November 10, 2021
The MLB's offseason is underway and the Phillies have a lengthy to-do list, which likely includes addressing needs in the outfield, infield and pitching staff — basically everywhere.
And it makes sense. A team that failed to make the playoffs and won just 82 games is a team with holes, and the Phillies are currently slated to pay 12 players $146 million in 2022 (26 players make up an MLB roster).
And while there will be many more pre-arbitration players on the big league roster next season — players whose salary is predetermined and who are not currently being counted toward the luxury tax — the Phillies should be opening their wallet a little bit to try and build a contender.
Dave Dombrowski said he has a 2022 budget from John Middleton, even with a potential labor disruption ahead. What is the number? "I wouldn't tip my hand," Dombrowski said. "It's easy to tip my hand one way or the other. But I don't find it restrictive. Put it that way."— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) November 10, 2021
If indeed that $146 million number is correct, factoring in other expenses the Phillies have around $43 million left to spend until they exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Whether that is the Phils budget or not is anyone's guess, but that would be a sensible assumption based on Dave Dombrowski's statement.
The team could wiggle some more spending money by moving on from Didi Gregorius (due $15.25 million next season) or Jean Segura ($14.85 million), but we'll leave those potential decisions for another article.
So even in the worst of scenarios, the Phillies should have enough room in their budget to land one of the top 50 or so free agents out there.
With a ton of household names currently unemployed, let's take a gander at some of the free agents Phillies fans should be keeping an eye on as the rumor mill begins to churn ahead of winter meetings next month. Keep in mind that in addition to paying a pretty penny for some of these players, the Phils could relinquish a draft pick if the player in question got a qualifying offer from his current club.
The Phillies got almost no production from Didi Gregorius and the makeshift shortstop coalition they ran out every game in 2021. It would be foolish for the team not to be interested in upgrading the position via free agency this season, as it is an historically good class — and with so many big names available a buyers market could develop.
Carlos Correa, SS
Correa is the prize of free agency and if the Phillies are willing to back up a Brink's truck and offer him close to $300 million, he could join the Philly core. It's probably not likely — but he is one of the best defensive players in baseball and has plenty of postseason experience. He's a perfect fit but a pricy one.
Corey Seager, SS
Seager is a beast with the bat and there is little doubt replacing the slop the Phils had at short with Seager and his .306/.394/.521 slash last year (in 95 games) could have made Philly more of a contender. Injuries are a concern, as he's played 130 games or more just three times in seven seasons.
Kris Bryant, 3B
Bryant has been floated to Philadelphia in trade rumors for years, but he's a free agent now. He shares an agent and is friends with Bryce Harper, so that factor should never be underestimated. If he does land with the Phillies, he'd be able to play third base and left field, which would create a bit of a shuffle in the lineup (Hoskins to DH? Bohm to first?).
Marcus Semien, SS
At 31, he is old enough that perhaps the Phillies could get him for a shorter span than the first three infielders we profiled. He is a defense-first player — a very prominent need for the Phillies — but has found an above average bat in recent years.
Trevor Story, SS
Story has hit 158 homers in six seasons playing home games at Coors Field. Will that translate out of Denver? His power would find a nice home hitting behind Harper in the Phillies lineup.
Javier Baez, SS
Baez was traded from the Cubs to the Mets last season but he wasn't particularly great in New York and surprisingly the team elected not to extend him, making him a rental for a lost season. It would be sweet for Phillies fans to take him from their rivals, and he should revert to the mean offensively in 2022.
Kyle Seager, 3B
Does he fit the profile of what the Phillies need in their infield? He's basically a version of Gregorius with more power — he hit .212 with 35 homers and 101 RBI last year. But if the price is right, you never know.
The Phils are set in right with MVP finalist Harper, but the other two starting roles in the outfield are up in the air after the team declined Andrew McCutchen's option. There is some talent in the free agent ranks but not nearly as much as in the infield.
Nick Castellanos, LF
He's an average defender but he can hit, and he turned down a player option with the Reds to become a free agent a few days ago. Last year, he was an All-Star and slashed .309/.362/.576 with 34 homers and 100 RBI — essentially Bryce Harper numbers. Wouldn't that be nice?
Starling Marte, CF
Marte is technically the only starting caliber centerfielder really available as a free agent, and as such the Phillies may pounce — even though that might mean some added competition. They have had a whole lot of nothing in center over the past few seasons and really need to sure up the position with an every day player. He is 33, which makes him older and a risk but also potentially gettable on a shorter deal. Last year, he hit .310 and had 47 stolen bases.
Chris Taylor, UTIL
Taylor can play everywhere on the field but recently has seen more time in the outfield. Think of him as a more proven Scott Kingery. The Phillies could certainly find a use for him.
Seiya Suzuki, LF
He's a 27-year-old Japanese player who is looking to make the jump to America. Dating back to 2018, the righty has put together a combined .319/.435/.592 slash line with 121 home runs and 115 doubles. He'd be a fresh change in the outfield if the Phillies brought him in.
Mark Canha, LF
If the Phillies want to go the middle-of-the-road route in free agency Canha is a good fit, as he is coming off a bad 2021 but has had success in previous seasons — he blasted 26 homers and .273 two seasons ago.
Michael Conforto, LF
He's certainly not a top target as a corner outfielder, but he does have a ton of pop — he's averaged 30 home runs per 162 games as a Met.
The Phillies relief corps were a mess again in 2021. Will Dombrowski completely rebuild it again heading into 2022? Here are some of the top free agent arms available who may interest the Phils:
Raisel Iglesias, CP
If the Phillies want a true closer at the height of his powers, Iglesias is the way to go. He may be pricy, but that's because he is fresh off a 2.57 ERA over 70 innings pitches for the Angels, resulting in 34 saves. He's had a 3.06 ERA over his seven-year career.
Kenley Jansen, CP
Jansen throws hard, and has quite the proven track record as an MLB reliever. In 12 seasons, he's posted ERAs higher than 3.02 just twice. He has 350 career saves and strikes out 13 hitter per nine.
Corey Knebel, RP
He went 4-0 in 27 games last season with a 2.45 ERA and has shown he can be an "opener" in a bullpen game, successfully doing it four times for the Dodgers. He has been inconsistent but at his best he's a solid back-of-the-bullpen arm.
Hector Neris, RP
Readers of this are familiar with Neris, who has been one of the Phillies most reliable bullpen pieces over the last are tumultuous years. He's a free agent the Phillies will surely have interest in bringing back.
Mark Melancon, CP
He'll be 37 before the season starts, but he led baseball with 37 saves for the Padres last season and will certainly get some interest from teams across the league.
Ryan Tepera, RP
He's been a solid reliever for most of his career, showing stints of control issues. Last year he had a 2.79 ERA for both the Cubs and White Sox.
The Phillies may elect to go after a starter, but their rotation is more or less set right now with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Zach Eflin once he returns from his injury. Given the glaring needs at the previous positions we wouldn't expect them to break the bank for a top starter, but there is a chance they kick the tires on someone like Corey Kluber or Clayton Kershaw if they are able to get them on a team-friendly deal. Beyond that, look for them to add mid-level depth arms at SP.
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