The off-season has been LONG. As we head into the new year, Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamoto signed for over a billion dollars combined with the Dodgers, and there’s a bunch of Regional Sports Network drama.
With that, it’s a good time to take some questions about the ballclub. To spice things up, this Q&A is about the long term questions this team could have.
Is there a plan for Johan Rojas and improving his offense? Are they perceiving him as a long-term cog in the OF? Because I really like the kid and his defense, it would be nice to have that spot locked up. But offense *has* to improve.— Jim Cunningham III (@JudoLionBadger) December 21, 2023
What happens with the outfield prospect depth? Rojas, Marsh, Crawford all can be CFers for a long time down the road. Would Rojas or Crawford be moved in the short term for a big trade?— The ️hight for Red October (@PhightForRedOct) December 21, 2023
Both of these questions sort of go together so they’ll be packaged as such.
They probably have some sort of plan to make Johan Rojas a better hitter. If they didn’t, then Todd Zolecki wouldn’t write about how the Phillies do not want to block an opportunity for Johan Rojas.
The problem with Rojas is that he may not have the tools to develop into a great hitter. In 113 batted balls, he recorded just one barrel. That 0.9% would’ve ranked second to last in the majors for qualified hitters.
That itself doesn’t eliminate him from being a productive hitter. Here are each of the bottom five hitters in barrel rate and their (wRC+).
- Myles Straw - 0.5% (69)
- Steven Kwan - 1.1% (100)
- Jeff McNeil - 1.3% (100)
- Nico Hoerner - 1.8% (102)
- Whit Merrifield - 2.4% (93)
If Rojas were to hit like Kwan, McNeil, or Hoerner, he would likely make an all-star team because of how good his defense is. However, each of those hitters also rank in the bottom five for whiff rate.
Rojas’s whiff rate compares closer to Tim Anderson, who just finished outside the top five in barrel rate and had a 60 wRC+.
He also had a chase rate of 40.4%, which is only slightly better than Nick Castellanos, a much more physically talented hitter who can get away with it.
The good news is that Rojas is only 23 years old and seems very aware of these issues. According to Alex Coffey, he’s the only player on the active roster seeing live pitching as of the time of her feature.
He doesn’t need to be a great hitter to stick because of how good his defense is. If he’s a sustainable 90 wRC+ next season, that’s good enough to play every day for a long time.
When it comes to him, Brandon Marsh, and Justin Crawford, things get a little different. Marsh can slide to left field where he played gold glove-caliber defense but still might need to prove himself as a hitter.
Justin Crawford is more of a project. He has the physical tools to be a great all-around player one day but he has to get the baseball off the ground.
I would doubt Marsh and Crawford are traded in the next calendar year unless the front office soured on one of them.
What kind of contract would you offer Zach Wheeler, and is there concern about how his game will age?— What's a name, anyways? (@JuvenileBluster) December 21, 2023
If I were Wheeler’s agent, I would look for a five-year deal. If I were the Phillies front office, I would aim for a three-year deal.
In terms of money, AAVs like Gerrit Cole’s 36 or Jacob deGrom’s 37 would make sense. My guess is probably something like four years for 148 million seems logical for both sides (I overshoot these every time).
How Wheeler will age is fascinating. He’s almost 34 and has seen some velocity drop from his 2021 season but it’s not like he’s been on a massive decline performance wise.
His cutter got hit around a little more than it should last year but he also added a sweeper with encouraging numbers. It became his go-to off-speed pitch to right-handers in the postseason.
There’s probably going to be some decline in the later years of his career but maybe not until he’s 37 or 38. He’s always been a fastball dominate pitcher and that pitch is likely just going to get worse with age.
However, his arsenal around his four-seam fastball is as complete as its ever been.
Is the model after this current “window” is over to keep spending and supplement with better prospect classes we will have from Mattingly and Barber? Or should we expect lean years while those young guys develop? Does the window ever really close or can they become the Dodgers?— evanjnece (@evanjnece) December 21, 2023
As long as Bryce Harper (and Trea Turner) wear Phillies uniforms, I would expect them to try and compete. Especially since they didn’t get Harper into the postseason his first three seasons here.
Over the next three seasons, there should be some money coming off the books (and some good players too). Here are non-team control players whose contracts will end in the next three seasons:
- Zack Wheeler - 1 year for $23,600,000 left
- Kyle Schwarber - 2 years for $39,500,000
- JT Realmuto - 2 years for $46,200,000
- Taijuan Walker - 3 years for $54,000,000
- Nick Castellanos - 3 years for $60,000,000
Wheeler will probably be extended since that sounds like their top priority but the others are a lot less likely.
So the players around Harper, Turner, and Aaron Nola will change over the next few seasons but their payroll should stay as one of biggest in baseball.
From a long-term viability standpoint, the age of the current core isn’t great. Some of that will change when Andrew Painter gets here but they’ll probably need to sign a young star in the next few years.
Juan Soto is a free agent next year.
When does the Stott extension come?— Derrike Saich (@DSaich42) December 21, 2023
This question is specifically about Bryson Stott but still a good time to talk about general extension candidates of the young players.
Starting with Stott, it’s hard to see an extension happening soon. Stott’s team control ends after the 2027 season and Trea Turner will be in his mid-30s. The Phillies may need to pivot Turner over to second base by the time Stott hits the open market so there’s just probably not going to be a match there.
This current Phillies roster doesn’t have many team-control players they should be in a rush to extend.
Ranger Suárez has two-years left before hitting free agency and waiting in the wings are Andrew Painter and Mick Abel. They already have Nola and Walker locked in and Cristopher Sánchez under control along with their desire to keep Wheeler.
Brandon Marsh would make a little more sense if they had a better understanding of his future outfield position. They probably shouldn’t consider an extension if he’s just going to play left field.
The Phillies off-season has been quiet with most of the roster spots penciled in for next season. It’s going to be a while before spring training starts in February.