If anyone was holding out hope that the Phillies had another free agent move or two left in them, you can go ahead and abandon that hope now. The Phillies front office is apparently quite satisfied with the current roster, especially since the payroll for that roster currently stands a few million underneath the luxury tax threshold.
After a parade of “He would have looked good in a Phillies uniform” signings throughout baseball, the latest (and greatest?) blow came when starting pitcher Drew Smyly signed with the Giants on Thursday.
In case you’ve forgotten the details of Smyly’s illustrious career: After an inconsistent start to his career, he had Tommy John surgery in 2017, and missed two seasons. He attempted to make a comeback with the Rangers last year, and it didn’t go well. The Brewers then signed him, but didn’t think he was a viable major league starter, so he exercised a release clause in his contract.
Viability is apparently in the eye of the beholder, because the Phillies quickly signed him and inserted him into the rotation. And to most people’s surprise, he was decidedly not-horrible for them.
It was only 12 starts but, here are the Phillies starting pitchers that had a better ERA than Drew Smyly (4.45) last year:— glueyglue (@boogiewitstu) January 16, 2020
Aaron Nola (3.87)
Zach Eflin (4.13)
Here are the Phillies starting pitchers that had a better FIP than Drew Smyly (4.79) last year:
Aaron Nola (4.03) https://t.co/f3T7SLdxsr
There was talk that the Phillies would bring Smyly back this season, since the team seems to be in need of both depth and left-handed options for their starting rotation. But apparently, $4 million plus incentives was more than the Phillies were willing to pay for such a commodity.
If we weren’t sure before, we should be sure of it now: The Phillies are not starting the 2020 season with a payroll over the luxury tax. As John Middleton clearly stated, they’re not going over unless its a player who might be the final piece for a World Series team, and with Josh Donaldson off the board, none of the remaining free agents would seem to qualify. While I enjoyed Smyly’s work last season, I can’t envision him starting games one or two of the World Series. (Then again, this team once had a washed-up Pedro Martinez start two World Series games for them. Baseball is weird.)
Admittedly, there’s a good chance that Smyly reverts to his pre-Phillies form, and bombs in San Francisco. If that happens, we can look at that $4 million as money well saved. However, there’s also a good chance that the trio of Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, and Zach Eflin never develop into consistently effective starting pitchers, and the Phillies are left with one or two holes in their rotation. Come July, if the Phillies are once again desperately searching for halfway-competent starting pitching options, won’t it be fun to look back and wistfully say, “If only they had signed Drew Smyly!”