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10 thoughts from baseball’s Winter Meetings

On the latest Hittin’ Season, a recap of what the Phillies, and the rest of MLB, did this week in San Diego.

Philadelphia Phillies Introduce Trea Turner Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Baseball’s Winter Meetings are over and, while the Phillies and many other teams were very active last week, there are still plenty of great players on the free agent market for the choosing.

Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson remain on the shelves. Carlos Rodon, Nate Eovaldi and Chris Bassitt are starters who turned down qualifying offers that remain available. There are relievers galore, and once the free agent market dwindles, the trades will start.

It’s been a fun off-season thus far, and the Winter Meetings did not disappoint. Teams are flush with cash, and many of them are spending it on their rosters.

On the latest episode of Hittin’ Season, I broke down the Phils’ moves and talked a bit about Trea Turner’s introductory press conference, as well as some of the other big moves at the Meetings, including yet another New York Mets spending spree.

In addition, here are 10 quick thoughts from me about what we’ve seen so far this off-season, specifically at the Winter Meetings.

  1. The Phillies and John Middleton are all-in. That much is clear. After signing Trea Turner to an 11-year, $300 million deal, Taijuan Walker to a four-year contract worth $72 million and reliever Matt Strahm for $15 million over two years, the Phils’ projected payroll of $237 million payroll already exceeds the first luxury tax threshold. Given that there will certainly be another reliever added over the next few months and the team will likely have to make a trade or two at the deadline, there’s no reason to think the Phils will be scared off by the second threshold of $253 million, and will probably exceed it. Dave Dombrowski has a special gift: convincing owners to spend money.
  2. The New York Mets didn’t get “better,” but they’re a 100-win team. They didn’t have to get “better.” They simply needed to stay as good as they were. Losing deGrom hurts, but adding Verlander was almost as good, and Jose Quintana is a very good back-of-the-rotation starter. I love that signing. Brandon Nimmo’s contract was pricey, but Mr. Try Hard is a player they couldn’t afford to lose. And they got David Robertson as well, giving them a payroll north of $320 million! Steve Cohen, baby.
  3. The Braves’ trade for Joe Jimenez was one of the new swaps we saw, but they added a 27-year-old set-up man for a minimal prospect cost, exchanging Kenley Jansen for him. Another smart move by an organization that no doubt is still feeling the sting of losing the NLDS to the Phillies in four games.
  4. The Yankees had to sign Aaron Judge. They just had to. That team ceases to function in any workable way without him.
  5. The NL West had a tough week. Seriously, until Xander Bogaerts signed his 11-year deal with the Padres, it looked like no one wanted to take A.J. Preller’s money. Trea Turner turned down $42 million more from San Diego’s offer to come to Philly, and Judge also turned down more money in order to return to New York. Eschewing San Diego cash is “WHAT’S IN.” The Giants also had a rough week, aggressively pursuing Judge and offering him more money too, but in the end, falling short. The Dodgers were also quiet, losing Turner and Cody Bellinger without making any major moves themselves.
  6. The Cubs made a couple of potentially smart deals. Jameson Taillon is a solid mid-rotation starter, someone the Phils were likely pursuing as well. In fact, they signed almost identical contracts (Taillon’s was $4 million less than Walker’s). Chicago was spunky late in the year last season (they swept the Phillies twice, after all!), and the addition of Bellinger is a good low-risk, high-reward type deal that could pay big dividends if the former MVP has recovered from his shoulder surgery two years ago.
  7. I can’t understand what the Red Sox are doing. They’re a major market team and yet they let studs like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts leave in free agency. They could be building a dynasty right now, but seem happy to let the Yankees, Rays and Blue Jays lap them in the AL East. If they’re not careful, Baltimore is going to catch them, too.
  8. I’m not sure that the Rangers can catch up to the Astros in the AL West, but they’re sure hoping last year’s down season was a fluke. After all, they went all-in last off-season when they added Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, and it blew up in their faces. The addition of deGrom gives them the stud ace they needed, and they are also bringing in left-hander Andrew Heaney on a two-year deal. They’re not going to catch Houston, but they’ve certainly bolstered their wild card chances.
  9. No trades! Disappointing, but I guess teams would rather just pay for players than give up prospects for them. Makes sense.
  10. The Phillies’ Rule 5 selection of Noah Song is fascinating. Everyone in baseball is talking about it. Dave Dombrowski drafted him in the fourth round of the 2019 draft with Boston, but as he pitched for Navy, he had to enter into military service. He would have been a first round pick otherwise, as he touches 99 mph. He’s now applied to leave the military to pursue his baseball career, and if the Pentagon agrees, he’ll be added to the Phillies’ 40-man roster and will have to stay on the 26-man roster all season or be sent back to Boston. For a team looking for a bullpen arm to pitch some in the middle innings, it’s a worthwhile gamble to add an arm of this caliber, even if it hasn’t pitched competitively in two years.

All in all, the Phils may not have caught the Mets or Braves in terms of overall talent. Both teams are still likely a few wins better than the Phils, especially with Bryce Harper missing at least the first two months of the season. That said, the Phillies are better than they were last year. They’ve swapped out Brad Hand for Rahm, Kyle Gibson for Walker, and Jean Segura for Turner. Those are serious upgrades.

The 2023 Phillies will be more talented than the ‘22 team. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get back to the World Series, but Middleton and Dombrowski are giving them every opportunity to do it for the foreseeable future.