Okay, this will not be a popular discussion topic. But, what if the Phillies are finished making moves this off season? That’s not to say that they aren’t on the phones every day, making and taking calls. But, what if the Phillies aren’t going to make any of the trades or free agent signings that have been suggested here or in other sports and social media outlets?
Now, I don’t have any inside information suggesting such a tack. Nor, is this my opinion of what the Phillies’ course should be. I sometimes post articles and comments, whether rooted on some tidbit of inside information or not, to foment discussion, to contradict a popular but possibly flawed discussion, or to offer an alternate plan for consideration, This is one of those occasions. But, which?
Okay, we’ve been told by many sources this off season that the Phillies are not going over the salary threshold of $208M. Still, we cling to the owner’s promise to spend “stupid” money at this time last year. And, we recall the team president’s comment last season that the Phillies wouldn’t go over the threshold to compete for the second wild card. In addition, we’ve seen all sorts of speculation regarding additional signings and/or trades. So, what are we to believe?
Well, ,for the sake of this discussion, let’s say the following are true.
- The Phillies have no intention of going over the tax threshold unless it is for a player who will almost guarantee a playoff spot.
- The Phillies are willing to go up to the mythical $228M first penalty limit.
- The Phillies don’t believe there is a free agent left on the market who could fill the shoes of such a player.
- The best avenue for the Phillies to improve is via trade.
- While interested in Cubs’ third baseman, the Phillies are unlikely to trade for Bryant. Because …
- the Cubs are looking to shed salary, and are unlikely to take salary back in a deal;
- the Cubs will want to wait and win the service time grievance (the most likely outcome), so that …
- Bryant will have 2 more years of controllable service, albeit two expensive, arbitration years;
- the price will go up due to the additional year;
- and, the Cubs can postpone a decision until the trade deadline or next off season depending on the Cubs’ position in the Central standings
- Bryant would put the Phillies over the threshold;
- he’s going to cost prospects rather than cash;
- a trade would limit future moves – less cash under the second threshold and fewer prospects to trade;
- when Donaldson finally signs, other suitors will join the market and drive the prospect price up;
- if the Braves don’t sign Donaldson they have more prospects to trade;
- and, going over the threshold for Bryant still leaves other pesky holes to fill.
That leaves trading for players that fans and media experts identify as being needed to fill the perceived holes. This is not a bad route to take. However,
- Some of the identified trade targets are on teams that have been pretty active so far this off season and don’t appear to be in “sell” mode.
- Fewer teams “selling” means fewer attractive player available. The law of supply and demand will drive the prices up for the less than premium players who may be available.
- A couple of once-premium players are available but have the albatross of “bad” contracts attached to them. These players may be more attractive acquisitions closer to the trade deadline when a team thinks they are close to a playoff spot and the prospect cost to take on the bad contract would conceivably be lower.
So, the Phillies may actually and really be done for now.
This doesn’t rule out acquiring a bargain off the waiver wire before the season starts. Or, adding a few more veterans with spring training invites and tickets to Allentown. But, it is a lot more likely that they are saving their cash and prospect capital for the trade deadline when they can identify and address their specific needs for their second half run.
I know this is not an attractive course of inaction for the coming months. But, it is something we might have to accept.
52 thoughts on “What If … ?”
Legit considerations, Jim. Well thought out…
Two major lynch pins this off season are
a) with whom Josh Donaldson signs, and
b) Kris Bryant’s service time decision (which we all presume will not go in his favor)
It’s true, the Phillies may just wait until the deadline to make any significant moves. But Bryant’s trade value isn’t increasing the less time he has left under team control. I think the Cubs would be more motivated to move him sooner than later. However, his market may be that much smaller now. And I continue to believe that the Braves aren’t inclined to shell out the prospects since they are even less inclined to sign KB to an extension at the price he’ll be commanding on the open market. While the Phillies don’t have the same prospect capital Atlanta has, they do have the money and the need.
Bryant is considered by many “insiders” to be the most likely big name to be traded this winter. The Cubs are motivated to shed salary. We shall see…
8mark….you have a strong position with obtaining Bryant.
Sure there are ‘pros’ in that…..more offense, not better defense though
The ‘con’ IMO is what Jim posted above….:”a trade would limit future moves – less cash under the second threshold and fewer prospects to trade;”….and specifically that would entail starting pitching suffers for years down the road.
