In his end-of-year press conference, Dave Dombrowski laid out the Phillies’ most important needs: a middle-of-the-order bat, a leadoff hitter and a closer. They have to be better in the bullpen and on defense. All of those issues are addressed in the following mock offseason while staying a million or so under the collective bargaining tax.
The problem is that the Phillies have a few less dire issues under the hood that need to be addressed. They could use a No. 5 starter since Zach Eflin is likely to miss the beginning of the season after recovering from knee surgery. More premium talent could be added if they go over the luxury tax.
With that in mind, here are a few assumptions to operate under. Keep in mind that the rules of the offseason can (and probably will) change a lot under the impending new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires on Dec. 1.
- $210 million was last year’s collective bargaining tax threshold. In the real world, that will most likely change, so I just assumed that’s the number to work with in 2022.
- FanGraphs Roster Resource was used to estimate the cost of various payroll expenses such as pre-arbitration eligible salaries and player benefits.
- All salary projections for arbitration eligible players such as Eflin and Rhys Hoskins come from MLB Trade Rumors. Keep in mind that they are just projections and are not the player’s final salary for 2022.
- For now, I’ll stay away from providing predictions on non-roster invitees.
- Keep: Rhys Hoskins ($7,600,000), Zach Eflin ($6,000,000), José Alvarado ($1,900,000) and Seranthony Domínguez ($800,000).
- Non-tender: Andrew Knapp ($1,200,000), Travis Jankowski ($900,000), Ronald Torreyes ($1,600,000) and Roman Quinn ($700,000).
Luxury Tax Payroll Before Free Agency
|Guaranteed Contracts (AAV)||$124,667,948|
|MiLB players on 40-man roster||$2,250,000|
|Total Luxury Tax Payroll before Free Agency||$168,345,948|
|Space under Luxury Tax ($210 million threshold)||$41,654,052|
TradesEmbed from Getty Images
Phillies trade shortstop Didi Gregorius and $3 million to Arizona Diamondbacks for shortstop Nick Ahmed.
- Ahmed’s AAV: $8,125,000 for 2022 and 2023. Payroll Salary: $7,750,000 in 2022 and $10,000,000 in 2023.
- Phillies will pay the $1,500,000 of Gregorius’ deferred money from 2024-2026.
- Phillies save $2,875,000 in luxury tax payroll.
If the Phillies want to trade Gregorius, they are going to have to take on another contract. At best, Ahmed is a slightly below average hitter. (Ronald Torreyes had a better offensive season in 2021 than Ahmed.) He’ll hit eighth or ninth in a lineup with a DH, but he is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game. Ahmed finished third in the league in Statcast’s outs above average (19) and is second only to Andrelton Simmons in defensive runs saved at shortstop since 2015.
Arizona has a strong shortstop prospect in Geraldo Perdomo that they’re not sure is ready to play everyday in 2022. Gregorius, a former Diamondback himself, could serve as a stop-gap and possibly a DH. He has a higher upside than Ahmed offensively and could be dealt at the deadline with a strong first half.
The Phillies badly need to be stronger up the middle, especially considering that their top four starters are all ground-ball heavy pitchers. Segura, a strong defender himself, would reunite with his former double play partner in Arizona.
Free Agent SigningsEmbed from Getty Images
Phillies sign center fielder/infielder Chris Taylor to a three-year, $48 million deal.
- AAV: $16 million
This is the big splash of the offseason. They would love to have a star shortstop like Carlos Correa, Corey Seager or Trevor Story on the team, but they probably don’t want to pay anywhere from $175 to $300 million for either of them.
In 2021, Taylor played every position besides first base, catcher and pitcher. He can hit in either the leadoff spot or in the middle of the order and can stabilize a position that has been a weakness for years. Taylor also has significant playoff experience, which is something that was lacking on the Phillies roster last year.
“I do think it’s important. We need to learn how to win,” Dombrowski said. “I think we’ve made strides with a lot of different things we’ve worked on behind the scenes. … I think if you can get somebody that has a winning mentality, that would be great. Not always easy to find, but if you can, I think it would be helpful.”
The Dodgers could tender Taylor a qualifying offer, which means the Phillies would have to give up their second-round pick in next year’s draft as well as $500,000 in international bonus pool money to sign him.
