Phils eye vets to bolster rotation, 'pen, bench

Phils eye vets to bolster rotation, 'pen, bench

PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have spent the past two offseasons finding rentals to plug holes on their 25-man roster.

They wanted them for stability. But they also hoped to flip them to contenders in July.

This offseason could be different. The Phillies have holes to fill, but they could look for more permanent solutions to their problems. They could try to acquire players who not only could help them next season, but beyond. Here is a look at the upcoming offseason:

Phils' optimistic after second half

Biggest needs

1. Starting pitching: Nobody appears to have a job locked up in the Phillies' rotation other than Aaron Nola, and that is a concern. Injuries relegated Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Zach Eflin to finishing the season on the disabled list. Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Jake Thompson and Mark Leiter Jr. showed promise at times, but also their inexperience. If the Phillies want to improve next season, they have to find at least one starting pitcher from outside the organization. That pitcher must be an established veteran.

Possible FA fits: Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jhoulys Chacin

2. Bullpen: Hector Neris, Luis Garcia, Adam Morgan and Hoby Milner figure to be in next season's relief corps. Edubray Ramos could, too. But the bullpen would benefit from another veteran reliever or two.

Possible FA fits: Juan Nicasio, Steve Cishek, Pat Neshek

3. Veterans: The Phillies lacked a truly influential and positive veteran presence in the clubhouse this season, despite opening with six veterans on the roster. While they are unlikely to acquire a veteran everyday player, they could find an experienced bench player who commands respect and can impact the younger players in a meaningful way. It is easier said than done, but sometimes it is better hearing a message from a respected teammate than a manager or coach.

Possible FA fits: OF Jayson Werth, 2B Chase Utley, C A.J. Ellis.

Gray Areas

1. Infield: If the Phillies want to upgrade their starting rotation, they could skip free agency and acquire a pitcher in a trade. Phillies president Andy MacPhail suggested that just last week. The Phillies certainly have plenty of players to trade in the infield, with Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis possibly being replaced at some point by Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford. Don't forget the Phillies also have a slew of young pitchers, too. They could put together a decent enough package for a legit starter.

Crawford's nifty play at short

2. Catcher: The Phillies have three controllable catchers on their 40-man roster: Jorge Alfaro, Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp. Alfaro is out of options next season, so he figures to be on the Opening Day roster. But what happens to Rupp and Knapp? They could trade one. They could option one. Or they could look for a veteran backup to help teach Alfaro.

X-FACTOR

1. Money to burn? The Phillies have committed $3 million next season to Odubel Herrera -- and that's it. So if they want to get crazy and spend big money this winter, they could absolutely do that. But the bet here is Philadelphia improves its rotation and bullpen without signing somebody like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta and instead sees who rises and sinks in 2018. Then, the Phillies go big in the 2018-19 offseason, when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and others hit the market.

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