Baseball’s Winter Meetings are upon us, back in person after a few year’s hiatus thanks to Covid. With teams able to meet each other face to face (or text to text), as well as teams able to meet with players and their agents, there should be some action happening in the next few days. There have already been some substantial moves made (Jose Abreu to the Astros, Jacob deGrom to the Rangers), but there is still a lot to be done for most of baseball. With the Phillies, there is really one question that needs to be answered: will they leave the meetings with a new shortstop?
All eyes on the Core Four
With all due respect to the Yankees’ group of four, this core of the free agent market promises to dominate the conversation when it comes to the Phillies. No one has been shy about linking players to the team, nor has the team been shy about their interest in acquiring one of them. It’s probably safe to expect the team will be linked as hot and heavy to try and grab one of the shortstops before they leave San Diego.
But which one will it be?
We’ve seen their names brought up when it comes to at least three of the names, Trea Turner being the one that is the supposed apple of their eye. However, recently, they’ve talked to Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts, so you can probably safely assume they’ve talked to Carlos Correa as well. It’s due diligence to make sure they talk to all of them, but there has to be a top target. If/When that player is finally signed, we won’t know who it is, but let’s just assume it’s going to happen. The team has a pretty clear need in the infield and has money to spend, so connecting those dots would probably lead us to think they’ll grab one of the shortstops sooner than later.
Is there a trade in the works?
Dave Dombrowski has developed a reputation as a general manager/president of baseball operations that likes to make a deal. With that reputation comes the part where he’ll decimate a farm system in order to make sure the team wins, but as we’ve seen, that isn’t always the case. Dombrowski rarely trades his top prospects unless it’s for a no doubt, top notch player (see: Miguel Cabrera and Chris Sale). We have yet to see him part ways with the likes of Mick Abel, Andrew Painter and Griff McGarry, so that reputation seems to be incorrectly applied.
But one has to wonder if there is a deal in the works in San Diego. It’s highly doubtful any of the three pitchers are getting moved. After all, one, two or all of them might end up pitching significant innings in 2023 with the Phillies and they’d all be making the major league minimum, so there is huge value there if one or all of them can pan out. If you move down the rungs of the top prospect lists, that is where some names could come up that could be used in a deal to help the Phillies. Now that Brandon Marsh is aboard, is this where we see Johan Rojas moved, especially with the new rules that would emphasize Rojas’ skillset coming to major league baseball? Are there pitchers like Erik Miller or another of his ilk that would interest a team?
You could also look at the other end of the spectrum - do major league pieces currently on the roster get moved? We’ve seen players like Rhys Hoskins already change addresses. Do the Phillies possibly see what he could fetch them on the market? Now that Bryan Reynolds has formally asked out of Pittsburgh, do the Phillies dangle a package like Marsh, Rojas and maybe McGarry for him?
It’s something to watch for.
What about the pitching?
As much as we are focusing on the shortstops available to sign, let’s not lose sight of the fact that in the NLCS and the World Series, the Phillies were forced to have bullpen games twice. The top of the pitching staff is strong, the bottom.....not so much. It is definitely an area where the team could use some upgrades if they want a return trip to the World Series.
The question then becomes: what avenue do they choose?
Having their top three starters set is a tremendous help. It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to find pitchers that fit a backend of the rotation than it is the top part. Aces and #2 starters don’t usually see the free agent market, but each year seems to be flooded with #3 and 4 starters, most of them about to be overpaid. This year is no exception, but there are some pitchers worth what the Phillies might give them. There is a chance that they could grab one of these starters to help with their rotation.
There is also the aforementioned trade route. Possibly the top available starter is Pablo Lopez from Miami, but it’s unlikely the Marlins would want to trade in division. They’ve done it before, but you have to wonder if the fact that Sixto Sanchez is still hurt leaves a bitter taste in their mouths about dealing with the Phillies. Scouring other teams doesn’t really fill one with a desire to trade prospects for what’s out there, but again, this is Dombrowski. You never know.
Whatever the Phillies do, one has to expect some movement with the team. We’ll have to wait and see what it is, but it’s nice to have the meetings back again to help kick off what’s been a slow developing market.
Just please...do something, Dave.