Phillies Beat with Destiny Lugardo

Mailbag Pt. 1: Bullpen targets, lockout update and fan apathy


Phillies Nation readers recently submitted mailbag questions on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll discuss Seiya Suzuki, the path to contend in the NL East in 2022 and the ethics of consuming league-sponsored content during the lockout in part two of the holiday mailbag.

Bryce Harper is entering his fourth season with the Phillies. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire)

As always, thanks to everyone who submitted a question!

Does anyone care? That’s a serious question by the way. My impression is fan apathy for this organization is at an unheard of level. – Jay M. via Facebook

Judging by the traffic that this blog gets, people still do care about the Phillies — thank God.

On a more serious note, this is a very valid concern. Phillies fans have sat through the demise of the best team they will ever see in their lifetime, a failed rebuild and three (or four) underwhelming seasons from a team that’s supposedly in win-now mode all in the span of a decade. I’m not even taking into account the generational pain Phillies fans young and old have inherited.

2022 could be the breaking point for fans who are on the verge of not caring at all. That’s why it’s so important for the Phillies to address every major need they have and put together a team that could finally break the postseason drought.

If the team’s hierarchy learned anything about Phillies fans this year, it is that they are capable of buying into this team with the existing core of players in place. Fans packed Citizens Bank Park on alumni weekend when they were surging. Fast forward to September and the team averaged 21,814 attendees in the most important homestand of the season because fans grew tired of seeing the team they love repeatedly fail over and over again. You can use bad weather, COVID-19, opponent quality and diminishing season ticket bases in sports as an excuse, but the reality is that more fans would have shown up for the stretch run if the belief was there.

Fan apathy was probably much higher between 1918 and 1931 when the team spent 14 years under .500. It’s not that bad, but it could get much worse this year if the team disappoints again in 2022.

What is the status of the negotiations? Any progress? What are the sticking point issues? – @Patrick92641659 via Twitter

Since the lockout began on Dec. 1, we haven’t seen much movement on both sides. Jesse Rogers of ESPN reported that the league and union met last Thursday to discuss non core economic issues such as grievance procedures and domestic violence policies. The two sides are not expected to discuss any of the main issues that triggered the owners to lock out the players until January. Expect activity to pick up after New Years with a deal being reached within the days leading up to spring training. It will be very surprising if this labor ordeal impacts spring training or the regular season in a meaningful way.

For the most part, the owners are happy with the status quo. They want expanded playoffs and the money that comes with it, but they’re not looking for a systematic overhaul like they did when they pursued a salary cap during the 1994-95 strike.

The players are the ones that are seeking change. The most recent basic agreements were big victories for the owners, so the union has to come out of the lockout with some kind of victory. Competitive integrity and getting players paid at a younger age are the two key areas the players will be looking to address. The players want to incentivize winning and disincentivize tanking and they can do that through a draft lottery (both sides have proposed different versions), draft pick compensation for small-market teams who finish with a winning record and removing whatever rules allow a team like the Pirates to get away with running a $35 million payroll in 2021.

The union also wants a significantly higher collective bargaining tax threshold ($245 million to be exact), which would greatly benefit the Phillies.

The players are also seeking arbitration after two years of service time, free agency after five and a higher minimum salary (up from $570,500) for pre-arbitration players. It’ll be tough to see the players get all three in the next agreement, so they’ll probably fight hard for the higher minimum salary, which would raise pay for over 50% of players in the league.

Here’s a quick rundown on just about all of the key proposals made that are known to the public if you’re interested in learning more.

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Are there any relievers the Phillies should grab after the lockout? If so, who? – @acker610 via Twitter

The Phillies need to come out of this offseason with at least one more major signing in the bullpen (two would be ideal). They need a set-up man to replace Héctor Neris, who always seemed to be on the mound in the game’s most critical moment.

The good thing is that this free agent class still has plenty of talent available to be had at the back end of the bullpen. Among the top right handed arms still available are Joe Kelly, Collin McHugh and Ryan Tepera. All three are probably getting two-year deals and while the Phillies weren’t willing to match or exceed Neris’ two-year, $17 million deal with Houston, they could still have interest in handing out a two-year deal to a set-up man. Andrew Chafin is the best left-handed reliever that’s still left on the market and after that, there isn’t much else left.

McHugh is the best set-up reliever available on the market and the Phillies would be wise to splurge on him. He posted a 2.82 ERA since 2018 across three seasons with the Astros and Rays and possess what no other pitcher in the Phillies bullpen has: a really nasty slider. If Corey Knebel goes down with an injury, the Phillies would have a fine second option at closer in McHugh.

MORE FROM PHILLIES NATION

  1. What Former Phillies Are Still Free Agents
  2. How Much Space Will The Phillies Have Under The Luxury Tax Threshold Once Owner-Imposed Lockout Ends?
  3. 7 Players The Phillies Could Attempt To Swap Didi Gregorius’ Contract For
  4. Here’s A Draft Proposal That Could Really Benefit The Phillies
  5. Nationals Reportedly Sign Maikel Franco To MiLB Deal
  6. 9 Options Phillies Could Still Consider In Free Agency To Bolster Bullpen
  7. Would (And Should) The Phillies Consider Trade Offers For Aaron Nola?
  8. Phillies Would Be Wise To Make A Run At Seiya Suzuki
  9. It Sounds Like Corey Knebel Is The Phillies’ Next Closer
  10. Phillies Rumors: Kyle Schwarber’s Asking Price Reportedly Revealed
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