And what seems to win rings….good pitching and defense, with timely hitting.
IMO, their long term strategy was Alec Bohm…. what they drafted him for…a future core piece and their third basemen.
I don’t think this is a “what if”. I think that’s the most likely scenario. I think that they are basically done. Will add some depth pieces. But I don’t expect a major move. I hope to be wrong. But I don’t expect it.
I think this is an 85 win team if everyone stays healthy. The key variables are Bohm and Howard. If both come up mid season and perform well (.850+ OPS for Bohm and sub 3.5 era for Howard) they can come near 90 wins and on the edge of a wild card.
I know this won’t be popular but I don’t think they want to go all in this year. They want to be good and see what they have with Bohm and Howard. Arrieta comes off the books next year and that is big. Will go more aggressive next off season imo.
A well thought out post, as always.
I think your analysis is right for all of the reasons given; salary cap considerations, lack of prospect depth from which to trade, and no mid-rotation starter left in the free agent bargain bin. I also think you are correct that Bryant is the likeliest trade scenario but that the Phillies can and should balk at the asking price.
The Phillies have had opportunities to get a potential veteran back of the rotation innings eater for a one year at $10 to $15 M and passed. I think that shows they are extremely reluctant to add salary even beyond the first luxury tax threshold. Without an additional SP arm and barring a trade, Pivetta and VV remain both the question and the answer at this moment, and we will probably know the answer (whether good or bad) with respect to both come July.
At most, I think we are looking at adding Smyly and/ or Brad Miller and reassess needs come July based on performance both by the active roster and by Bohm and Howard. At that point, we may be willing to break through the first cap threshold if the right SP (preferably a lefty) becomes available and the division title looks within reach.
I agree with the premise that they will only go over the threshold if it’s for a player that is a true difference maker and a long-term piece of the team moving forward. That rules out Bryant who’s already in decline defensively and will be overpriced in 2 years when he hits the FA market. That also rules out Donaldson since he’s supposedly has several 4-year offers on the table that are pushing $100m. Too much $$ at too old an age.
So any major additions they make before ST will be via a trade and I don’t see anything out there that would move that needle to push them ahead of Atl or Wash so I expect they are basically done until the season starts.
Come July, where they are in the standings will then affect how aggressive they are in chasing players and to spend money above the cap.
I should also add that the decision about going over the cap this year has little to do with the actual tax penalty which would be minimal but rather the desire to not get into the penalty phase yet. The penalties for being over get progressively more severe for teams that remain over the cap year after year and those penalties are not just monetary.
There’s a reason beyond $$ that the RedSox and Dodgers have been silent this off-season and are doing everything they can to get back under the threshold and “reset” their clocks.
In 2008, on this very site, I wrote a post I called What if? I said, if this guy does this and that guy does that and if the the Good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise, The Phils could make the playoffs. One thing I didn’t add to my What If’s was Brad Lidge. So there are always wold cards. The Phils won 92 regular season games that year so v1Again’s thought that if Howard and Bohm come up and perform well they could get close to 90 wins, doesn’t put 92 wins too far off the path. The thing about winning a W/S is first you have to make the playoffs. Could 90 wins get the Phils into the playoffs? The Brewers made it with 89 wins in 2019. So yes, they could make the playoffs. Once your in, anything’s possible. The hot team will win it all. The Phils got hot and got some luck about who they had to play. They had an early snowfall while playing a Florida team in the W/S. All things clicked and a W/S win was there for the taking.
What if Cutch plays the whole season? What if Bryce Harper gets hot and stays hot? What if Realmuto continues to be the Real Mucho Grande? What if Zack Wheeler is the second coming of Gerritt Cole? What if Didi has a big year? What if all the guys we’ve been waiting to prosper put it all together? What if the bullpen saves 40+ games? What if Quinn can avoid long stints on the IL? What if Haseley avoids the sophomore jinx and kicks it up a notch or two?
Wow! That’s a lot of what ifs. But there were even more in my post about the upcoming 2008 season. It was asking for all the balls to fall into place but for the most part, they did. Maybe lightning only strikes once but then again on that clear but cool April opening day, hope springs eternal. All teams are tied. The umpire says Ready! Set! Play Ball and the doors open and our hopeful thoroughbred springs from the gate and runs the race. Winning by a nose.
