One of the great things about having a perennial playoff team is that in the offseason, there's very little that needs to be addressed. The Phillies are in that situation. Where there are only a few key areas that they should be looking at via trade or free agency. For the purpose of this exercise, I'm only going to be looking at the free agent market to fill these holes, although the possibility does remain that they can solve these issues via trade as well.
The five areas that they need to focus on is going to be
- 1. Starting pitching
- 2. Relief pitching
- 3. Catching depth
- 4. 4th or 5th outfielder
- 5. Bench
SP – The Nola question
This is a very difficult issue because Aaron Nola is one of the longest tenured Philies and he’s a top of the rotation pitcher. He does make the 2024 team better. I would love to have him back on the team, but it has to be at a reasonable price/ length. I understand with the Phillies that cost is usually not an issue. But you have to look at the bigger picture. It's impossible to have a team of $20 to $30 million players at every single position. At some point you have to look at bringing up younger kids, giving them an opportunity to start to make your team better. A 25-year-old picture is typically better than a 35 year old pitcher. With a number of big market teams after Nola, I could reasonably see him looking for an 8 year deal and I'm not comfortable with an 8 year deal for an Aaron Nola, I would have to walk away.
There are several other pitchers that I would be interested in taking a look at, such as Sunny Gray, Jack Flaherty, and Lucas Giolito. I do not think that Snell would be a fit here. He would receive a similar contract to Nola and he has control issues and a very low batting average balls in play. I actually expect him to be better than Aaron Nola in 2024, but I think that his career trajectory looks a lot like Patrick Corbin.
Another starting pitching free agent would be marked as Stroman, but I think he means more to the Cubs than he does in the free agent market. And Jordan Montgomery is a playoff hero. He's going to be overpaid.
I think we are in a similar situation to the Patrick Corbin pursuit. We missed out on him and we ended up with Wheeler. Now that was in two different offseason, but I think their similarities where Blake Snell is going to be a top line starting pitcher for the next year or two. But you're not getting him for just one or two years. You are getting him for seven years. And that contract would be an albatross. I'd be willing to roll the dice on signing Jack Flaherty because he does have a similar pedigree as Zach Wheeler and I would hope that he could regain the form. This would enable the Phillies to resign Zach Wheeler now and aggressively look at ways to improve the bullpen moving forward. I also think that signing a guy like Flaherty opens the door for one of the younger pitchers like Abel to take a step forward because he is not blocking them with a 1-2 year commitment. If you sign Snell or Nola, they are locked into that rotation spot despite performance for at least 4 seasons so the team can get its ROI. The other option, if you don’t believe in a Flaherty bounce back, would be Lucas Giolito. He was headed to a trajectory of Nola and Snell back in 2022, but it hasn’t been working out. He has better health than Flaherty but I don’t like his HR tendencies.
Despite my feelings, I do see Sonny Gray as the most likely scenario. At his age he wants to win more than get paid and because of his age he won’t get the years of a Nola or Snell. I don’t like that he’s tied to a QO but his familiarity with Cotham may help with a transition and make him more likely to sign. I believe it was Cotham’s relationship with Lorenzen that made him a trade target this past season. It would be a long wait like Arietta due to the QO and a similar contract too.
Me GM – Flaherty 1yr 15M with team option for 2025 at 20M
Phillies – Gray 3/75M
RP – The crap shoot of the MLB
It is very rare to find relief pitchers who are good from year to year and bullpens that are good from year to year. Outside of a handful of closers and set up guys, you never really know what you have in your bullpen until the season starts. I have liked the Phillies approach lately where they have a mix of a veteran presence and some young guys with high velocity. I also find it important to heave guys with MiLB options to be called up and sent down, which Dombroski has already done with the Rays roster crunch. Right now, I think that they need a veteran presence with Kimber leaving. Of those names on the free agent market, I like Joe Kelly, Adam Ottavino, Nick Martinez, Hector Nerris, and Middleton. I think that any of those guys could find a role in the Phillies bullpen. Out of all of them, I like Nick Martinez the best since he can be used as a starter, longman or setup guy that they were able to use this past season in Strahm. Handing out a 1 yr 15M deal to Flaherty makes it easier to sign Martinet for 2/25M. I think this offseason will be much like the old offseason where quality names will just sit on the FA market until spring training and they should get guys on cheaper deals. If they really want a player though, they will need to jump and overpay a little.
