The Phillies topped the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history last offseason, and the results were so encouraging that they’re likely to be just as aggressive this winter.
If a year ago they thought they were close to being at odds, then two wins before winning the World Series will only reinforce that sentiment.
“We’re going to push the needle to try and win,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday. “We are close, we will try to win. Would I rather be under the (luxury tax?) Yes, I’d rather not have it, but I can’t say we’ll be under it. We will try our best to make our club a champion level club.
“We have flexibility.”
Significant money left the Phillies payroll the day after the World Series. They have freed up $75 million, although they will also have to account for about $10 million in raises for players who do not yet have free agency.
Their estimated wealth tax wages are currently in the $185 million range, well below the $233 million threshold for 2023.
Much can be achieved with this money. That’s enough for another superstar contract, adding rotation depth and building out of the bullpen.
The Phillies have been closely linked to the top of the shortstop market, led by Trea Turner, Xander Bogarts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson. The middle infield is the clearest and potentially the only everyday position the Phillies can improve this winter as they are locked into their starting positions throughout the field. First base will continue to be a topic of discussion in this regard as Reece Hoskins enters his final year under team control.
The addition of any of those top four shortstops — especially Turner — would make a huge difference in the Phillies roster, bringing in another bat to set the table and run that could help offset loss early in the season Bryce Harper and add a layer of protection if 2022 was a sign of what would happen to Nick Castellanos.
Talk of a buddy has gotten so loud that Phillies fans are expecting a big signing. Would Dombrowski be surprised if he couldn’t tick the box?
“I wouldn’t say I’d be surprised, but we’re open to a lot of things,” he said.
The vacancy was created when Jean Segura’s contract came to an end. Even though Segura has been at his career level in four seasons with the Phillies, hitting .281 and having an OPS two percent higher than the league average, that’s clear room for improvement. The Phillies are excited about the future of 25-year-old Bryson Stott, who was asked late in the season by manager Rob Thomson if he prefers to be a shortstop or second base and replied “in the majors.”
“We would sign one middle infielder,” Dombrowski said when asked if the Phillies could sign a top shortstop and also bring back Segura.
“If it’s a second baseman or a shortstop, we have Stott, we like Stott, we want Stott to play. We think it will only get better. play, we could use Sosa as a helper. So if we sign it, that rules out anything else for now.”
Starting pitching market
The kickoff pitch is arguably an even greater need for the Phillies, who have found success in the playoffs and continued to push forward without a No. 4 starter. They used Noah Sindergaard and Bailey Falter in a shortened start at this location and felt they could not be trusted. Kyle Gibson.
Sindergaard and Gibson are free agents. So did Zach Eflin, who played 115 games for the Phillies in 2016-2022 before returning from injury at the end of last season as a pitcher.
One free agent option left the discussion early in Tyler Anderson, a former Dodgers left-hander who agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Angels on Wednesday.
The free agent class of starting pitchers includes Carlos Rodon, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Jacob deGrom, Chris Bassitt, Jameson Tylon, Sean Manea, Tyhuang Walker, Andrew Heaney, Sindergaard, Eflin, Nate Eovaldi, Jose Quintana, Ross Stripling, Michael. Vacha and Mike Clevinger, among others.
Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Ranger Suarez provide a solid foundation to build on, but the Phillies know they need starting pitchers, plural. They keep the youth spot but aren’t going to pin their hopes on a potential rookie like prospect Andrew Painter starting 30 games, or Falter or Christopher Sanchez coming in fifth. Painter can still make it to Philadelphia quickly, especially with an impressive spring training, but teams need at least seven, eight, nine starting players to play 162 games these days.
“We feel like we probably need to do something in terms of starting pitch, at least someone for depth, even though we have the big three guys, we have Falter, Sanchez and someone like Painter,” Dombrowski said.
“We know how important depth is, so we keep an open mind about it. It doesn’t have to be the best guy, but we will study this market.
“We are holding a place for a young man. Can two (get out)? Possibly, but we’re really only looking at one. With another veteran hand, we really need to fill a slot like this.”
Just as important as any addition during the offseason is the health of Wheeler and Nola’s hands. There were concerns about Wheeler after his pace dropped in Game 2 of the World Series, but he looked strong in a dominant Game 6 display. On Wednesday, Dombrowski said Wheeler was healthy.
Nola, the major league leader in innings over the past five seasons, has thrown more goals in 2022 than ever before.
“They submitted a lot of innings. You will always watch it next year, but I don’t know why they are not ready to present the season, why they will not be ready to go,” Dombrovsky said. “I’ve had it throughout my career where pitchers have made the playoffs four years in a row and given those opportunities or more and were ready to go. So I really don’t think it’s a problem.”