The Phillies hoped the competition for the third base job would have been more heated. After going 2-for-4 with a solo homer against the Pirates on Saturday afternoon, Cody Asche — the incumbent at the hot corner — brought his Grapefruit League average up to .175. His competition, 21-year-old top prospect Maikel Franco, wasn’t faring any better with a .184 average and a .409 OPS.
Franco has been demoted, CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports. There, Franco will look to build upon his breakout season at Double-A last year, when he hit .320 with 31 home runs. He still has some concerns about his defense, but manager Ryne Sandberg also sees some room for improvement offensively:
“He needs to get some seasoning and work on some things, more on the offensive side,” Sandberg said. “He needs to work on shortening his swing and getting some better line-drive type of contact.”
Asche, meanwhile, will hold the fort down at third base after hitting .235 with five home runs in 179 trips to the plate last season. The Phillies expect Franco to claim the third base job at some point, if not at some point this season, then at this time next year.
CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury reports that Phillies outfielder Nick Williams has been working out daily with free agent starter Jake Arrieta in Austin. The right-hander, who won the 2015 National League Cy Young Award, still remains teamless with spring training less than a month away. Williams has been trying to sell Arrieta on joining the Phillies.
Williams said of Arrieta, “He loves it here [Austin]. He has told me he likes working with young guys. I’m like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I’m not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I’m not really in his position.”
On GM Matt Klentak’s hunt for pitching help, new manager Gabe Kapler said, “The pursuit is very real. I have a lot of trust that we’ll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we’re better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”
Arrieta, who turns 32 years old in March, went 14-10 with a 3.53 ERA and a 163/55 K/BB ratio in 168 1/3 innings last season with the Cubs. The Cubs, Cardinals, and Brewers have been linked to Arrieta this month.
Presently, the Phillies’ starting rotation figures to include Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vince Velasquez along with some combination of Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter, and Jake Thompson. Arrieta would certainly amount to a big upgrade in the starting rotation and could make the Phillies a more attractive landing spot for Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, who become free agents after the 2018 campaign. The Phillies are expected to be in the mix for either or both players.