The 2019 Major League Baseball season will mark 10 years since the Philadelphia Phillies last appeared in the World Series.
The Phillies were coming off of their second championship in franchise history. Pat Gillick stepped down as general manager, opening the window of opportunity for Ruben Amaro Jr.
Raul Ibanez was signed to a three-year contract, along with Chan Ho Park to a one-year pact during the offseason, while starters Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez — along with outfielder Ben Francisco — were acquired during the latter months of the season. Among other transactions and the ebbs and flows of the 162-game regular schedule, the Phillies were primed to repeat as World Series champions.
The only obstacle in Phillies' way that ultimately proved to serve as their "Goliath" was the New York Yankees. At the end of the 2009 season, the Yankees walked away as 27-time World Series champions, while the Phillies' trophy counter remained stagnant at two.
The Phillies have only returned to the postseason twice since losing the 2009 Fall Classic. The 2019 season will mark eight years since Citizens Bank Park hosted postseason baseball.
Ten years later, the Phillies — now led by Managing Partner John Middleton and Vice President and General Manager Matt Klentak — are out for revenge.
They have been targeting this offseason for years to "big-game hunt," according to the New York Post's Joel Sherman, who adds the Phillies are could "out-boss" the Yankees as publicly being the "one team willing to go to the top of the market.
"All roads go through Philly."
Just one day prior, the Phillies were rumored to be discussing a trade for Corbin's former teammate with the Arizona Diamondbacks, three-time Gold Glove Award-winning first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.
Along with Corbin, Goldschmidt, and the tandem of Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, the Phillies have been in on just about every other top free agent and/or available player through trade or international signing, including A.J. Pollock, Andrew Miller, Craig Kimbrel, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, Madison Bumgarner, Michael Brantley, Nathan Eovaldi, Yusei Kikuchi, Zach Britton, and Zack Greinke, among others. In particular, the Phillies have been reported to want to sign a "front-line" starter, preferably left-handed, as well as a top southpaw reliever.
How could one team be linked to so many players, with seemingly few others involved? One general manager in contact with Sherman puts it simple: the Phillies are the "linchpin" of this major league offseason.
"Because that is who the Phils are this offseason," Sherman writes. "The team that is going to be willing to be in more markets and go further. They seem destined to get — at minimum — a top position player, a top starter and a top reliever."
Sherman noted the "days of George Steinbrenner," and that when the Yankees "badly wanted a free agent," they would tell them to "find your market and come back to us." At that point, Sherman added, the Yankees would "often top the best offer" to sign them.
Times have changed, and the tides have turned. The Phillies this offseason are the team that will top the best offer — not the Yankees. Sherman writes:
What is the Yanks’ breaking point? Corbin had brilliant timing with a fifth-place NL Cy Young season in his walk year and is just 29. The Yanks probably wanted to keep his deal to four or five years, but the likelihood is it will at least match the deal Yu Darvish got last offseason — six years, $126 million.
And what if the Phils are willing to go further?
Judging by Middleton's comments, the Phillies are certainly able to "go futher," and they will.
The Phillies, at least this offseason, are no longer at the mercy of the team that defeated them in the 2009 World Series to acquire top talent.
“I can never remember a winter in which one team is the linchpin more than Philly is now,” a veteran GM told Sherman. “Maybe the Yankees in some free-spending period, but maybe not even them.”
While the Phillies celebrate the 10-year anniversary of their 2009 National League championship team this August, the hunger to return to the Fall Classic and raise at least a blue — if not red banner — in Ashburn Alley will only grow stronger.
The Yankees denied the Phillies a red banner in 2009. The Phillies, clearly, are doing everything it takes — 10 years later — to make sure that does not happen again.