Unlike the snail-paced tempo of last winter, this MLB offseason has been an absolute whirlwind. Free-agent class headliners Gerrit Cole, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Yasmani Grandal, and Madison Bumgarner have all already put pen to paper and found new homes- essentially dashing the Phillies chances of landing an elite talent this winter.
Amongst the chaos of the free-agent frenzy, the Phillies managed to acquire a couple of noteworthy players themselves- Didi Gregorius and Zack Wheeler. Though the dynamic duo offers tremendous upside and are significant upgrades for the Phillies, it’s hard to feel all that good about the signings considering how the offseason has gone so far.
Entering the offseason as the third-best team in the NL East, at best, the affluent Phillies had their sights set on the elite tier of free-agents and seemed destined for another pricey offseason. Premier pitchers Gerrit Cole and Madison Bumgarner were said to be coveted by the Phils, and the team was reportedly willing to shun the luxury tax and pony up for Anthony Rendon as well.
Alas, not even a week removed from the MLB winter meetings and any hope of acquiring one of the three perennial all-stars has been supplanted by reality. Furthermore, not only will the Phillies leave this offseason without landing one of the elite free-agent options, but are in danger of missing out on the few remaining available upgrades and entering 2020 as clear underdogs in the division.
When asked of their financial approach for the remainder of the offseason, Phillies GM Matt Klentak was a bit ambiguous with his response:
“I’m not going to sit here today and declare that we are or are not in on certain players or that we will or will not exceed the CBT threshold. I
think our job is to keep an open mind and continue to pursue all avenues and see what makes sense for us. There is an element of this from a management perspective in making sure we apply the proper balance to roster building and not get too top-heavy. We need to be responsible about it, but we’re not going to shy away from pursuing or at least exploring opportunities, whether we bring them to the finish line or not.”
Including the freshly-minted Gregorius contract, the Phillies projected 2020 payroll is up to $205M- just $3M shy of the luxury tax. Still clinging to aspirations of a playoff berth and in desperate need of more roster improvements, going over the luxury tax, as uncomfortable as it may be for them, is the only plausible option for the Phils front office if they truly want to win.
Whether they wind up going over or not, Klentak and Co. shouldn’t even be close to finished acquiring productive players and need to be more diligent in this fast-moving offseason- lest they lose out on the division before the season even begins.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports