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May 31, 2024

What they're saying: Phillies' championship window is as open as ever

The Phillies maintain the best record in baseball thanks to a roster known for its stars but also filled with plenty of lesser-known contributors. Will they go all-in for a championship run with a win-now roster?

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Dave Dombrowski Phillies May 2024 Column Rhona Wise/USA Today Sports

Will Dave Dombrowski push the Phillies' chips into the pile ahead of the MLB trade deadline?

Despite returning from the west coast with a poor taste in their mouths following a 2-4 road trip, the Phillies still own the best record in all of baseball as they prepare for a six-game home-stand before departing for their two games in London on June 8 and 9.

Thanks to what is likely the sport's best and most well-rounded pitching staff and a lineup which seems to feature a different hero every night, even after a mini-slump of sorts, the Phillies are in tremendous position to win the National League East for the first time since 2011.

Here is some of the latest buzz — locally and nationally — about the MLB's best team through two months:

The Phillies' championship window

Tim Kelly | Phillies Nation

Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski entered his Phillies tenure with a perhaps-infamous reputation for discarding prospects in favor of win-now talent. But the vast majority of his major acquisitions since taking over the team have come via free agency, enabling him to hang onto the team's most prized players in its farm system.

Tim Kelly of Phillies Nation argues that if there has ever been a time for Dombrowski to be willing to part with the organization's most valuable prospects, it is this season:

"In addition to a team loaded with established stars, Ranger Suarez, Alec Bohm, Matt Strahm and Jeff Hoffman are all having career years. Hoffman can become a free agent after the 2024 season, so there's no guarantee he's in red pinstripes after this season. Suarez and Strahm could become free agents after the 2025 season (although there is a club/vesting option in the latter's contract that could keep him in Philadelphia in 2026. And in terms of the established core, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola and Nick Castellanos are all in their early-to-mid 30s. You will only get so many cracks with this group..."

"Knowing what a title would mean for the legacy of this era -- and his own legacy, for that matter -- maybe Dombrowski will be more willing to part with prospect capital in advance of the July 30 trade deadline than he has been the last two years. The window is never going to be more open than it is right now." [Phillies Nation]

Dombrowski's ability to build this team into an elite club without gutting the organization's farm system — thanks in large part to John Middleton's willingness to spend a whole lot of money on free agents — has been impressive. But might he have to part with a high-level prospect or two in order to truly get this team over the hump? Time will tell.

Future NL East Champions?

Dan Szymborski | FanGraphs

The Phillies have a comfortable — though certainly not insurmountable — lead over the Atlanta Braves for first place in the NL East after two months of action. The Braves, who entered 2024 aiming for a seventh straight division crown, now have to play a whole lot of catch-up.

The amount of wins the Phillies have already banked as the Braves struggle to find consistency within their lineup and at the back end of their rotation is crucial, and it is going to be even more difficult for Atlanta to catch the Phillies after reigning National League MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. went down with a torn ACL, ending his season.

According to FanGraphs writer Dan Szymborski and his famous projection system known as ZiPS, the Phillies have a 64.6 percent chance of winning the division when factoring in the current standings and Acuña's injury, while the Braves have just a 33.1 percent chance of overtaking the team that has eliminated them from the National League Division Series in each of the last two seasons.

Szymborski writes:

"The Phillies have seen their projections sink a bit after losing four of five games to the Rockies and Giants, but the Acuña injury is a disaster for the Braves. ZiPS sees Philadelphia and Atlanta as basically equals now, but with a five-game lead, attrition benefits Philadelphia, not Atlanta." [FanGraphs]

According to Szymborski, before the season started, ZiPS gave the Phillies a 17.9 percent chance of winning the division. Now, they are considered the second-most likely team in baseball to win their respective division, only trailing the Los Angeles Dodgers (73.1 percent chance to win National League West).

Phillies top Power Rankings


Each week, ESPN posts Power Rankings of each team in Major League Baseball. Their newest rankings, published Thursday morning, had the Phillies in the top slot for the second straight week. 

ESPN's graphic promoting the rankings included three players. One of them was Phillies infielder Edmundo Sosa — a testament to not just how terrific Sosa has been in 2024, but how this Phillies team, once believed to have a top-heavy roster, is actually strengthened by its tremendous depth.

David Schoenfield writes about the Phillies:

"The Phillies have soared to the best record in the National League and put themselves on pace for the best season in franchise history thanks to the best offense in the NL -- and an out-of-this-world start from Ranger Suarez, who has outpitched Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola (and they've pitched pretty well). Suarez is 9-1 with a 1.75 ERA and has allowed no runs in four of his 11 starts. On offense, the clutch hitting of Alec Bohm has helped the lineup keep the runs coming even without the injured Trea Turner for the past three weeks or so. And Bryce Harper? After a slow start (other than that three-homer game), he's been crushing it in May." [ESPN]

During the past two seasons, when it was obvious that the Phillies had as much top-end talent as any team in the sport and it all came together in October, it was hard not to wonder what things would look like if they hit their stride at the beginning of the baseball calendar rather than near the end of it. Now we have our answer.

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