This is the time of year where we get the time-honored verbs of the baseball lexicon.
“Showing strong interest”
These are the types of things we have come to learn, love and study with reckless abandon. If the Phillies are showing interest in someone, how does that player fit on the roster? How does that player affect not only the team’s 2024 plans, but also the 2025 season and beyond?
To speak nothing of the financials, something you nor I should be concerned with anyway. With the offseason just beginning to grind its wheels toward a start, now is when teams are “intrigued” with someone, or a player is “interested in joining” another team. It’s a wonderful time to be alive. The Phillies being the Phillies, they’re in the fortunate position of having shown a willingness to spend money and simultaneously have a spot open on the roster that has several very viable candidates to fill said spot. Let’s have a look at some of the latest rumors that are washing on our shores.
I have to say, this one intrigues me a bit.
Usually when it comes to buying a closer on the free agent market, it’s not the wisest allocation of available funds. Relief pitchers can be made into dominant arms with just the right tweaking of stuff and ability that is created by both the player and coaching staff. Look no further than what the team has been able to do with pitchers like Jose Alvarado, Jeff Hoffman and Seranthony Dominguez. The team as currently constructed certainly can call its bullpen one of the pillars of the roster, one that any team would be genuinely happy to have. Adding Hader to the group would make them almost nightmarish to face in a short series, octane coming from the left and from the right. Seeing Craig Kimbrel break down in the NLCS at the end of a long season arguably cost the team a shot at the World Series, so naturally signing Hader would make sure that never happens again.
We’ve all been witness to Rob Thomson’s bullpen philosophy. Pitchers are asked, and at times expected, to pitch multiple innings at a time. We’ve seen him use pitchers like Kimbrel, normally expected to rack up saves as the ninth inning closer, in the seventh or eighth inning depending on the situation. That would run counter to what Hader has been publicly unwilling to do. San Diego had opportunities to use Hader for multiple outs in the NLCS in 2022 and didn’t and the Phillies ended up with Bedlam at the Bank. Why would Hader all of a sudden decide that he wants to pitch multiple innings once he has his big contract?
Still, it is intriguing to think what an endgame of Alvarado-Hoffman-Dominguez-Hader might look like in a playoff setting.
I mean, yeah, who wouldn’t be interested in Nola?
We’ve known for a while that he is going to be very popular. He’s one of the few pitchers on the market that a team would consider to be top of the rotation. He’ll give innings, strike batters out and issue few walks. Is he homer prone? Sure, but these days, who isn’t?
What’s interesting here is the teams mentioned. The Cardinals make sense since we’ve heard about their desire to add three pitchers this offseason, something easier said than done. It’s the Braves that make this one a little more nauseating to digest. Imagine a world in which Nola is taking the hill at Citizens Bank Park in the road grays of Atlanta rather than pinstripes of the Phillies. I shudder at the thought. Still, we’ve seen it reported that the Braves are looking to spend some of that money on a starter this offseason, but that doesn’t really jive with my conspiracy theory. Let’s head down a rabbit trail...
The Braves have decided over the past few years to acquire and sign top end talent to team friendly extensions. That puts their payroll in place for easy budgeting in case a true superstar talent were to go on the market. There was a question as to whether or not they would pick up Charlie Morton’s option for $20 million for 2024, but they did in fact do so. Why do this? Outside of the fact that they don’t have that much depth at the starting pitcher’s spot, it makes sense because one of the free agents they are planning to sign won’t be able to pitch in 2024, so they need to cover those innings.
See where I’m going?
My darkhorse pick to win the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes is the Braves. They’ve spent years creating a stable budget in order to splurge this one time on the superstar of superstars.
You heard it here first...
This also falls into the “duh” category. Of course the Phillies are going to sign a top free agent pitcher. They’ve sent all the signals that it will happen, so why stop now?
There will always be more rumors that we’ll discuss. It promises to be an interesting offseason in Philadelphia.