Photo by Cheryl Pursell

The Phillies have to decide by Friday night which of their four arbitration eligible players they'll tender contracts to for 2017.

There are four Phillies players eligible for salary arbitration over the Winter. The Phillies - and all MLB teams - have to decide which of their arbitration eligible players they'll offer contracts to by Friday night.

The four Phillies players eligible for arbitration - Cody AscheFreddy GalvisJeanmar Gomez and Cesar Hernandez - are all in slightly different situations when it comes to how the Phillies will handle their cases.

Galvis and Hernandez are both pretty straight forward. The two form the Phillies starting double-play tandem and both had good seasons for Philadelphia. Where the difference comes in, is that the Phillies have been fielding offers for Hernandez, while the chatter on Galvis has been much quieter. After what is viewed a breakthrough campaign for Hernandez in 2016, teams are suddenly very interested. The 26-year old had a slash line of 6-39-.294/.371/.393 in a career-high 155 games with the Phillies last season, and led all NL hitters with 11 triples, eclipsing his career total of four that he had coming into the season.

Most of the speculation started when the Phillies acquired Howie Kendrick, but he was penciled - notice it's penciled in - to play left field even though he has plenty of experience at second base. The Phillies, of course, said he was their left fielder, but you have to wonder if the Phillies might deal Hernandez, who is arbitration eligible for the first time in his career. After all, he's young and coming off a big season, so there may be some teams who jump on getting a player with those numbers and the amount of control that they would have on him. Keep in mind though that coming into the 2016 season, Hernandez had a career .269 average, so it's not like there's a huge track record to go on with him. If nothing else, he's a decent hitting, good fielding second baseman that would be an upgrade for a lot of teams. 

Hernandez could also help the Phillies. Scott Kingery played just part of last season at Double-A, and is next in line for the major league job at second base, so it might make sense to hang on to Hernandez. The interesting part is that Kendrick is a free agent following the 2017 season and if the Phillies believe that Kingery will be ready for the 2018 season -  which isn't impossible - then they may want to sell high on Hernandez. 

No matter what the Phillies think, they're not going to non-tender Hernandez, so he's a definite.

There hasn't been the trade speculation on Galvis that there has been on Hernandez, but maybe there should be. Galvis had a huge power season, hitting 20 home runs or one every 31.2 plate appearances. Coming into the season, Hernandez averaged a long-ball once every 57.65 plate appearances. He hit just .241 on the year, the exact average that he had coming into the season, so his average didn't really drop as a result of the added power.

The speculation is that Galvis is going to be stepping to the side one way or another once shortstop J.P. Crawford is deemed ready for the majors. That could well be at some point in 2017 and should certainly be in time for the 2018 season. The Phillies could deal Galvis and find a veteran stop-gap for 2017 or they could just keep him around, knowing that his value might climb in time for the July trade deadline when Crawford figures to be ready.

Like Hernandez, while there are plenty of options on how to deal with Galvis, there is no way that the Phillies would non-tender him, so he's another definite.

If Jeanmar Gomez hadn't gone through a meltdown late in the season, he would be a definite tender target for the Phillies. Over his last 12 outings, Gomez compiled a horrific 19.13 ERA, lost three games and blew two of the five save opportunities that he had. He also had a couple other stretches during the season where he sputtered slightly. Gomez didn't really reach that level of being a dominant closer, especially over any long stretch of time, and he finished having converted 37 of 43 save opportunities, posting a 4.85 ERA.

In arbitration, Gomez would likely argue that he deserves something close to true closer's money and it's likely the Phillies will look on him as something less than that. With that in mind, the Phillies could simply non-tender him and figure on bumping someone like Hector Neris (4-4-2, 2.58) into the closer's role. There is also the possibility of dealing Gomez, although the September swoon hurt his value greatly and the Phillies aren't likely to get a whole lot in return for him on the trade market.

Gomez is likely more of a set-up guy than a closer when you consider things long-term, but the fact that he did work as a closer for the Phillies will at least allow him to make a case in arbitration for wanting more money than the average set-up guy. Revamping the bullpen is high on the Phillies to-do list for the offseason and cutting ties with Gomez might be one of the moves. If he and the Phillies can't agree on a deal prior to the deadline, or if the Phillies at least sense that he's going to request a big number in arbitration, he could well be cut loose. 

Let's figure that Gomez is gone.

Then, we come to Cody Asche. Here's a guy who the Phillies thought would be a big bat for them at third base, but with the emergence of Maikel Franco, they moved him to left field. While he's not a total liability in left, he's not a great defensive player and the Phillies have a lot of young outfielders pushing their way toward the majors. The Philadelphia front office could likely live with the defensive warts if Asche's bat was anything near what they had figured it would be when he was coming through the system.

When Kendrick came to town, the Phillies immediately anointed him the left fielder, officially handing him Asche's spot. That spells trouble for Asche, since he can only play two positions and he's a career .240 hitter who has hit just 31 home runs in 371 major league games. Last season, he managed just four home runs and hit only .213, spending part of the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. You could make a case for tying Asche's tenure with the Phillies to what they decide to do with Hernandez, since Kendrick would be the one to move to second if Hernandez were dealt. Even in that scenario though, the Phillies would likely run a younger player out there and give them a shot at showing what they could do in the majors. They could potentially sign a free agent outfielder or trade for one, like J.D. Martinez of the Tigers.

Perhaps the Phillies could find a willing trade partner for Asche, but they won't get much in return. It was a little surprising that the Phillies didn't let Asche go when they were clearing spots on the 40-man roster to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft. You could argue that David Buchanan had just as much or possibly, more importance to the Phillies than Asche does.

Don't look for Asche to be a Phillie after the Friday night 11:59 eastern time deadline.

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