Nick Martinez 2/25M
Other options from trade market
The Phillies need catching depth. I looked what is out there and… yikes. MLB needs catching depth. I love Stubbs, but with arbitration kicking in, his contract is going to surpass his on-field value very soon. I have not liked the development of Marchan and don’t know if he is the answer. However, I would give him the shot over Anthony Bemboom, Eric Haase, Carlos Perez, Caleb Hamilton, Tres Barrera, Jose Godoy, Chad Wallach, or Zack Collins. Yes, these are actual free agent catchers and not names I made up. I would look at getting one of these guys from a reputable organization, like Haase or Collins from the Indians to take a MiLB deal to compete for a back up job and play for the Iron Pigs.
There are a lot of options but whoever they get needs to understand their role. I think Aaron Hicks would be a good fit and a natural platoon with Marsh, but he is limited to LF and emergency CF. That is mitigated with Pache, but with the modern bench you’d want a bit more positional flexibility. Which is why I’d more likely target Whit Merrifield. I also wouldn’t mind a Bamboo Brad reunion (especially if Stubbs is out and Marchan is in) but I think they need to prioritize a RH bat to pair with Marsh and occasionally Stott. It was a better option last year with the make up of the team, but I also like Wil Myers on an MiLB deal and invite. As with the RP I expect a lot of the second-tier players to be sitting unemployed come February.
I also wanted to have a separate area for bench options. I have been enamored with the tools of Adalberto Mondesi for years. He was hurt last year, but prior was one of the most athletic players on the field. Capable of playing plus D at all IF positions, has a 43 SB season in 2019 and had 14 HR and 32 SB in only 75 games in 2018. He has much more upside than Sosa and can give the bench a dynamic it hasn’t had since the one week that Roman Quinn was healthy. Speaking of health, he lost all of last season due to injury and based off that and being traded by the Royals before they DFAed him, he can probably be signed to a MiLB deal with a MLB invite. If he wows in camp, great, if not he’d be great insurance in AAA. I like Isiah Kiner Falefa, he could also be a back up catcher. However his profile is very similar to Sosa and Sosa is cheaper. The only other bench option, who would be a bat first profile is Amed Rosario.
So based on just the FA signings and no trades the 2024 Phillies
SP1 Zack Wheeler (23.6M) R
SP2 Ranger Suarez (5.8M) L
SP3 Taijuna Walker (18M) R
SP4 Jack Flaherty (15M) R
SP5 Cristopher Sanchez (7K) L
RP1 Alverado (7.3M) L
RP2 Strahm (7.5M) L
RP3 Seranthony Dominguez (3.625M) R
RP4 Gregory Soto (4M) L
RP5 Jeff Hoffman (3M) R
RP6 Josh Fleming (7K) L
RP7 Orion Kerkering (7k) R
RP8 Nick Martinez (12.5M) R
C Realmuto (23M) R
1st Harper (25M) L
2nd Bryson Stott (7K) L
SS Turner (27M) R
3rd Bohm (4.6M) R
LF Brandon Marsh (7K) L
CF Pache (7K) R
RF Castellanos (20M) R
DH Schwarber (19.75M) L
OF Whit Merrifield (8.5M) R
UT Rodolfo Castro/Kody Clemens (7k) S/L
IF Sosa (1.6M) R
C Stubbs (1M) L
26 man roster payroll = 235.675
MLB 2024 Lux Tax Threshold is 237M. I know the goal is not to be below the tax, but resetting it would have benefits moving forward as the tax number does increase. Also this would set the team up to move forward during the season. If they are ravaged by the injury bug and fall out of contention, they would easily be able to end the season under the tax and not have any adverse consequence to their draft capital. If they play as expected and contend, they will have the financial room and prospect capital to get a frontline SP or bring in a player to help someone who is underperforming.