Long-time New York Post baseball scribe Ken Davidoff released his annual free-agent predictions Sunday night, and he has the Philadelphia Phillies signing two notable veterans.
Davidoff predicted that the Phillies will sign outfielder Michael Conforto to a six-year/$140 million deal and closer Kenley Jansen to a three-year/$40 million pact.
It would be quite the investment in Conforto given that he had a disappointing contract year, posting a .729 OPS in 125 games. However, he won’t turn 29 until March and had posted an .875 OPS between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.
First, Conforto will have to reject the one-year/$18.4 million qualifying offer the New York Mets extended to him, a decision that he has until Nov. 17 to make. In theory, Conforto could accept the qualifying offer, rebound in 2022 and set himself up to make even more money next winter. However, if his team gets the sense that he could even sniff a deal in the range that Davidoff projected, he almost certainly will decline the qualifying offer.
As Phillies Nation‘s Ryan Novozinsky noted, the Phillies would have to surrender their second-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft and $500,000 of international signing bonus pool money to sign Conforto or any other qualified free agent.
While the Phillies now have a 10-year playoff drought and are desperate not to waste the prime of Bryce Harper — among others — they also have acknowledged how important it is to drastically improve their farm system. Giving up draft picks and international signing bonus pool money wouldn’t help them in that end.
Because they were both traded during the 2021 season, both Starling Marte and Kyle Schwarber — two of the other top outfielders available this offseason — couldn’t be extended qualifying offers. So you could improve your outfield with either one of those two without having to surrender draft compensation, as you would if you signed Conforto or Nick Castellanos.
As far as Jansen, Dombrowski did tell the collective media, including Phillies Nation‘s Destiny Lugardo, that the team likely doesn’t currently employ their 2022 closer. That leaves them to search in free agency or in the trade market, where they will likely be left to overpay for someone on the wrong side of 30.
That could mean Jansen, who is 13th in major league history with 350 saves. The three-time All-Star did record 38 saves in 2021, and would give the Phillies someone with extended postseason experience. However, he struggled during the team’s 2020 World Series run and committing three years to a 34-year-old closer doesn’t seem like it would be a move that ages well.
But that’s where the Phillies are at, because they’ve been unable to internally develop a closer, as the Dodgers did with Jansen a decade ago. If it’s not him, perhaps it will be a trade with the Chicago White Sox for Craig Kimbrel, who is 33 and due $16 million in 2022. One way or another, trying to solidify the closer’s role for the first time sine trading Jonathan Papelbon in the summer of 2015 won’t be cheap.
Multiple key pieces from the Phillies 2021 bullpen — Héctor Neris, Ian Kennedy and Archie Bradley — became free agents last week.
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