The offseason is underway and the Phillies have already addressed depth issues at catcher and in the bullpen by acquiring Garrett Stubbs, Donny Sands and Nick Nelson in a pair of Rule 5 protection deadline day deals last Thursday. None of those trades will steal headlines, but it should be noted that the Phillies have already dealt two late-round draft picks from 2021 this offseason in 10th rounder Logan Cerny and 12th rounder T.J. Rumfield.
With around $40 million in space under last year’s collective bargaining tax and plenty of holes to fill, expect the front office to cook up a few trades using some of the team’s top prospects.
Our second mock offseason predicts the Phillies land a center fielder whose ceiling is as high as his floor is low: Byron Buxton. When he’s healthy, Buxton has produced at an MVP level. The problem is that he has an extensive injury history that should give all interested teams some pause before trading the farm away.
Anyway, here are a few things to keep in mind before all the moves are explained.
- Staying under the $210 million luxury tax from 2021 wasn’t a requirement for this offseason, but I did it anyway. My final calculation had me at $833,552 under the tax. Obviously, it’s going to be a lot easier to map out a hypothetical Phillies offseason once the new collective bargaining agreement is agreed upon and we find out if the luxury tax is either raised, lowered or completely eliminated.
- I’m including the same arbitration predictions I made in the last mock offseason. The Phillies will retain Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins, José Alvarado and Seranthony Domínguez.
Luxury Tax Space
|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 2021 Luxury Tax||$40,750,000|
Phillies trade RHP Andrew Painter, OF Mickey Moniak and RHP Hans Crouse to the Minnesota Twins for OF Byron Buxton
The Phillies were “by far the strongest suitors” among teams interested in trading for the 27-year-old Buxton near the trade deadline, according to a report from Dan Hayes of The Athletic. They didn’t have an intriguing enough headliner to get Minnesota to pull the trigger on a deal. Per Hayes and Ken Rosenthal, the Twins front office is currently debating whether or not to trade Buxton or sign him to an extension.
Now that the Phillies’ highly touted 2021 draft class is eligible to be traded, maybe they are willing to include first-round pick Andrew Painter in a deal for the superstar. By all accounts, the Phillies love what they’ve seen from Mick Abel and probably have no intentions of trading him. Crouse addresses Minnesota’s need for MLB ready starting pitching and Moniak should get an opportunity to play in the majors for a team that’s presumably in the beginning stages of a rebuild.
This is a high-risk, high reward trade. It wouldn’t shock anyone if Buxton wins an MVP or two by the time his career is over. It’s also possible that the oft-injured center fielder’s peak is over before it even began. In 61 games played this season, Buxton accumulated 4.2 FanGraphs WAR. In 2020, José Ramirez led all of MLB with 3.5 fWAR.
With Buxton, you’re getting elite speed, elite defense in center field and a power bat that can hit leadoff or in the middle of the order. You’re also getting a long and complicated injury history that has prevented him from becoming the superstar he should be. Some injuries like a broken finger from a hit-by-pitch are fluky, but he’s also dealt with a concussion, wrist, thumb, toe, groin, hip and shoulder injuries. Buxton has played over 100 games in a season once in his career.
Despite the lengthy injury history, trading for Buxton is a risk worth taking. It’s been so long since the Phillies have made the playoffs that it’s forgotten that the ultimate goal is to win the World Series. Buxton could be the missing piece that puts the Phillies over the top.
Phillies sign Byron Buxton to a 7-year, $106 million deal
- Deal kicks in after 2022 season
- 2022 projected arbitration salary via MLB Trade Rumors: $7,500,000
- AAV: $15,142,857
- Player opt-out after 2024 season
- $2.5 million bonus for each season Buxton starts at least 120 games
If the Phillies trade for Buxton, they should sign him to a contract extension before Opening Day. Per Hayes, Buxton and the Twins have found common ground on a 7-year, $80 million base deal, but the sides are far apart in terms of potential incentives involving games played. The Twins are reluctant to offer a deal valued at over $100 million if all incentives are met. To keep Buxton from reaching free agency, the Phillies should tempt him with a guaranteed deal over $100 million.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies trade C Rafael Marchan, OF Yhoswar Garcia and RHP Micah Ottenbreit to the Baltimore Orioles for OF Austin Hays and RHP Cole Sulser
The Phillies should be in good shape if they have five outfielders who they feel comfortable starting everyday. Austin Hays, 26, impressed in his first full season with the Orioles, slashing .256/.308/.461 with 22 home runs and 71 RBIs. He plays all three outfield positions and crushes left-handed pitching. The downside is that he doesn’t walk and if he doesn’t improve against right-handed pitching, he’s probably a platoon player in the long run. His 2.4 fWAR would rank fourth among Phillies position players in 2021. Hays and Matt Vierling would be the fourth and fifth outfielders.
Like Hays, Cole Sulser, 31, impressed in a breakout season for Baltimore. In 63 1/3 innings, he pitched to a 2.70 ERA in 2021. The former Tampa Bay Rays reliever is in the midst of carving out a solid big league career despite undergoing two Tommy John surgeries. He’s got a filthy changeup, can strike out enough hitters to stick in the back end of the bullpen and is under team control until 2026.
