Busy Phillies looking to improve at Meetings

Philadelphia will continue to address holes after early offseason additions

Busy Phillies looking to improve at Meetings

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have been relatively busy in the early weeks of the 2016-17 offseason. So much so that they could be quiet at next week's Winter Meetings in Washington.

They already acquired left fielder Howie Kendrick and relief pitcher Pat Neshek in trades with the Dodgers and Astros, respectively. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson accepted a one-year, $17.2 million qualifying offer, meaning the Phillies have all the personnel they can accommodate for the rotation. The team pushed the 40-man roster to capacity by adding 11 prospects to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.

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MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. ET.

"We still have the ability and go out and make acquisitions to improve our 2017 club," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said recently. "Obviously the complication now is with our roster at 40, each addition is going to require a corresponding reduction on the roster. It makes some of the future moves a little trickier. But we still feel like we have some areas on the Major League club that we can improve for next year, and we're committed to exploring those options."

Klentak on Kendrick to Phils

The Phillies are not afraid to make room. They have removed 17 players that held spots on the 40-man at the end of the 2016 season. The group includes Ryan Howard, David Hernandez, Charlie Morton, Elvis Araujo, David Buchanan, Jimmy Cordero, Matt Harrison, Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney.

The Phillies have four players eligible for salary arbitration: outfielder Cody Asche, shortstop Freddy Galvis, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Philadelphia has until 11:50 p.m. ET Friday to tender them contracts, but all four could be in uniform come Spring Training.

But say the Phillies jettison a player or two from the 40-man roster. Where would they look for help?

They certainly could use another bat to help MLB's worst offense. It could come in the form of an extra outfielder or infielder. Andres Blanco, whom Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has called the best utility player he has ever seen, remains a free agent. The Phillies could use another veteran reliever, too. They had one of the worst bullpens in baseball last season, and with far less roster flexibility in 2017, another reliable arm could serve them well.

Blanco's solo home run

Mackanin said he liked the idea of having a veteran backup catcher, but at the moment the Phillies have three catchers on the 40-man roster: Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro and No. 11-ranked prospect Andrew Knapp. Alfaro or Knapp could be Rupp's backup at this point.

But a big splash is unlikely, unless the Phillies find a deal they cannot refuse. Remember, the Phillies and Rangers engaged in serious discussions in July for right-hander Vince Velasquez. Perhaps the teams rekindle those talks or perhaps somebody else comes calling about another up-and-comer in the Phillies' organization.

Maybe then things get a little more interesting next week.

But the Phillies' offseason goals always centered around finding short-term help in specific areas as they give their young players another year to prove themselves and develop. Looking at things as they stand, the roster they have have right now might be the one they roll out when pitchers and catchers hold their first workout on Feb. 14 in Clearwater, Fla.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.