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Here’s a Phillies offseason where money is no object

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What if the luxury tax didn’t exist?

World Series - Atlanta Braves v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Anyone who has tried to put together a 2022 Phillies roster that is at least somewhat grounded in reality has done so with the knowledge owner John Middleton is unlikely to surpass the luxury tax this off-season.

Oh sure, we’d like for it to not be so, not with New York Mets owner Steve Cohen becoming the first NL East owner to blast past the tax with the signings of Max Scherzer, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Matt Canha, but the Phils going over the tax is something one should only believe will happen once it actually does.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t slip inside a bubble divorced from reality and wonder just how good the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies could be if money were no object.

Friends, let’s get juvenile and fanciful.

Sign Carlos Correa (10yrs./$320 million/$32 million AAV)

Correa is the best shortstop on the market, a proven postseason star, someone who plays elite level defense and has been one of the five most productive offensive shortstops in in the game. Signing Correa would also allow the Phillies to either move Bryson Stott to 2B and trade Jean Segura, move Stott to 3B and trade Alec Bohm, or keep Bohm & Segura and trade Stott for an impact player/pitcher somewhere else.

We don’t need Carlos Correa, but it sure would be fun to have him.

Sign Freddie Freeman (6 yrs./$180 million/$30 million AAV)

So if this is the price for a former NL MVP and one of the five best hitters in the National League over the last six years, there shouldn’t be a second’s hesitation in Dave Dombrowski going after him.

Sure, Freeman is 32 and a six-year deal would take him through his age-37 season, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down and $30 million a season is nothing if we don’t care about the money! Not only that, it would destroy Atlanta Braves fans. It’s a win-win!

Of course, in the event of a Freeman signing, what to do with Rhys Hoskins? Well, the designated hitter is likely coming to the National League next year and while Joe Girardi would probably love to rotate multiple players at DH to get them off the field more regularly (Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Alec Bohm, etc.), making Hoskins the full-time DH wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.

Forget about moving Rhys back to left field, by the way. That -19 DRS in 2019 is not something we want to revisit. Another option is to use Hoskins as trade bait to fill a need at another position.

Sign Kris Bryant (6yrs./$160 million/$26.6 million AAV)

Well, we’ve ignored the outfield up to this point so we might as well go ahead and get a guy who can play both left and center field (although probably not at the same time, unfortunately). That would be Kris Bryant, the ultimate swiss army knife baseball player.

Bryant will turn 30 next year so this deal would take him through his age-35 season (yes, the 2027 Phils might put the ‘83 Wheeze Kids to shame, but we’re not concerned about the future in the present, are we?), coming off a 124OPS+, 3.3 WAR season for the Cubs and Giants. He’s a versatile, middle-of-the-order bat who has been remarkably consistent over the years. In this scenario, I’m signing him to be my center fielder.

Sign Kyle Schwarber (4 yrs./$70 million/$17.5 million AAV)

With a right-handed hitting center fielder now in the fold, the Phils should go out and grab the left-handed mashing Schwarber, who is certainly better than Hoskins in left field and can hit atop a Phillies batting order that has desperately needed a leadoff hitter since Jimmy Rollins retired.

Schwarber’s career turned around under the tutelage of the team’s new hitting coach Kevin Long, so coming to Philly just makes too much sense. I feel like this is one signing that is almost certain to happen.

Sign Kenley Jansen (2 yrs. $26 million, $13 million AAV)

The Phillies need a closer and in my “perfect off-season scenario,” Raisel Iglesias was the target. But Iglesias just re-signed with the Angels, so let’s turn our attention to Jansen who, at 33, put up a 2.22 ERA last season in 69 appearances with 38 saves in 69 innings. He was durable, consistent and reliable, three things we cannot say about any Phillies reliever since Jonathan Papelbon left (and we didn’t like him anyway).

Trading for Craig Kimbrel or Josh Hader are viable options as well, with Hoskins, Segura, and/or Bryson Stott potential pieces leaving the Phils in any outgoing deal.

Sign Marcus Stroman (5 yrs./$110 million/$22 million AAV)

The Phillies now have a new left fielder, first baseman, shortstop and closer so, while we’re here, we might as well grab another starter, too.

With Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez all locks to start the season in the rotation and Zach Eflin hopefully ready to return from his injury sometime in April, the need for another starting pitcher may not seem essential, but it sure wouldn’t hurt to pick up a viable middle-of-the-rotation arm in Stroman. I mean, are we sure Suarez is going to be a rotation mainstay? Are we sure Nola is going to bounce back? Are we sure Gibson is, you know, actually any good?

Stroman opted out of the 2020 season and came back last year continuing to get ground balls and limit walks, same as he always has. All of the top starters are already off the board, but Stroman is the best one remaining and would all but assure the Phils enter 2022 with a rotation that can compete with the Mets’ from top to bottom.

Sign Corey Knebel (2yrs./$19 million/$9.5 million AAV)

Reports also indicate the Phils are far down the road with Knebel, who has battled injuries (including a Tommy John) the last few years but looked good with the Dodgers once he recovered from a lat strain that kept him out for three months. He’d be a nice addition to a bullpen that has Hader closing. But Dombrowski shouldn’t stop here.

Sign Jake Diekman (1yr./$1 million)

This would be a smaller signing, but let’s get another left-handed reliever in the house. Long ago traded away to the Texas Rangers as part of the Cole Hamels deal, Diekman has had a solid career in the American League since he left Philadelphia. The 34-year-old had seven saves last year in 67 appearances for the Oakland A’s and put up a 3.86 ERA with 12.3 K/9 and 5.0 BB/9. His HR/9 rate went way up (1.5), but one would hope that is an anomaly. His fastball velocity has consistently averaged 95 mph since 2016, with a solid 12 mph difference between that pitch and his slider.

The Tally

Were Dave Dombrowski to follow this plan, the Phillies would be adding $886 million in players’ salaries this off-season. In terms of AAV, we’re adding about $151.6 million on top of the $163 million in active payroll the team has right now, according to Spotrac. That would give the Phils a 2021 payroll of roughly $314.6 million.

But before you choke on your lunch, here’s the good news! Trading Hoskins will remove about $7.5 million from that number, bringing it all the way down to $307.1 million! And if Middleton absolutely must get that number under $300 million, he could trade Segura and lose another $14 million, for a bargain basement payroll of just $293.1 million!

Like I said, nothing like this will ever happen but the important thing to remember is that, under MLB’s rules, there is no stopping any team from doing something like this. It’s exceedingly financially irresponsible, but it sure would be fun, wouldn’t it?

Here is what the Phillies lineup would look like with both Hoskins and Segura still in the fold:

LF - Kyle Schwarber

SS - Carlos Correa

RF - Bryce Harper

1B - Freddie Freeman

DH - Rhys Hoskins

CF - Kris Bryant

C - J.T. Realmuto

2B - Jean Segura

3B - Alec Bohm

The rotation would be:

SP1 - Zack Wheeler

SP2 - Aaron Nola

SP3 - Marcus Stroman

SP4 - Ranger Suarez

SP5 - Kyle Gibson/Zach Eflin

The bullpen:

CL - Kenley Jansen

SU - Corey Knebel

SU - Jake Diekman

RP - Seranthony Dominguez

RP - Jose Alvarado

RP - Conor Brogdon

RP - Sam Coonrod

Dream on, kiddos!