The Philadelphia Phillies have been the bridesmaid and never the bride for the past two seasons.
Losing in World Series Game 6 to the Houston Astros and falling in the NLCS to the Arizona Diamondbacks was painful and difficult. Yet 2024 is a new year, not necessarily a new team but a fresh slate.
It could be another chance with the same group of guys to bring a World Series title to Philadelphia for the first time since 2008.
But before there’s a gung-ho attitude about this, there needs to be a moment of pause. There are question marks to be addressed before players take the field for Spring Training. The Aaron Nola question was addressed to the tune of a seven-year, $172 million contract.
So what is left to be fixed?
Do We Have Enough Reliable Pitchers?
Pitching can, and always will be, a constant state of flux for the Phillies. Not in the sense that they don’t have a group that can throw but it’s typically injury-plagued. Philadelphia took a run at free-agent right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but he was the one player they seemed willing to blow past the next luxury tax threshold for. But for the most part, 2023 NL Gold Glove winner Zack Wheeler, Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker, and Cristopher Sánchez isn’t entirely a bad group.
Signing the Gold Glove winner to a longer contract is necessary now that Yoshinobu Yamamoto isn’t coming to the City of Brotherly Love. It would help to keep this team’s championship window open longer too. Plus that’s a guaranteed elite second starter. Now it would be wise to make a huge for Blake Snell to have a killer third ace up their sleeve. The 31-year-old is coming off a season in which he led MLB with a 2.25 ERA over 180 innings and took home his second Cy Young Award.
There isn’t a glaring red HELP flag with the Phillies rotation but there is a “what do we do if one of our starters is injured long-term” and a bullpen game (while pretty decent) shouldn’t be the solution.
Take Someone Out to the Outfield
Well the largest, and probably more important, question mark is who does the Phillies have for them in the outfield. We’ve already seen Kyle Schwarber sit in left field with incredibly mixed-to-negative results. Nick Castellanos is also a bit of a defensive liability for the Phillies and this duo isn’t one to feel 100% confident they’ll come in clutch when needed.
Right now, there aren’t a lot of good men on the market to make that happen. President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski wasn’t willing to guarantee a roster spot for Johan Rojas after he looked wholly outmatched at the plate throughout the postseason.
If they want to throw the luxury tax out the window, they could go for Cody Bellinger. He slashed .307/.356/.525 with 26 homers and 29 doubles to help the Chicago Cubs compete for a playoff spot sooner than most expected. But he’s going to want dollar dollar bills to move and that might be a bit too expensive.
The Phillies can have champagne taste but right now, they’re working with a Trader Joe’s Two-Buck Chuck wine budget.
As previously mentioned by this group of writers, Joc Pederson would be worth keeping on the radar. Granted his 2023 numbers weren’t great, only hitting .235 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in 358 at-bats. But you know, it’s better than 2022. Atlanta Braves Eddie Rosario would be affordable and economical and a good short-term option. The 32-year lefty put in a modest season at the plate in 2023, slashing .255/.305/.450, but still yielded 21 homers and knocked in 74 runs.
Despite all this, it’s still a “who will fit and who can we get” that will need a solution in 2024.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)