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No, the Phillies should not pursue a shortstop this offseason

This is a not a response to Stott’s hot streak

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MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There is an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where our hero witnesses a comedy show at his place of employment (the Krusty Krab, for those who are unaware). After seeing the show, he decides that he also wants to partake in that rush that comes with performing in front of an adoring audience, people applauding and laughing and generally in favor whatever he was going to do.

When he tried his original act, it fell flat. No one wanted to hear what he had to say. Finally, he decided to make fun of the facial features of his best friend, a squirrel. People began to love it and wanted more of it. This came at the expense of the squirrel’s friendship, but he got the reaction he wanted, even though it was hurting how he was to be perceived by those closest to him. With the audience, he had set an expectation that they wanted met each time he stepped up to the microphone. They saw how he did what they wanted and they wanted him to keep going. He tried a new act and it didn’t work. Ultimately, he went back to his job of flipping burgers and everything went back to normal.

Why do I tell this story?

Recently, a report came out where the upcoming free agent class of shortstops was discussed. The author has a tendency of being severely wrong on several proclamations and this one feels like another example of something that will look rather ridiculous in due time.

So why give it any breathing room? Well, it has to do with that story about Spongebob.

As everyone is now aware, John Middleton went over the luxury tax threshold for the first time in team history this offseason, but from early returns hasn’t really improved the team. They’re still the same frustrating .500 team that might bounce a little higher, might bounce a little lower once it’s all said and done this year. Yes they’ve gotten a recent boost thanks to a new manger, but that can only last for so long. There are still real improvements that have to be made to this team before it’s a World Series contender.

Rival executives (and agents, for that matter) have now seen Middleton will go over the tax in order to get better, so of course they’re going to expect him to do it again. Much like Mr. Squarepants, he has made his audience happy and jovial; now it is expected that he put on a repeat performance in the free agent marketplace.

Anyone paying attention to this team will realize that maybe spending big on a shortstop will not be the best way to use what assets the team has. Right now, they have ~$129 million committed to the roster in 2023 and that’s before the two options on Jean Segura and Aaron Nola that have to be decided on, not to mention the mutual option on Zach Eflin that has to be resolved. That also doesn’t include arbitration raises for players like Rhys Hoskins, Seranthony Dominguez and Ranger Suarez. So, even if we’re being conservative, we can probably expect somewhere in the neighborhood of $40-50 million in option pickups and arbitration raises that would bring that payroll total closer to $175 million. If we believe they’ll go up to the $230 million threshold, that means they have roughly $50-55 million to spend.

The rest of the roster has needs that need to be attended to before the shortstop position gets discussed. The bullpen is going to have to be addressed one way or another, whether that be with internal promotions or with outside help. They might want another starter, someone who can continue making the starting rotation a strength of the team. They also desperately need their young talent to start filling in holes on the roster at a cost that doesn’t particularly break the bank.

Recently, Bryson Stott has started showing he has the hitting chops to go along with the offensive prowess that could help be a mainstay at the shortstop position for a while. No matter what his relationship might be with the biggest star on the team, it is imperative the team let him continue to develop at that spot as someone who is giving the team solid production at a price that allows them to address other areas of concern.

So no, even though Middleton likes to get in front of an audience and grab that adrenaline rush that comes with the clapping and cheering from fans, it’s for the best that he simply sit down and let Dave Dombrowski work on the rest of the roster. Should one of those stars have their market bottom out, maybe then it’ll get the Phillies to sniff around. Right now though, it looks like they have a solution to the shortstop question that can be answered internally rather than externally. That’s a big win for this team.