Phillies sign outfielder/first baseman Mark Canha to a 2-year, $23 million deal with a $15.5 million club option for 2024
- AAV: $11,500,000
- $3.5 million buyout if option is not exercised
Like Taylor, Canha checks a ton of boxes for the Phillies. He’s a very good leadoff hitter who can also hit farther down near the middle of the lineup. He plays all three outfield positions as well as first base. There is also a nearly zero percent chance Canha is tendered a qualifying offer because the Oakland A’s look to be in cost-cutting mode following the surprising departure of manager Bob Melvin.
Phillies fans will take issue with his .231 batting average, but he knows how to get on-base as a leadoff hitter. Philadelphia’s leadoff hitters combined for a .302 on-base percentage in 2021, which ranked 29th in all of baseball. Canha ranked seventh in MLB in on-base percentage among players with at least 300 plate appearances in the leadoff spot in 2021.
Phillies sign Brad Miller to a one-year, $2 million deal
The new-look Phillies lineup is righty-heavy, so perhaps it’s a good idea to bring back a popular player in Miller to be the left-handed bench bat and designated hitter. His tendency to strikeout at a high rate is frustrating at times, but he does have tremendous power and an ability to play multiple positions.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies sign Corey Knebel to a one-year, $5 million deal
Knebel, the Dodgers’ go-to opener option in the postseason, posted a 2.59 ERA in 31 1/3 innings through the regular season and playoffs. He missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and was sidelined for over three months with a lat strain in 2021. Injuries should keep teams from offering more than a one-year deal.
In his All-Star season in 2017, Knebel finished fourth in MLB with 39 saves. The Phillies could entice Knebel by offering him the closer’s spot if they forgo signing a premium closer such as Raisel Iglesias or Kenley Jansen. Obviously, it’s going to be very tough for the Phillies to sign a leadoff hitter, middle-of-the-order bat and a top closer and stay under the luxury tax. Even if the Phillies do decide to trade for or sign a high-end closer, Knebel is an excellent set-up option.
Phillies sign RHP Héctor Neris to a two-year, $14 million deal
- AAV: $7 million
Team need Héctor.
No seriously, the Phillies really need to re-sign Héctor Neris. He’s the glue to the Phillies bullpen and one of the better set-up options on the market. Neris is open to a return to Philadelphia and the front office should be as well.
Neris, the all-time leader in strikeouts among Phillies relievers, is as durable as they come. He’s tied for ninth in MLB in innings pitched among relievers since 2016. Since his debut in 2015, Neris has yet to miss time with a non-COVID injury. With that in mind, Neris should have many suiters on the market and the Phillies should feel comfortable with guaranteeing a second year for their longest tenured player.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies sign left-handed pitcher Chasen Shreve to a one-year, $1.5 million deal
Shreve, a native of Las Vegas, is arbitration eligible for the final time in 2022 and could be non-tendered since the Pirates are in a Rule 5 roster crunch. He’s probably on the Phillies radar because he has multiple key connections to the Phillies organization. He played under Joe Girardi in New York for two seasons, was teammates with pitching coach Caleb Cotham for one season and went to junior college with Bryce Harper. Harper has known Shreve since he was 16 and the two are friends, so you can bet that the lefty was on his free agent list last season. Shreve’s brother Colby was drafted by the Phillies in the sixth round of the 2008 draft.
The Phillies are in need of a left-handed reliever who can pitch in the back end. Going into the season with Jose Alvarado as the only real option would be malpractice.
With this offseason, the Phillies would finish $1,529,052 under the $210 million luxury tax.
As you can see, it’s going to be difficult for Dombrowski to address all of the team’s needs through free agency without going over the tax. The Phillies might have to pull from a rather thin group of prospects to add some depth at the major league level via trade.
Here’s what the Opening Day lineup could look like. No matter what, there will be a DH since the Phillies begin their season in Houston.
- Mark Canha, left fielder
- Jean Segura, second base
- Bryce Harper, right field
- Rhys Hoskins, first base
- Chris Taylor, center field
- J.T. Realmuto, catcher
- Brad Miller, designated hitter
- Alec Bohm, third base
- Nick Ahmed, shortstop
Starting Pitcher: Zack Wheeler
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