Chin up, chest out, belly sucked in. Grab a hot dog and a beer and then sit back and let it unfold.
I also think the likely course the Phillies will take is just marginal moves. The biggest one I would expect is for them to release Odubel, as he has no trade value and the team has made it clear that he will not be a member of the team going forward. Does anyone know if he is released, will his full $7 million AAV still count towards the salary cap or will there now be extra room under the cap? If so, adding someone like Alex Wood would be an excellent option
Releasing him doesn’t save any money vs. the cap.
Also, under the terms of the personal conduct policy in the collective bargaining agreement, my understanding is that the Phillies cannot just release Odubel because of the suspension. He has done everything required of him to satisfy the conditions of his suspension.
He would have to be released based on poor performance or something else related to his play or other issues within the clubhouse. That is why Klentak has been vague about his status moving forward. If they can’t trade him he will be in ST playing towards a spot on the 25-man roster.
They will most likely then release him but expect the MLBPA to file a grievance.
The other alternative is LHV……I may be wrong on this, but I do think he has an option left.
If he was productive at LHV, then he might have some trade value.
If they are done then what’s the bull pen look like? I was under the impression they needed hep there but haven’t really had the time to follow all the moves. I was hoping someone from LV would surprise in spring training, someone like Connor Brogdon, etc…
Expect the bullpen to be a parade of arms.
Start with Hector Neris, Ranger Suarez, Adam Morgan, Jose Alvarez, Seranthony Dominguez, Cole Irvin, Pivetta or VV, Edger Garcia, J.D. Hammer, Victor Arano, and any number of minor leaguers who progress as the season moves on.
The one area of the team I do expect them to tweak is with some low $$ bullpen pieces.
The Phillies have already done some tweaking when the grabbed Robert Stock and Trevor Kelley off waivers and traded for Christopher Sanchez. Like it or not, these are guys who figure into the bullpen rotation at some point this season. All three are on the 40-man roster, as are Rule 5 additions JoJo Romero, Mauricio Llovera, and Garrett Cleavinger.
Seranthony Dominguez is healthy? I thought he might need tommyjohn surgery, although I haven’t kept up with things for some time.
that looks like a terrible pen though. yikes.
Whatever the bullpen looks like, this roster as it is presently constituted is a 4th place team in the NL East. 3rd at best, unless A LOT goes right….including much better health. Kingery, Hoskins and Haseley all need to progress. Arrieta having a healthy, productive walk year would be big, too. Either Bohm or Howard emerging as an impact rookie would be another thing needed “to go right”. Waiting to see how things look at the deadline may be the chosen course of action. That’s 4 more months of “finding out” whether this team is playoff relevant.
Great post Jim!
I believe the Phillies are done. It’s quite frustrating, but I’d like to think they have a plan. Maybe they truly believe 2021 is the goal. Lots of money coming off the books.
I read a separate piece that there appears to be a bidding war for Donaldson. Apparently Braves have gone to 4 years but now money is an issue. I hope the Braves sign him to an outrageous contract and have their hands tied for several years.
I would love what to see what Bohm and Howard can do. They are the wild cards. If they come up and exceed expectations, this team will contend in 2020.
This is a very good topic jim, and I believe that, barring a trade, which I don’t see for all of the reasons you suggested, anyone valuable will cost too much in prospects, teams are going to wait until July to trade certain guys, salary cap, etc., there may be nothing more than another minor move. I am hopeful for Wood or even Smyly, but I don’t know that Klentak thinks they are better than the hope that VV/Pivetta somehow get fixed by Bryan Price. So, “what if..” they are really done? Then, we are a team that will compete with the Mets for the 3rd spot in the Division, we are not a team that can win 90 games, and the team’s mantra of “it is time to win now”, simply meant that they are only trying to get above .500. No one, I believe, fans, analysts, anyone, thinks, that as we currently are put together, we are capable of being an actual contender. And, I believe that we get positive results from our offense. I believe Cutch comes back strong and Kingery and Hoskins improve, and Didi was a good pick up. But, I am not sold on our SR or BP, at all.
matt13……do not count on Wood.
