Since the Phillies acquired star catcher J.T. Realmuto prior to the 2019 season, it seemed to be a question of when, not if, they would sign him to a long-term extension.
This situation has changed, at least somewhat, as it appears like a real possibility that the 29-year-old could reach the free agent market after the 2020 season. While this isn’t to say that he will walk in free agency, it is at least a possibility, and the Phillies may be forced to look elsewhere.
With that in mind, here is a look at some of the biggest names who are set to be available this coming offseason:
Betts, who will be 28 entering the 2021 season, is the best player available in free agency following this season. He was notably traded from the Boston Red Sox to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past February, and the Dodgers are sure to be one team in the mix to retain his services.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shortened season’s impact on revenue is sure to affect the willingness of teams to spend moving forward. Betts could be immune, though, as he is arguably the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout.
Betts’ best offensive season came in 2018, when he slashed .348/.438/.640 en route to winning the American League MVP award. He has won the Silver Slugger in three of the past four seasons and the Gold Glove in each of those seasons.
The Phillies, who already have one star outfielder signed to a lucrative long-term contract, are not likely to be in on Betts. He likely demands a contract even bigger than Bryce Harper’s, and even if the Phillies are willing to spend, it may be out of their desired price range.
Springer, who will be 31 entering 2021, is coming off the best offensive season of his career. He slashed .292/.383/.591 with 39 home runs and finished seventh in American League MVP voting.
Like Betts, Springer is an above average outfielder and can play center field. Considering the dearth of center fielders who can hit, Springer is certainly a very valuable player.
If they are unable to keep Realmuto, the Phillies could shift their focus to Springer. He will still require a hefty contract, but not one near that of Betts.
The undisputed best catcher in baseball will be 30 entering the 2021 season. While there may be some caution in signing any catcher to a lucrative long-term deal, Realmuto is still likely to get a significant contract.
The Phillies are still the favorite here. Realmuto has expressed his desire to stay in Philadelphia, and the Phillies would not have traded for him if they did not expect to keep him past the final two years of his arbitration eligibility.
Semien has been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball for the past few years, but just broke out offensively in 2019. Entering the season with a career OPS of .713, Semien slashed .285/.369/.522 and finished third in American League MVP voting.
The free-agency class of 2021-22 is star studded and deep at the shortstop position, which teams will certainly keep in mind when considering Semien this offseason. This, coupled with the uncertainty of whether Semien can sustain his 2019 production, could lessen the market for the 29-year-old.
The Phillies will need a shortstop with Didi Gregorius’ contract expiring following the season. While keeping Gregorius will certainly be an option, they could also look elsewhere, with Semien being a viable option.
Gregorius, who signed a one year, $14 million contract with the Phillies this past offseason, is coming off his worst season since he went to the New York Yankees in 2015. In 82 games, he slashed .238/.276/.441, returning mid-season after recovery from Tommy John surgery.
It’s hard to imagine how much a 60-game sample size can impact Gregorius’ value as a free agent. It is certainly possible that he opts to sign a one-year, prove-it deal again, and play a full season before looking for a long-term contract.
This would certainly fit the Phillies needs, with Bryson Stott in the minors and a historic shortstop class entering free agency following the 2021 season.
Turner signed a four-year, $64 million deal with the Dodgers in 2015, and it has turned out to be a bargain. He has slashed .307/.397/.519 in the first three years of that contract, and continues to age well as one of the best hitters in baseball.
He will be 36 by the time the 2021 season rolls around, which is an obvious concern for any team looking to sign him. But if the DH does end up staying in the National League, Turner could be a wise investment for any team and may make sense for the Phillies.
Stroman, who has had a very up-and-down MLB career, went to the New York Mets right before the trade deadline last season after spending the first five-and-a-half seasons of his career in Toronto.
Last year, Stroman enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career to this point, pitching to the tune of a 3.22 ERA in 32 games.
Stroman, who is set to be 30 entering the 2021 season, will be one of the best pitchers available next offseason. He could very well get a contract similar to the Phillies own Zack Wheeler. This could keep the Phillies, who already owe Wheeler through 2024, from signing Stroman.
Kluber was one of the best pitchers in baseball for much of the past decade, finishing top-3 in American League Cy Young Award voting four times and winning it twice. But, he struggled out of the gate last season before suffering a fractured arm and missing the rest of the season.
Next offseason, Kluber’s value will depend on how he performs with his new team, the Texas Rangers, in the shortened season. Kluber does have a $17.5 million team option, and if he pitches well, the Rangers should be expected to pick that up.
But if he becomes a free-agent, Kluber could offer value as a somewhat unknown entity, who could get a contract that doesn’t match his ability if he is able to bounce back. But the Phillies will certainly be looking for a surer thing to replace Jake Arrieta, and it seems unlikely that Kluber would be the answer.
Ray has always had electric stuff, but has struggled to stay consistent at a high level. In 2017, he had his best season, going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, but has failed to match that production since.
Still, Ray will be 29 heading into the 2021 season and has failed to reach his ceiling. Depending on the contract, Ray could make sense for the Phillies, but they may look more for dependability rather than a high-ceiling, high-risk option like Ray.
Bauer had an excellent season in 2018, but was unable to sustain that success in 2019. He was traded to the Cincinnati Reds at the trade deadline and struggled especially down the stretch, pitching to a 6.39 ERA in his final 10 starts.
Previously, Bauer has expressed a desire to sign one-year contracts for the rest of his career. Depending on the value of the contract, this could make sense for a Phillies team that is already committed to Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler for the next several seasons.
Paxton was traded to the New York Yankees last offseason, and while he certainly is not the best pitcher in this group, he has been a reliable starter throughout his career.
In 2019, Paxton pitched to the tune of a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts. He threw just 150.2 innings, which is good for just over five innings per start.
Paxton could be a target for a Phillies team that has lacked reliability in the rotation during the past several seasons.
Something to keep in mind this offseason is the players who will be available following 2021. As of now, it stands to be one of the best free-agent classes in the history of baseball.
At first base, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are set to be available. Both players are in their early 30s, but have still remained productive to this point in their careers.
The shortstops who will be available include Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. All five are among the best in the game, and at least the top four stand to get nine figures in free agency.
At third, Kris Bryant will be a free agent, and Nolan Arenado has the option to opt out.
While any of these players could still sign an extension with their current teams, at least some of them are sure to be available following the 2021 season. If the Phillies strike out among the big names this offseason, look for them to be a player during the next one, especially with more money coming off the books.
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