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Learning to love life in a buyer’s market

The Phillies will eventually do something...probably

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals
The market for J.T. Realmuto has been slow, and will likely remain that way for some time
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I get it: You desperately want the Phillies to do something. After all, the Eagles are a dysfunctional mess, the Sixers can barely put a full team on the court, and the Flyers’ season still hasn’t started. It would be nice if the Phillies did something to get fans excited for the state of the team.

It’s made worse by the fact that most of their division rivals have been active. The Braves are the two-time defending division champs, and they’ve added starting pitching. The Nationals have added a couple of bats to their lineup. And while the Mets didn’t go after J.T. Realmuto like we all feared, they have certainly been busy.

At least the Marlins have been quiet. However, the Marlins finished ahead of the Phillies in 2020, and they rarely make big offseason moves that don’t involve sending one of their star players to a different team. Not exactly the company you want to be in.

What have the Phillies done? They’ve traded for a low-risk reliever with some upside, and another reliever who’s lack of wokeness is only topped by his lack of success in the 2020 season. In case you’re unfamiliar with Sam Coonrod’s work, let’s just say he would have fit in very well with the Phillies’ bullpen. Neither of those trades is likely to propel the team to the top of the division.

The White Sox agreed to terms with reliever Liam Hendriks on Monday, and he was another guy who probably would have looked good in a Phillies uniform. However, he signed for higher than was expected, which means the Phillies were probably wise to stay away. Why? Because despite what seems like a frantic offseason across the major leagues, free agency still appears to be a buyer’s market.

I’m a big fan of the Phillies spending money to improve the team. Staying under the luxury tax threshold only serves to enrich the owners, and no reasonable fan should ever advocate for the team doing so. However, there’s also something to be said about not overpaying players.

While a few teams are making splashy moves, it seems that the majority of them involve trades. This makes sense, because there is cost-certainty when you trade for a player, and many teams would rather give up prospects than money. (This is a foolish approach in my opinion, but sometimes owners are gonna owner.) It feels like most of the owners are still in “Our finances took a hit in 2020, and we’re not sure that 2021 is going to be much better” mode. As a result, there are still a lot of good players on the free agent market, and it stands to reason, that their asking price will decrease as the season approaches.

For example, let’s look at the relief pitching market. After last season’s disaster, I know some of you wanted the Phillies to find eight new relievers. But based on the historical volatility of relief pitching, going on a spending spree to fix the bullpen probably isn’t the best use of resources. Remember the last time the Phillies tried to fix their bullpen via free agency, we ended up with the likes of David Robertson and Tommy Hunter.

Even with Hendriks off the board, there are still plenty of very good relievers out there. Mark Melancon, Alex Colome, Kirby Yates, and Brad Hand would be solid options for the late innings, and if the Phillies can get one of them for a discounted price, that’s more money to spend elsewhere.

Beyond the top guys, they can probably also get some arms to fill out the back-end of the bullpen as well. If the Phillies want to stick with familiar faces, I don’t predict that Blake Parker or Jose Alvarez are going to be breaking the bank anywhere else.

Shortstop is another area of need for the team, and there are similarly plenty of options still available. Did Gregorius, Freddy Galvis, Andrelton Simmons, and Marcus Semien would all be acceptable choices to serve as the Phillies starter in 2021, and even if they miss out on all of them, going back to Jean Segura for a year wouldn’t be a complete disaster.

The looming exception is the catcher position. Obviously J.T. Realmuto is the best available option by far, and he stands to get paid. However, he had reportedly been seeking a record deal for catchers, and it isn’t clear if he’s going to get it.

The Mets were thought to be the Phillies’ main competition, but after signing James McCann, they’re almost certainly out of the bidding. That significantly decreases the chances of Realmuto setting the record, and they might simply need to wait until he faces that realization.

So buckle up, Phillies fans. We might have another month or so of inactivity, but I’m confident that they will eventually start making some moves. In the meantime, if you really crave excitement, I suggest you turn your attention to the local football team, because they’re shaping up to have one of the most exciting offseasons ever.