The Phillies are seemingly prepared to include Rafael Marchan in a potential deal considering that they already added two backup catchers to the 40-man roster. The O’s currently do not have a single catcher on their roster.
Free Agent Signings
Phillies sign OF Kyle Schwarber to a 4-year, $63 million deal
- AAV: $15,750,000
It’s hard to believe that we’re rationalizing an over $60 million deal for a player like Schwarber, who was non-tendered for cost-cutting reasons by the Cubs last offseason. Under the tutelage of new Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long, Schwarber unlocked his swing and put together by far the most productive season of his career. Schwarber slashed .266/.374/.554 with 32 home runs and 71 RBIs in 113 games with the Nationals and Red Sox.
The question here is whether it is a smart play to bet that Schwarber’s monstrous season is not an outlier. He became a more selective hitter in 2021 and ranked in the 90th percentile or above in average exit velocity, hard hit percentage, xwOBA, xSLG, barrel percentage and walk rate. It’s not hard to imagine Schwarber getting even better after reuniting with Long.
Schwarber can play the role of the non-traditional beefy leadoff hitter who hits for power and draws walks. His defense in left field is far from elite, so he’ll get most of the at-bats in the Phillies’ DH carousel.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies sign LHP Rich Hill to a one-year, $5 million deal
Phillies Nation’s Ty Daubert and Nathan Ackerman both included Rich Hill in their respective ideal offseasons. I’ll agree with them and add that the Phillies’ need for an additional starter is understated.
The offense and the bullpen should absolutely take precedence, but Zach Eflin will most likely miss a few weeks at the beginning of the season and it’s reasonable to not feel great about Bailey Falter being the Phillies’ No. 5 starter. Add in the fact that Zack Wheeler threw 213 1/3 innings and Ranger Suárez dealt with fatigue after throwing around 100 innings and it’s clear that it would behoove the Phillies to add some starting pitching depth.
Hill posted a 3.84 ERA in 158 2/3 innings with the Rays and Mets in 2021. He’s still around the game at age 41 because he’s durable and has a disgusting curveball. He won’t hit 90 mph on the radar gun too often, but he’ll be a fine No. 4 or 5 starter. The Phillies could either run a six-man rotation or move Hill or Gibson to the bullpen once Eflin returns.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies sign LHP Brooks Raley to a two-year, $8 million deal
- AAV: $4 million
Now that the Phillies have missed out on Aaron Loup, they should turn their attention to Brooks Raley. His Baseball Reference page isn’t pretty, but his peripherals say that he’s due for better results moving forward. Raley had a brutal start in 2021, but pitched to a 3.19 ERA from May 8 to the end of the regular season for the Astros.
Yes, he’s another pitcher who can barely hit 90 mph, but his 82.4 mph average exit velocity was the second best mark in all of baseball among pitchers with at least 50 innings in 2021. He generated a whiff on his slider nearly 50 percent of the time and his fastball and curveball spin rates are among the best in the league. In other words, he’s got stuff.
Raley spent two seasons with the Cubs and then moved overseas to the KBO for four seasons before landing with the Cincinnati Reds in 2020. Current Phillies pitching coach Caleb Cotham was an assistant with the Reds during Raley’s time with the team.
Lefties combined for a .483 OPS against Raley in 2021, so his value should rise if the new CBA eliminates the three batter minimum. He should slot into a back end role similar to what José Alvarado was envisioned to do at the beginning of last season.Embed from Getty Images
Phillies sign Mark Melancon to a one-year, $8 million deal
The Phillies are keen on acquiring a legit closer this offseason. Raisel Iglesias might be out of their price range and Craig Kimbrel is expensive at the cost of $16 million and some prospects. The best bet is to go after either Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon.
It’s not as if Melancon is a tier below any of the three other names mentioned. He led the league with 39 saves in 2021 and has a 2.97 ERA dating back to 2018. If the Phillies sign Melancon, there will be no doubt about who gets the ball in the ninth inning for the Phils.
They need his relentless energy.
Here’s the projected 2022 Opening Day roster.
- Byron Buxton, center field
- J.T. Realmuto, catcher
- Bryce Harper, right field
- Rhys Hoskins, first base
- Kyle Schwarber, designated hitter
- Jean Segura, second base
- Bryson Stott, shortstop
- Alec Bohm, third base
- Austin Hays, left field
- Zack Wheeler, RHP
- Aaron Nola, RHP
- Ranger Suárez, LHP
- Rich Hill, LHP
- Kyle Gibson, RHP
- Bailey Falter, LHP
- Connor Brogdon, RHP
- Seranthony Domínguez, RHP
- Sam Coonrod, RHP
- José Alvarado, LHP
- Brooks Raley, LHP
- Cole Sulser, RHP
- Mark Melancon, RHP
- Garrett Stubbs, catcher
- Matt Vierling, outfield
- Nick Maton, infield
- Didi Gregorius, infield
Here’s the offseason in spreadsheet form.
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