According to Matt Gelb of The Athletic, it is “probable” the Phillies add another starting pitcher to the rotation, but not a foregone conclusion. The front office is still operating under the premise that it will not exceed the luxury tax threshold in 2020. If the team’s payroll were to exceed $208 million, it would be the first time the team had surpassed the threshold since the implementation of the luxury tax in 1996.
The team is also expected to rely heavily on Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Jake Arrieta, per Gelb and his team and league sources. The trio is expected to start 90 games, barring any injury. If the Phillies do not obtain a back-end starter via trade or free agency, the roughly 72 remaining starts will come from a combination of Zach Eflin, Spencer Howard, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Cole Irvin and Connor Seabold.
When it comes to the bullpen, the team is also counting on bounce-back campaigns from the injured trio of Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan, and Victor Arano. The Phillies will also rely on players like José Álvarez and Hector Neris to remain solid just like they were in 2019. Expect more low-cost acquisitions such as Trevor Kelly, who was recently claimed off waivers from the Boston Red Sox.
While a need for more depth is evident, the team is pressed against the tax. Per Meghan Montemurro of The Athletic, Wheeler’s average annual value is $23.6 million. It leaves the Phillies with $18.4 million left before tax, according to Phillies Nation’s Jonny Heller’s previous estimation of how much money the team has to spend.
The front office will now turn their attention to acquiring another infielder. Didi Gregorius is the most likely fit. According to Gelb, the Phillies could “…use its resistance to exceed the $208 million threshold as leverage against Gregorius, whose market is somewhat unknown.”
If the Phillies manage to ink Gregorius, he’ll take over as starting shortstop while Jean Segura will most likely move to second base full time. It leaves the door open for Alec Bohm to man the hot corner for the majority of the season. It’s unclear so far whether or not he will be on the Opening Day roster. If the team opts to keep Bohm in Triple-A for the start of the season, Scott Kingery will most likely be the team’s opening day third baseman.
As far as Howard goes, Gelb fielded questions on the Phillies top pitching prospect on 97.5 The Fanatic Thursday morning. He believes he’ll factor into the team’s plans in 2020 and that the Phillies will “start him slow in the minors to conserve some of his innings.”
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