczur donated his bone marrow to save the life of a little girl, at great risk to himself. He’s clearly a world-class person, and it would make for a fantastic story if he can find himself on the Phillies’ roster.
Again, it will be an uphill climb here, but a good performance could net him a job. At the very least, another team could take notice even if the Phillies don’t have room for him.
Chance to make the team: 3/10
Speaking of local boys, Malvern Prep’s own Gosselin of course got the chance to play for his hometown team last year. And while I’ve made my feelings known about the type of player Gosselin is, the truth is that these kinds of guys are needed to fill out rosters.
I’m still not convinced that Gosselin brings much of substance to the table, but if he can show the willingness and ability to play wherever needed (infield and outfield), then the Phillies could talk themselves into adding him to the roster.
Don’t forget, teams will carry 26 players this season. So where a player might once have been a long shot, you’d now have to upgrade them to at least having borderline odds.
Chance to make the team: 5/10
And now we come to the “favorite” among these players to find a way onto the Phillies in 2020. A two-time all-star during his tenure with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Harrison was dismal last year in Detroit before being released in August.
Does the 32-year old Harrison have anything left? The Phillies are sure hoping so, because they don’t have a clear cut backup at any infield position right now. Harrison, if he shows himself to be up to the task in the spring, offers some real flexibility.
Harrison could shuffle between second and third base several times per week depending on what is happening with Scott Kingery and Jean Segura on a given day. Or, even as primarily a pinch hitter, he might still be worth carrying.
At any rate, even though it’s just an invite at this point, I’m thinking that Phillies’ brass is counting on Harrison turning this into a major league opportunity for himself.
Chance to make the team: 7/10
With about eight weeks until players begin reporting for spring training, there is obviously time for things to change and other variables to be introduced. But right now, excluding anything crazy, all of these players have at least a puncher’s chance of carving out a spot.
The ball is in their court, and the Phillies are hoping to benefit from their efforts.