For the Phillies, say this: They kept the band together.
It’s no small feat. Not in an off-season that began with Matt Klentak’s departure from the general manager’s office, massive downsizing, and signals from upper management that players’ payroll could drop from franchise record levels in 2020. Two months ago, the Phillies’ idea came up with the signing of JT Realmuto or Didi Gregorius – and certainly both – seemed as likely as bipartisanism in Congress – and now, $ 143.5 million later, here it is.
Seven weeks after being appointed president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski did what needed to be done to keep the Phillies relevant in the loaded National League East. But here’s the thing: the band, even with Realmuto and Gregorius, went between 28 and 32 last season and didn’t qualify for an expanded postseason field that included 16 teams out of 30.
The 2020 Phillies weren’t exactly the Beatles.
With spring training slated to begin on February 17th – and the caveat that the Phillies have made supplements in late February and even March for the last few years – it’s fair to ask how much they’ve really improved.
“The Braves and Mets are ahead of them for me,” said a scout from a non-NL-East team last week after Realmuto signed a five-year $ 115.5 million deal, “and the Phillies and Nats are behind the other two equal.” . ”
This opinion, which is certainly a popular spring training narrative, is based in part on last season. However, the Phillies’ decision to prioritize off-season to bring two of their better players back for multi-year deals implies that Dombrowski and manager Joe Girardi put little value in the two-month games – and convinced managing partner John Middleton of it seem to see it that way too.
The Phillies were torpedoed by a bullpen last year that recorded more games (14) than saved (11) and an ERA of 7.06, one of the worst 60-game brands of all time. Still, there were only 60 games. And the depths of the fighting were so extreme that Girardi couldn’t imagine that 100 more games wouldn’t have gotten any better.
“I really think we could have told the Schlager what was coming and it wouldn’t have turned out as bad as it was,” Girardi said recently. “It was just one of those years when nothing seemed to be going right.”
Dombrowski paid more attention to the bullpen than Klentak last winter, when the Phillies took leaflets from veterans who didn’t even break camp with the team. Dombrowski made a few changes here (trades in highly competitive upward games Jose Alvarado and Sam Coonrod) and a bigger step there (Archie Bradley signed a one-year $ 6 million deal). Bradley, in particular, has more experience and cost more reasonable costs than Liam Hendriks (four years, $ 54 million for the Chicago White Sox) and even Brad Hand (one year, $ 10.5 million for the Washington Nationals).
Even so, it seems like the Phillies are making a sizable bet on the opposite of Murphy’s Law: the bullpen will be better because it can’t possibly be worse.
Girardi could certainly use another proven option for late innings alongside Bradley and Hector Neris. Among those still available: the closers Alex Colome, Shane Greene, Trevor Rosenthal and Mark Melancon as well as the setup men Joakim Soria, Jeremy Jeffress, Steve Cishek and Sergio Romo.
The lack of weapons extends to the start rotation. Phillie’s general manager Sam Fuld and pitching coach Caleb Cotham recently said they would consider a six-man rotation and split the games between two starters.
One problem: After Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Zach Eflin, the Phillies have Vince Velasquez, Spencer Howard, the newly signed left Matt Moore and dangerously little depth. They reached a minor league deal with veteran eater Ivan Nova last week. It’s a start It probably won’t be enough.
Questions also remain open on defense. Gregorius is an acceptable shortstop; Four-time gold glove winner Andrelton Simmons is elite and would have helped Alec Bohm, who is still in the works on the third base. Prior to finalizing the $ 28 million two-year agreement with Gregorius, which will last until a physical agreement is finalized this week, the Phillies were pursuing Simmons, who had a one-year $ 10.5 million deal with the Minnesota Twins agreed.
Last season, the Phillies were rated below average with 33 runs, according to Baseball Info Solutions. Only the Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays were worse. Once again, Dombrowski and Girardi will bet that 60 games won’t paint a complete picture.
For competitive reasons, Dombrowski prefers not to reveal the Phillies’ target payroll. Including Realmuto and Gregorius, it’s nearly $ 168 million, $ 189 million for luxury tax purposes, lower than last year but higher than it seemed when the off-season started.
Any additional roster improvements are likely to be on the sidelines – a minor league contract for the starter depth or an incentive with a low basis for a reliever.
So the Phillies will have their hopes on the offense that earned the fourth highest running total in the NL last season. With Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Gregorius, Rhys Hoskins, Böhm, Andrew McCutchen and Jean Segura, it should be just as productive.
So yeah, the band is back together. But is it meant to keep playing the blues?
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