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December 08, 2019

MLB free agency rumors: How busy will the Phillies be at this week's Winter Meetings?

By all accounts, the Phillies are just getting started in free agency. 

After signing Zack Wheeler to a five-year deal worth a reported $118 million, the organization now turns its focus to the Winter Meetings, which kick off on Sunday night in San Diego. And while the team's brass is out west mingling with agents and members of the media, there's almost certainly going to be some wheeling and dealing done. 

So, what can realistically be expected to come out of this week's Winter Meetings in regards to the Phillies? Well, that all depends on how many of these reported deal Matt Klentak can negotiate in four day's time. 

As we've seen already this winter, the Phillies have been linked to pretty much everyone, and the addition of Wheeler apparently doesn't change that. Since agreeing to a deal with the former Mets starter, the Phillies have reportedly shown interest in several of the biggest names out there. 

Let's take a look at some of the latest heading into the Winter Meetings:

Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson

On Friday, Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reported that the Phillies No. 1 target in free agency is now infielder Anthony Rendon. As a backup plan, the Phillies are eyeing fellow infielder Josh Donaldson, who would come with a slightly lower price tag. 

The Philadelphia Phillies, luxury tax be damned, plan to strongly pursue free-agent third baseman Anthony Rendon, with third baseman Josh Donaldson as a potential fall-back plan, two people with direct knowledge told USA TODAY Sports.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Phillies have yet to publicly declare their intentions and have not met face-to-face with Rendon. ...

The Phillies still would like to pursue another starter and relief pitching, but Rendon has become their No. 1 target.  []

Clearly, this type of interest would mean that the Phillies are no longer concerned with paying the luxury tax and are fully in win-now mode. And after letting Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco go, the team could certainly use some help in the infield.

Didi Gregorius

Another infield option for the Phillies could be Yankees free agent Didi Gregorius, who could be a Plan C to Rendon and Donaldson. And given his ties to new manager Joe Girardi, he's a player who has been linked to the Phillies for some time.

Earlier this week, The Athletic's Jim Bowden pointed to Gregorius as the one move the Phillies could/should pull of during the Winter Meetings. And he even offered up an estimate of what the infielder might cost, which is considerably less than the $30-plus million Rendon is expected to command.

Philadelphia Phillies

Sign shortstop Didi Gregorius to a 3-year, $45 million deal. The Phillies need to improve their overall defense and if they can sign Gregorius, that would allow them to move Jean Segura to third base and Scott Kingery to second. This would be a significant improvement in infield defense for 2020 and would help boost the pitching staff at the same time. New Phillies skipper Joe Girardi managed Gregorius with the Yankees and would be key in recruiting him.  []

While it wouldn't be as sexy of a move as Rendon, it would theoretically leave the Phillies with more money to spend on another area of need heading into 2020: starting pitching.

Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg

Both of these players seemed like pipe dreams immediately following the Phillies landing Wheeler, but as the week progressed, it began looking more and more likely that the Phillies were still in on the two biggest pitchers on the free agency market as well. Multiple reports have linked the Phillies to both starting pitchers heading into the Winter Meetings, although it doesn't seem like the Phillies are the frontrunners to land either. Still, Paul Hagen thinks if the Phillies are serious about making a deep playoff run this season, they're going to need a guy like Cole.

Now that they’ve corralled Wheeler, they should continue to pursue the biggest horse in the stable: Righthander Gerrit Cole.

Yeah, it would take a lot of money. But think of it this way. Prior to the 2019 season, owner John Middleton committed around a half a billion-with-a-b dollars to bring in Harper and Andrew McCutchen and J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura to improve the lineup.

They could give Cole, by far the top pitcher available in this year’s free agent market, a $225 million package — the biggest ever for a pitcher — and still be comfortably under what they spent last season. Not only that, it would give them a team that, on paper, will be as formidable as any team in the division.

Look no further than Nationals Stadium to see what kind of impact this can have. Washington already had Stephen Strasburg five years ago when they signed Max Scherzer to an eye-popping 7-year, $225 million contract. Plenty of people snickered. Scherzer was approaching 30. He was coming off two superlative seasons but his record before that was mixed.

Sounds a lot like Cole’s profile, come to think of it.

As for Strasburg, the rumors were out there before the Wheeler deal, and to many's surprise, they continued after news of that move broke.  

And those are just the biggest names.

Clearly, as you can see, it's going to be another busy winter for the Phillies. We've got you covered with all the latest news and rumors right here in our live updates post: 

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