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November 01, 2020

MLB free agency rumors: Will Phillies make a move on first day of signings?

UPDATE [5:01 p.m.] — According to multiple reports, the Phillies have extended an $18.9 million qualifying offer to J.T. Realmuto. That was expected, even if he likely won't accept it given he's looking to set a new record for catchers with his next contract that would be worth north of $23 million per year. The bigger news may be that the team did not extend a similar offer to shortstop Didi Gregorius. 

The team can still try to sign Gregorius in free agency, but are clearly sending the single that they would only be willing to do so at a lesser price tag. 


With the MLB season in the rearview, focus has firmly shifted to the upcoming hot stove season, which officially begins on Sunday at 5 p.m. when players will be permitted to begin signing with new teams.

Much like the rest of 2020, however, MLB free agency is likely going to look a little bit different this year. In baseball, because it's a non-salary cap sport, signings typically trickle in throughout the course of the offseason, unlike in sports that have salary caps, where players have a greater motivation to sign quickly before teams use up all their salary cap space. 

This year, however, the signings might even come at a slower pace, as teams are still trying to figure out just what their financial outlook is going to be for the upcoming season. And the Phillies are no different. In fact, the Phillies don't even seem ready to begin the search for a replacement for ousted GM Matt Klentak, a move that makes no sense for a team in need of major upgrades this winter.

Here's more from Bob Brookover of the Inquirer on how lame duck president Andy MacPhail, who already said he won't be back after the 2021 season, is approaching the offseason.

Now, according to MacPhail, the Phillies are in no hurry to replace Klentak with either a new general manager or president of baseball operations because they believe the free-agent market is going to move at a snail’s pace as it did in 2017 and 2018. In other words, they might lose catcher J.T. Realmuto to free agency, but they believe the calendar is likely to at least say January or maybe even February 2021 before that happens.

“I think the one thing you have to look at is that for the time being most of the decisions this franchise has to make are internal right now,” MacPhail said. “About 90 percent of them relate to what happens with our work force and our current personnel, so I don’t feel like we’re disadvantaged at all with Ned. And the other item that you’ve got to think about is who’s going to want to uproot in the middle of a pandemic?”

You probably need a couple of dozen hands to count the number of people willing to don a mask, get on an airplane, and interview for the job of president of baseball operations or GM with the Phillies. I bet you can find some really good ones, too.  []

For the Phillies, there's currently less interest in who they could be signing than there is in who they might be losing. That's because, for the first time in a while, one of the top free agents on the market could be one of the players to walk away in free agency, although both the fans and front office (and even the players) are hoping the team is able to re-sign catcher J.T. Realmuto. They have until Sunday to give him (and their other free agents) a qualifying offer, which the Phillies will likely do and Realmuto will likely decline as he seeks to become the highest-paid catcher in baseball history. 

"We tried to sign him in [2019], we tried to sign him in [2020], we tried to engage him in a conversation after the [Mookie] Betts extension and we just weren't able to get to common ground," MacPhail said on Friday. "... There are two things we have going for us. I think he enjoys this time here and obviously we want him back, and I think those two things give you reasons for hope, [but] in any offseason there are a multitude of variables."

But now, the team has lost its exclusive bargaining rights — and the best catcher in baseball is free to sign elsewhere.

In addition to trying to re-sign Realmuto, the Phillies, who currently have the 13th-best odds of winning the World Series (+3000) according to, will also be looking to bolster their bullpen, add a starting pitcher to their rotation and solidify their outfield (and perhaps their infield as well). And they'll try to do all that while staying under the luxury tax

Will they start making moves early? Will those moves potentially be an indication of how they believe the Realmuto negotiations are going — like, if they start spending a lot of money on other positions, could that be an indication they believe they're going to lose him to another team? And will whatever moves they make be enough to get them back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, we'll keep you updated with all the latest news and rumors as they happen with our live MLB free agency tracker... 

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