The Phillies are running it back.
Didi Gregorius and J.T. Realmuto are back in the fold, giving the Phils an offense that can compete with anyone in the National League. Last year, this same offense scored the 4th-most runs in the NL and had the 6th-best fWAR and weighted runs created (wRC+) among position players in baseball, plenty good enough to be a postseason squad.
This year, the lineup will get a full season of Alec Bohm, who didn’t join the big league team until the season was three weeks old last year. Jean Segura will likely move to second base full-time which will allow them to either return Scott Kingery to the super-utility role he has had the last three seasons, or make him the everyday center fielder. Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn are options there as well, and the team hopes Andrew McCutchen, despite being a year older (34 now), will get back to his 2019 levels of production, fully healed from his ACL tear two years ago.
The team may still add one more position player for depth, but little else needs to be done. However, with an estimated payroll of $195 million on the books, as noted by NBC Sports Corey Seidman, that includes Gregorius’ $14 million AAV contract, the team is still about $15 million shy of the $210 million luxury tax.
Few people thought the Phils were willing to go this far with their payroll, but yes, only the Toronto Blue Jays have spent more money than John Middleton this off-season. So, while I don’t want to be greedy, we do need to figure out what’s left to do.
Middleton is not likely to hug the luxury tax once again and the team desperately needs young pitchers like Jojo Romero, Connor Brogdon and Ranger Suarez to step up, but the pitching staff does need one or two more additions in order to truly give themselves a chance at catching the Braves and Mets.
The team has already sign left-handed starter Matt Moore to a Major League deal, fresh off a solid season in Japan. From 2015-19, his last significant time spent in the Majors, Moore posted an ERA of 5.22 for the Rays, Giants and Rangers in 537.2 innings of work, so hopefully he truly got a lot better overseas. Former Yankee starter Ivan Nova signed a minor league deal, and if the team decided to add more starters (which they probably should), former Dombrowski hurlers Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez would be good fits. The fanbase would love the return of Cole Hamels, too.
However, the greater need is still in the bullpen. Yes, Brogdon, Romero, Suarez and others must emerge as dependable options if they are to rebound from last year’s two-month disaster, but adding one more significant free agent reliever would inspire even more confidence.
Shane Greene, Alex Colome, Joakim Soria and Justin Wilson would all likely cost about $6-8 million a season on a one year deal, Mark Melancon would probably cost a bit less, and relievers like Ian Kennedy, Sean Doolittle, Tyler Clippard and former Phillies Jose Alvarez could help as well.
On the latest edition of Hittin’ Season, I broke down the Phillies’ next moves with Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher, talked about how the addition of Gregorius affects others in the lineup, specifically Kingery, and just how much praise Middleton should receive for going against the grain in the sport and actually spending money on players.