Whenever a trade takes place between two baseball teams where neither of those two are the Phillies, the first reaction many have is “Could the Phillies have matched that?” As the Orioles parted with a seemingly minor few pieces of their vaunted farm system to get one year of Corbin Burnes, the reaction to the Phillies “not being in on that” was stronger than anticipated.
The Phillies should have been the team to trade for Corbin Burnes. https://t.co/wtydnX5QmT— 97.5 The Fanatic (@975TheFanatic) February 2, 2024
What are the #Phillies doing? The Orioles just got Corbin Burnes without having to give up Holliday, Cowser or Kjerstad Joey Ortiz (6th Ranked Prospect) and DL Hall is all it took? Dombrowski couldn’t have topped that? Make it make sense. @JackFritzWIP https://t.co/PHdCD3D63Q— Mike Tomasco (@MikeTomasco) February 2, 2024
Dave Dombrowski just sitting on his ass playing minesweeper all day https://t.co/pNWE2zpItR— Ryan (@Notorious_RJG) February 2, 2024
I mean this respectfully. What is Dave Dombrowski doing?! Sitting on his hands? Phillies have 10+ trade-able players and prospects. This isn’t like Dombrowski https://t.co/yMVegINspV— Phangelo Castaldi (@76ersApologist) February 2, 2024
Would it even be possible for Philadelphia to match that kind of deal, seeing as how the Brewers looked to be prioritizing close the majors talent and the Phillies’ lack of options in that area? It’s possible, but thanks to the secrecy that veils this organization when it comes to roster transactions, we’ll never know. Still, that’s not good enough for some. The lack of a deal for Burnes continues what is a perceived lack of desire to improve the team, to take a team that did not win the NLCS and “run it back” being some kind of failure of an offseason.
It brings us back to the restlessness that many are feeling when it comes to the team’s offseason moves thus far. It’s major piece of business was accomplished early on in the winter when Aaron Nola was re-signed rather than them dipping their toes into this free agent market, thus sparing (depriving?) the fanbase of rumors all winter long of the team interested in pitchers to replace Nola. Since then, trades and signings, even claims on waivers, have been few and far between. January’s moves consisted of signing Kolby Allard and a bunch of international free agents, coupled with some spring training invitations being sent out. December was nearly as barren as clusters of players that I’ll guarantee you’ve never heard of agreed to minor league deals. And November, well, if you want to count the 40-man roster shuffling as major, well good on ya’. So, thrilling, this offseason has not been.
You being the educated fan, you know that it was never going to be thrilling because it didn’t have to be. If you wish that the team had taken yet another major jump headfirst into free agency, then the thing you’re feeling is FOMO (fear of missing out, for the graybeards in the back). You see shiny toys being jingled and jangled in front of other fanbases like a pair of keys in front of an infant and you wish that was you. And that’s fine and natural. It happens all the time in baseball and other sports just the same.
Just keep remembering: the Phillies are already the third best team in the National League and didn’t have the kind of hole in their rotation that the Orioles did. The roster as currently constructed is perfectly capable of weathering the playoff gauntlet and coming out on top at the end. The upgrades the Phillies could use are the marginal ones, the ones that don’t light up the soundboards at radio stations.
The fanbase has become so used to the team making big, splashy moves during the offseason that when one is not made, it feels like a step backwards has been taken. You have Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto prior to the 2019 season, Zack Wheeler prior to 2020, Realmuto re-signing with the team before 2021, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos before 2022 and Trea Turner last offseason. It’s been an exciting time to follow the team as they’ve flexed their financial wherewithal in repeated seasons. Yet these signings and re-signings were in some part thanks to the roster neglect created by the Klentak/MacPhail regime that left large holes on the team that needed to be plugged thanks to years of poor drafts and player development thanks to those two. Dave Dombrowski has come in and used free agency as a tool to help the team on the field get better while the farm system was able to get itself together, also under new guidance in Preston Mattingly.
What they’ve created under their guidance is a team that is laden with veteran leadership and young players at seven of eight defensive positions and a pitching staff with very few holes to fill, all while still managing to keep a budget intact enough that if a piece is missing once the season gets underway, they’ll be able to get what they need without bloating said budget beyond certain luxury tax thresholds they may not be comfortable with. There are still places where they can improve, but those places are currently occupied by players that have the potential to developmentally take a leap forward and become something in the neighborhood of 2-3 WAR players depending on what the ultimate outcome is.
The team is in a really good place right now.
The free agents available this offseason are all slightly more flawed than in years past. While every player has questions about them that need to be answered, this year’s crop seems to have questions that are a little louder than others. Take Blake Snell for example. We all see his two Cy Young awards he’s won, meaning he’s earned his place among the top tier of free agents this season. But on a team like the Phillies, one that values (and compensates) pitchers that are able to provide innings by the bushel, is he worth giving the likely $25-30 million he’s rumored to be commanding? It’s not an apples to apples comparison since Snell is one of the best pitchers in the National League, but he just doesn’t quite line up with what the Phillies were looking for this offseason once they decided that Nola was coming back.
Would chasing free agents this offseason have made it more exciting? Sure. Adding new players and crafting an idea of how they can win a World Series by having new players is always fun. But at this point in time, it’s likely the team is done, particularly when it comes to the bigger name free agents.
Obviously things can change, but Dave Dombrowski shut down the idea of pursuing Cody Bellinger at the GM meetings in November. pic.twitter.com/wYFrKQ9tTl— Destiny Lugardo (@destiny_lugardo) February 4, 2024
There have been multiple writers stating the team is still working around the margins of the roster, which at this point, is the best course of action unless some kind of crazy, can’t-pass-that-up kind of deal comes along.
However, don’t feel like you’re missing out on what the team is not signing right now. The team that is already assembled is very good as is. These guys just don’t fit into the plan right now.