The reason no team is touching him is his back..
A team may offer him a one year deal to prove his health long term, but if he is waiting for 3/4 years deal I do not see that happening.
Matt Klentak may go just the one year….but in that case, why not just go with Smyly who already has proven his health is back, and is familiar with the culture and the clubhouse guys and wants to come back.
Jim may be right. Middleton may be/probably is done.
That said (and I’ve posted this ad nauseam) … this just makes little sense.
* You spend more than half a billion dollars on Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Andrew McCutchen, and a looming JTR LTX.
* You also surrendered two of your top prospects (Sixto Sanchez & JP Crawford)
* The core of your squad (Harper/Hoskins/Realmuto/Kingery/Nola/Wheeler) are all in their prime.
* The team will shed 52 million dollars (Arrieta/Robertson/Bruce/Gregorius)from their payroll following the 2020 season.
It just seems to me Middleton/Klentak (for the second year in a row) is/are putting a lot of faith into unproven pitchers. Maybe Bryan Price unlocks the best of Eflin, Velasquez, and/or Pivetta. Maybe Spencer Howard begins his MLB career like a house on fire. Maybe Ranger Saurez translates his BP success to the starting rotation. Maybe a couple/few of the organizations’ other young arms (Romero/Medina/Llovera/Jones/Stock/Sanchez/Cleavenger/jaKe the caKe) make significant contributions. That’s a whole lot of maybes.
The Phillies have not seen the post season for eight consecutive seasons. Most fans would be happy with the second WC. You can’t win the WS, if you don’t make the playoffs.
If Middleton is willing to top the threshold depending on where the team stands at the trade deadline, then why not just do it now and compete with your best possible group from the outset instead of running the risk of falling too far behind the Braves/Nats/Mets after half a season, and wasting another prime year of the Phillies’ core?
Could not have said it better, Hinkie. Other views here assume the Phillies aren’t really in “the time to win is now” mindset, other than GM-speak. We can assume that as well by the level of off season activity to this point. In my mind, there is still incongruity between what’s been done these past 3 winters and the current state of operation. It’s as if something suddenly occurred to Middleton and Klentak, and now they’re easing off the gas pedal.
I should add that, while the course of action may be to wait until the deadline, the Phillies play 21 of their opening 31 games in 2020 on the road. That takes them to the end of April. And while you can’t win the division in April, you can certainly lose it.
I know there is talk of how many wins this Phillies 2020 team as currently constituted will get…85 seems light… I’m more inclined for 90… The Nationals will regress this year… They got insanely hot from June 19′ on which they won’t repeat and a post WS hangover will ensue… The Mets are still the Mets… What have they done this off-season that leaps them over the Phillies? Then there are the Braves… If Donaldson doesn’t come back do they still improve or tread water in wins for 2020?
You may be right, but should we count on the natural regression of division rivals as grounds for greater success in 2020. Sounds presumptuous to me….
I don’t think that Middleton went this far just to hesitate. He knows that this team is good but not good enough to go deep in the playoffs unless the baseball Gods and lady luck favors the Phillies this season.
My thought is that Middleton will be opportunistic – if there’s a move that can be made without surrendering the depth and incurring significant $$ commitments, Middleton will strike!! With $52M going out next year, going over the CBT threshold will be a consideration.
To go back to the hypothetical scenario, if the Phillies are done, they need the baseball Gods to be in their favor (no injuries to key players, top prospects develop as expected, 2nd tier young players and prospects will over perform) to go deep and/or win all the way.
At best, this current Phillies will be Top 10 (possible wildcard) but not Top 4 (WS contenders).
Matt Klentak does like to make off-season trades….more so than in-season…I still am waiting for his big splash into the trade market.
In the past he has done most in December….but with the way free agency has gone so far so fast this off-season with the big players, there may have not been enough time for other GMs from other teams to develop communication in a good trade exchange.
Hinkie, exactly! You always express it perfectly. No reason, at all, to use the $208M, not the $228M, mark as a stopping point. No one can look at our team, and, even assuming the offense goes as we hope, and see a Pitching staff, outside of Nola and Wheeler, and say, “there is a top team!” Even Neris is not what I would call a championship caliber Closer, and who among the rest of the BP concerns any opposing team? There is a big hole at #3 SP, and we have decided we’re good, let’s go get ’em!?
