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Meet your 2023 Sim Phillies!

The annual rite of passage, where money means nothing and contracts make one want to die

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Ahhh, the SBNation offseason simulation.

The time when people of all ages and levels of baseball knowledge come together to try and run their team’s offseason as best they see fit. Nothing is better than being an armchair general manager and talking about the moves that should and should not be made, meaning this simulation gives people a chance to flex those muscles. What moves would you make if you were in charge of the Phillies?

If you aren’t certain of how this simulation works, you can click here and read along for yourself what the rules are that have been set up by the great Max Rieper, manager in chief of the SBNation site, Royals Review. Basically, you have two days to:

  • accept/decline options on players
  • extend qualifying offers
  • make trades
  • sign free agents

No Rule 5 draft, no extensions, just the nuts and bolts of how to make your team better, sometimes exponentially. You are given a suggested budget to work with, something that has meaning to some owners while being a mere footnote in the chase for greatness to others. I’ve done it a few times in the past few years and tried my hand at it again this season. It was......interesting. How did it go? Well, let’s find out!

I went into this simulation with three goals:

  • sign one of the big four free agent shortstops, Trea Turner being the ultimate goal
  • sign a starter for the rotation that would slot nicely into the #4 spot and would be a near lock to start a postseason game
  • add another piece to the bullpen, whether that be via trade or free agency

I was given a budget of $239 million, something that I thought reasonable as it’s past the initial luxury tax threshold, yet still isn’t veering into obscene amounts of spending, something I’m not sure John Middleton himself wants to do. There were some easy decisions to make (exercising Aaron Nola’s option while declining Zach Eflin’s and Jean Segura’s) as well as the nontender options that need to be made (all players except Yairo Munoz and his $1 million projection). So, with opt-outs and payouts calculated, that left me with roughly $149 million to work with, a substantial amount of money. Then I came into more unexpectedly with my first move.

Phillies trade Ethan Wilson, Rafael Marchan and Scott Kingery to the Athletics for Sam Selman and Carlos Guarate

Yes, you read that right. Someone wanted Scott Kingery.

Hey, maybe Oakland would be the perfect place for Scott to thrive. Trading Marchan doesn’t really matter much to me as I don’t think he’s much of a headliner as it is for any deal. At best, he’s a depth piece in any trade. Does it hurt including Ethan Wilson? I mean, I guess a little bit. But has he really done anything for the Phillies in the minors that would require the jaws of life to pry him away? No, so including him to dump Kingery’s salary is an easy decision.

Do I know who the two pitchers are that I “acquired”? No, but I saved $8 million. That’s all that matters.

Now, to attend to some of the business I had planned on. In this simulation, the big names always go late in the game, but I let my interest be known on all four and waited. So I moved to the bullpen. That meant some trade offers. I was looking for guys who a) throw hard, b) have team control left. The two names that stuck out were Alexis Diaz from Cincinnati and AJ Puk from Oakland (yes, I circled back). To acquire either would have meant parting with either one of the three big arms the Phillies have or arguably their best hitting prospect in Hao-Yu Lee. I wasn’t prepared to do either of those deals, even after dangling Johan Rojas around. So to the free agent market I went. I came away with...

Phillies sign RP Seth Lugo to a 2 year, $15 million deal

I’ll admit.

I’m a sucker for Lugo. Maybe it’s because he’s handled the Phillies rather easily lately, maybe it’s that high spin curveball, but he is one of the guys I feel like the Phillies should be targeting. He can give them longer outings if need be, he can be used in high leverage situations - he’s versatile. Would I trust him as a closer? Maybe not all that often, but I also was wary of giving multiple years to someone like Kenley Jansen (who signed for 2/$26 million after I made an offer of 1/$16 million). But for me, the ability of Lugo to adapt to any situation he was in made me target him early on at a price I find fairly reasonable for a reliever of his ability.

So, one thing checked off the list. The shortstop were still waiting, so we went to the free agent market for starters (in this simulation, teams want a newborn child made of solid gold for starting pitchers in trade).

Jacob deGrom signed for 2 years, $110 million.

Justin Verlander signed for 4 years, $117.5 million.

Kodai Senga signed for 5 years, $100 million.

Carlos Rodon signed for 8 years, $240 million.

You see where I’m going with this?

Starting pitching prices got out of control quickly. Inquiries were made on all of these guys, but the price points were simply too far out of the realm of reality. Even for a simulation, where the money is fake and the vibes are #good, this is an insane way to spend. So I went looking for the next guy, the one that should be able to slot into the #4 spot in the rotation, maybe even the #3 spot in things break right. That led us to...

Phillies sign SP Nate Eovaldi to a 3 year, $55 million contract

I find this deal to be much more palatable and something the real Phillies should pursue. Forget about the money; it’s likely too much for someone like Eovaldi. Instead, focus on the actual player.

