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October 27, 2023

Five free agent starting pitchers the Phillies could target to upgrade their rotation in 2024

The Phillies need to find upgrades somehow, and perhaps a big name free agent starting pitcher is the best way to improve in 2024.

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Phillies-rumors-Blake-Snell_102723_USAT Orlando Ramirez/USA Today Sports

The Phillies should at least kick the tires on free agent Blake Snell this offseason.

The Phillies can't stand pat. They have to do something.

But with so much money invested in a bevy of long-term contracts, there aren't a ton of spots for roster upgrades.

One of the clear areas they can make additions, however, is in the starting pitching rotation. Aaron Nola is set to come off the books in two weeks when MLB free agency begins, and it sounds like both sides want Nola to remain in Philly. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski said as much to the media Thursday.

“I’d say he’s our priority to try and sign,” Dombrowski said. “Unfortunately, and I don’t mean this as a negative or positive, it’s just the reality. We didn’t sign him in spring training. We would have liked to have done that. We didn’t get it done. I can’t tell you that I feel 100% confident that we’re going to get it done, but we would like to sign him and we’ll be aggressive in trying to make that happen.”

Even if they bring Nola back, there are ways they can get better in the starting five. Here's a look at the contract statuses of the Phillies' rotation:

PitcherYears left
Zack Wheeler1
Aaron Nola0
Taijuan Walker3
Ranger Suarez2 (arbitration)
Cris Sanchez5 (pre-arbitration)

Deadline acquisition Michael Lorenzen will be a free agent too — and likely will not return. 

With Tommy John surgery, top prospect Andrew Painter is likely still a year away — though No. 2 prospect Mick Abel will probably get his shot to make the rotation in Spring Training this March. Still, the team will need to have a backup plan in place if Nola does not return, and it wouldn't hurt to add some depth with a big-name starter to bring some excitement to this offseason.

We already looked at five available hitters the Phillies front office can target this offseason. Here are five free-agent pitchers they can look at — all of whom will likely command big contracts.

(A note — we included Shohei Ohtani with the hitters, since he'll only be hitting in 2024.)

Marcus Stroman

The smaller-framed right-hander (he's just 5-foot-7) won 10 games and was an All-Star in Chicago last season. He's had an ERA solidly below 4 for six consecutive seasons now and really does slot in as a solid No. 3 in the Phillies rotation even if Nola stays. He has a player option he will need to turn down to become a free agent. If he thinks he can make more than $21 million, or if the Phillies offer a better chance to win than the Cubs do, he may be interested.

Sonny Gray

Gray has proven to be a very reliable starter over the last 11 seasons, making three All-Star teams and appearing in six postseason games. He had a 2.79 ERA last season with the Twins while getting basically no run support, and seems to be the exact kind of veteran arm that could slot behind Wheeler as a No. 2 or 3 arm. He's 33, and made just under $13 million last season. Perhaps a team-friendly deal in the $12-15 million range would make sense for both sides.

Blake Snell

The Cy Young winner is the biggest free agent pitching prize this offseason and the Phillies would be silly not to at least kick the tires on his interest in Philly. There were some rumors as the Padres fell out of contention this past season that he might be on the market. He had a minuscule 2.25 ERA and won 14 games in San Diego last season with 234 strikeouts. He is a big, 6-foot-4 lefty arm that would give the Phillies rotation a very different look in 2024. The 1-2 punch with Wheeler would be one of the best in baseball.

Eduardo Rodriguez

Rodriguez is another very appealing lefty starter fresh off a 13-9, 3.30 ERA campaign for a pretty bad Tigers team in 2023. His career statistics suggest he is not an ace, but more in the Taijuan Walker mold as a solid middle of the rotation kind of pitcher who would help the Phillies more in the regular season.

Jordan Montgomery

Currently pitching in the World Series for the Rangers, Montgomery was a trade deadline acquisition for Texas and pitched well for them down the stretch. His numbers in 2023 were impressive with a 3.30 ERA and he's been a top of the rotation guy for a loaded Texas pitching staff this postseason. If the Rangers don't retain him he's got the talent to line up behind Wheeler in Philadelphia next season.

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