I used Fangraphs for estimated free agent costs and baseball trade value simulator for trade values. The more I go through baseball trade value simulator, the more weird things I see, so admittedly the trade I propose is pretty speculative. My goal is to keep the Phillies below the third luxury tax tier of $277 million. There is simply no way to field a highly competitive team and stay under the first tier and also extremely difficult to stay under the second tier. Here are the moves I would make:
Trade N Castellanos, W Bergolla, and R Marchan to the Mariners for R Ray and T Thornton. Ray had TJ surgery so will not pitch until after the All Star break at the earliest. The Mariners have a plethora of good starters and also need a replacement for T Hernandez who walked as a free agent. Castellanos and Hernandez are not that far apart in performance. Castellanos is a little better hitter while Hernandez is a better defender. Thornton is in his second year of arbitration and is likely just a decent long bullpen arm at this point. The Mariners pick up a decent hitter, very good prospect, cheap backup catcher, and payroll relief. The Phillies get a potential high level starter for the playoffs next year and retain him for two more years after that on a reasonable salary ($23 million per year AAV). If they cannot extend Wheeler, then they will at least have a potential top of the rotation starter to replace him.
Sign S Gray for 3 years / $63 million. Gray slots in as the number 2 behind Wheeler.
Sign J Pederson for 2 years / $24 million. Pederson mashes righties and has much better splits away from SF (a terrible hitters park). Defense isn't great, but better than Castellanos. He becomes a platoon with Pache, who hits lefties very well and can be late game defensive sub.
Sign G Sanchez for 1 year / $5 million. JT needs more time off. Sanchez destroys lefties and plays good defense. JT is better against lefties as well, but not to the extent that Sanchez is, but JT is a much better hitter against righties than Sanchez. I would basically start Sanchez against all lefties and JT against righties. JT still gets the bulk of the work but should have more time off this year than last.
If the Mariners will not make the Castellanos deal, I would still sign Pederson, Gray, and Sanchez, and use platoon for RF.
Here is the 26 man roster on opening day with AAV for tax purposes:
SP - Wheeler ($26.3), Gray ($21.0), Suarez ($5.6), Walker ($18.0), Sanchez ($0.7)
RP - Alvarado ($7.3), Dominguez ($3.6), Strahm ($7.5), Soto ($4.9), Hoffman ($2.3), Kerkering ($0.7), Thornton ($1.7), Bellatti or Nelson ($0.7)
C - Realmuto ($23.1), Sanchez ($5.0)
IF - Harper ($25.4), Stott ($0.8), Turner ($27.3), Bohm ($4.0), Sosa ($1.9)
OF - Marsh ($0.8), Rojas ($0.7), Pederson ($12.0), Pache ($0.8), Wilson ($0.7)
DH - Schwarber ($19.8)
Ray would start on 60 day DL, but would cost $23.0 against luxury tax. With others on the 40 man roster, benefits, bonus pool, etc. ($25.0), the Phillies are looking at somewhere around $271 million for luxury tax, or $6 million below tier 3.
This sets up Phillies for success beyond 2024, although Ray coming back healthy is definitely a gamble and Gray is no spring chicken. However, we are not mortgaging the farm in big trades and the significant free agent spending is fairly short term (3 years or less). It does require navigating platoons more frequently, but if done correctly, can add a lot of value.