Pretty quietly, Eovaldi has developed into a nice starting pitcher in Boston. 2021 saw him put up a 5.7fWAR over 32 starts, the most of his career and the one that showed what he is capable of should be remain healthy for an entire season. His strikeout rates are solid, his walk rates are in Aaron Nola territory low and his Statcast data is surprisingly solid as well. He throws hard and has a good overall arsenal....if only he can stay healthy. And that’s the big question mark with Eovaldi. Fangraphs ranked him #15 on their list of free agents, stating:

The second tier of starting pitcher free agents begins with Eovaldi and Bassit (who, fittingly, is right above him on our list). It’s easy to see why; for all his stuff, the hard-throwing right-hander struggled with injuries and home runs during his four-year stay with Boston. Those two issues derailed most of his 2022, and in his lackadaisical final month, he was hit hard while throwing at below-average velocities, with his fastball sitting in the 92–94 mph range instead of its usual 95 and above. Eovaldi’s success is dependent on forcing batters to be ready for high heat to set up the rest of his arsenal, and without being able to reach back for 96 mph on the regular, he’s vulnerable to batters simply spitting on his breaking balls and offspeed offerings while waiting for a hittable four-seamer. And they hit a lot of four-seamers last season, posting a .385 wOBA against them.

The good news is that Eovaldi’s secondaries — his splitter and curve — remain above-average pitches; less so his slider and cutter, which leaked into the strike zone far too often. He also still gets plenty of whiffs. It’s keeping his pitches away from barrels that was an issue last year, and with better health and velocity, that should be more doable. Any team that signs Eovaldi expecting no. 1 starter-type production likely won’t get it, but he has the stuff and track record to make him a viable mid-rotation starter for a contending team, assuming he can stay off the injured list.

At the contract I gave, it might be a little high for someone like Eovaldi, but the team would have no issue slotting him in a postseason rotation, something the Phillies should be aiming for at this point in their roster construction.

So, with two things checked off the list of wants (I added a bunch of minor league signings - Derek Law, Jake McGee, David Phelps and Joe Smith), it was time to get to the shortstops.

Now, in this simulation, when it comes to the cream of the crop, the money can get a little....unrealistic. Aaron Judge was signed in this exercise to a 10 year, $500 million contract, which, c’mon. Initially, I was bidding for Trea Turner. It was getting quite expensive and once I put in a final 11 year, $440 million offer, I was told that was topped so I walked away. That’s just lunacy.

Turns out that was just the beginning.

Carlos Correa went for 10 years, $400 million. Dansby Swanson went for 8 years, $256 million so that left one guy: Xander Bogaerts.

Phillies signed SS Xander Bogaerts to a 10 year, $416 million deal

I feel as dirty writing that as I did submitting that bid.

Yes, it’s too much money for a guy who isn’t going to be a shortstop soon.

Yes, I should have just bid on Correa and Turner. There was a mixup on the Turner bid where mine actually won, but didn’t make it in time.

I wasn’t touching that Swanson contract with a ten foot pole, so that backed me into a corner, so I went for it. The bidding went from 10/$330 million to what that ended with very, very quickly. I wasn’t happy at all by it, but I did it anyway. Hopefully, this is not how Dave Dombrowski negotiates.

In all honesty, Bogaerts might be the safest of all four of the candidates for shortstop hitting-wise. Turner’s speed based game might slow down as he ages, Correa has shown that even when healthy, he can put up a mildly disappointing season and Swanson’s track record thus far makes 2022 look like an outlier than the norm. I wouldn’t bet against any one of these players playing up to an elite level with the bat, but for me, Bogaerts has done it longer and more consistently. He might only be a shortstop for a season or two, but with Bryson Stott in the fold, you could make an argument putting Bogaerts at second base in 2023 right away might be the wiser play for the Phillies.

When all of the dust settled, here is what the 2023 Sim Phillies look like:

2023 Sim Phillies

Lineup Pitching Staff
Lineup Pitching Staff
JT Realmuto Zack Wheeler
Rhys Hoskins Aaron Nola
Bryson Stott Ranger Suarez
Xander Bogaerts Nate Eovaldi
Alec Bohm Falter/Painter/McGarry/Abel?
Kyle Schwarber Seranthony Dominguez
Brandon Marsh Jose Alvarado
Bryce Harper Seth Lugo
Nick Castellanos Connor Brogdon
Bench Andrew Bellatti
Garrett Stubbs Sam Coonrod
Edmundo Sosa Nick Nelson
Nick Maton open competition in Spring Training
Matt Vierling

Do I LOVE IT love it? No.

Do I like it? I really do. This kind of a team, I think, could strongly contend for another pennant. If we base this roster off of what we saw in the World Series, I think they’re much better positioned to win the series than they were this year. Are there holes? Yes. The bench is still iffy, the bullpen is betting on a lot of repeat performances, but it’s a solid group.

Let me know what you think. The above link shows you all the moves that were made in the simulation. What would you have done differently?