Good article concerning the Red Sox and reasons for being under the $208M cap.
You can make the argument that the Phillies could exceed this year and then get back under next year but my take is that they would rather not start that clock..
one thing 3up, that I think is important in comparing the 2 franchises. The BoSox just won another WS. We, OTOH, have stunk since 2012. We are, in fact, a big market team and have never exceeded the first level. Boston has done it more than they haven’t. We have a lot of $ coming off the tab next season, so the massive $90M penalties the article says the Red Sox are trying to avoid is a moot point concerning us. If we were in Boston’s position, I would agree that avoiding the penalties is important fiscally and I also agree that the finances are not limitless. But, the penalty to us is miniscule. I know we have disagreed before about how much better off we would be with a Wood or Smyly, not that they will cost a lot, but if the plan is to go ahead with this Rotation and pray on a few things, why not build a shut down BP? They have not done that either. In fact, having Nola and Wheeler make me more optimistic about the Starters than I am about the Bullpen.
I agree that the Phillies situation is different than Boston’s. I also think they are willing to exceed the tax threshold for the right player. Where we disagree is the value of exceeding it for marginal talents.
I wait until the season in underway to see what is really needed and then make that decision.
81 wins with a team that underperformed for a few reasons; injuries, regression, etc
What if they have Cutch all year? And Bryce comes out hot? And Nola bounces back? Etc etc etc
I do see that 90+ win path.
Everything needs to go right. I’m sure the FO has considered a lot of this. As much as I want another flashy name, I also need to trust the people that get paid to make the decisions
Considering the starting line-up: We have a good idea, based on past performance and good health, of what the veterans (Harper, Cutch, Didi, Segura, JTR) will do. Much depends on the younger players (Hoskins, Kingery, Haseley) making a major step forward. Besides the pitching, the season may turn on how they perform.
I agree that it just seems unfathomable that Middleton would pursue this “what-if” strategy and treat that 208 threshold as some kind of HARD CAP. Why go this far and then all of a sudden shy away from that line, particularly when there are still much-needed arms to be added (SP & RP). The fact that they can go under that line again in 2021 has already been well-documented, so it just seems incredibly strange that they would just shut down attempts to get better. Now, I’m not saying they should go bold and acquire Bryant, but they do need another impact arm for SP or the bullpen. I do hope that they keep Bohm and Howard at all costs, though, as this team needs some kind of return on what has thus far been a failed attempt to build a cost-controlled, high-performing core. Hopefully Bohm and Howard can produce, and the Phils don’t have to continue to mask the problem of sub-par drafting and development by dumping money on top of it.
Happy new year all. I just can’t see them trading Bohm, even for Bryant. They have to have some cheap salary players or the whole model doesn’t work. Arrieta comes off next year but they’ll have to replace him plus pay JT, there’s no savings there. This team, as constructed now, is dependent on Hoskins bouncing back, and Bryan Price, Joe Dillon, and Girardi adding wins. Smyly and Brad Miller could be back as depth but they don’t tip the needle for me. Feels like a 86 win team to me.
Girardi, Wheeler and a healthy full year of McCutchen are worth 9/10 wins over last year… I’m still predicting 90 wins… Mark the tape…
Perhaps you can tack on 2 , maybe 3 more wins onto last season if Rhys Hoskins can at least reach his career BA for RISP.
Career….423 PAs – .255
I read on MLB, Anthony Castrovince predicted that Donaldson signs with the Twins, Bryant gets traded to LAD, Lindor doesn’t get traded until next December and Betts stays and re-signs with Boston. I can see all those happening.
As for the Phillies – short of any further significant additions – I agree that Hoskins, Kingery and Haseley need to progress. Either Bohm or Howard need to emerge and make an effort impact in 2020. Both would be a bonus. We need Arrieta/Eflin to be a viable #3/#4, in either order. If these happen, the playoffs are a reasonable goal. It’s New Year’s Day. I’m taking an optimistic approach.
I think the FO is banking on current players improving under an improved coaching staff, IMO that’s not a blind faith approach.
I don’t think they are far off on the hitting front – I expect this to be a pretty good offense next year. But I think it’s foolish and risky to expect large, wholesale improvement from pitchers who have been struggling for years. They should be upgrading the pitching and they will most likely regret it if they don’t.
I like the “What If” game but if we’re going to play it shouldn’t we walk it all the way back to the point where Middleton chose McPhail and Klentak to rebuild this team?
In my mind that is where it all went wrong…
Well, DMAR….we could go all the way back to when we got Ken Brett instead of George….or Vince DiMaggio instead of Joltin’ Joe. But hey, why bother. Let’s keep looking ahead to avoid the iceberg beneath the icy waters.
Nah I’d rather stick to the aggregate value of all moves made under Andy and Matt or June 29 2015 to today.
Thus far, the performance has been mediocre. They have been handed top 10 draft picks and a huge pot of money and we have a tough time struggling to break .500 and are without a strong farm system. It’s like a C- performance, Not good at all. But I’ll say this – Middleton hasn’t helped.
DMAR……Matt Klentak statement about it is time to win now, probably indicates he and perhaps MacPhail are now on the clock.
This may be the GM’s probation year.
MacPhail, on the othjer hand, at age 67 soon, will probably just retire or leave if he thinks it is the time.
Mike Maddox also
The Houston Astros are an organization that we would all admit has had very good success the last four years and the Hinch/Luhnow team has worked well… If you cruise Astros blogs similar to Phuture Phillies the fans want Hinch fired for blowing the WS and Luhnow hung from a light pole for his involvement in the video cheating scandal and culpability for the WS loss… My point is the grass is always greener on the other side and when even the Astro fans want successful coaches and GM’s gone I think we need to take a breath and admit it’s been a very good off-season to-date for the Phillies and now it’s on the players and coaches to perform..
Hawkeye with all due respect the grass is greener in Houston despite all the negativity surrounding their club right now not a single one of those people would say they’d rather have our org in exchange for theirs.
I mean would they trade their farm system for ours? Probably not.
Would they trade their GM for ours? Definitely not
Would they trade their 26 man for ours…no way!
Agree with DMAR. There is really no way to spin the Phillies rebuild under the stewardship of Andy MacPhail and Matt Klentak as anything more than mediocre (to date).
Klentak has been very vanilla IMO. The team has failed to procure the amount/quality of talent most of the other rebuilding teams (Baves/Padres/Chi Sox) have. The farm system has suffered (in part) because of Klentak throwing away high draft choices on one year of Carlos Santana and the bloated contract of Jake Arrieta, and Klentak’s failure to use Middleton’s financial might to eat bad money in exchange for competitive balance draft picks.
It’s a new year/new decade. I want to be optimistic. I think the Phillies have enough offense to compete, but there are still too many “maybes” when it comes to the club’s pitching. Hopefully, Bryan Price can make an impact on the team’s young arms, but I’d feel a lot better if Middleton brought in at least one more veteran SP and another veteran reliever (despite going over the threshold)
And I claimed nothing that you wrote only that even the best of organizations have issues and failures that make their fans call for change… Sometimes irrationally…
I’m with DMAR and Hinkie – while teams and front offices are not perfect and have their own warts — the Phillies problem is way worst. The FO has a legit issue of not finding and developing talent.
Pat Gillick was a blip on the timeline of GM’s who actually brought some pedigree to their position in Phillies history. Ultimately, this is John Middleton’s call…both to hire MacPhail in the first place (and to subsequently endorse the hiring of Klentak) and to retain them by extending their respective contracts earlier in 2019. The only hope we can hang out for is that either the Phillies win in 2020 (meaning a measurable success in a playoff run) OR this regime is dismissed by season’s end. You can’t fire the owner, and right now, his decision to stay the course is driving this ship….either afloat or aground. We’ll know by this time next year.
Post aren’t going through easily …
This team isn’t ready to compete “seriously”
For a WS, but a WC berth is within reach as presently constructed imo. I’ve preached patience, and I’m glad the team isn’t trading away howard and/or Bohm for a 2 yr window. The team has too many holes to fill this offseason, it’ll take another offseason and possibly 2 trad deadlines to complete the rebuild. Until then, the players will need to overachieve and the prospects needs to show their worth so the FO can smartly fill holes next offseason. Will see, but I’m not holding my breath for a WS this year, could it happen, sure, but I’m
Not putting any money on that bet!
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