We are almost there. The Phillies loaded up an Old Dominion truck on Friday to fanfare in South Philadelphia. The truck headed to the depot where it would meet up with a long-range driver who will spend the next couple days heading down I-95 before ultimately reaching the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater. The Phillies packed up what might be their largest amount of equipment in years; the club will have one of their largest camps in some time.
Todd Zolecki of MLB.com mapped out the numbers:
- 69 players will be in camp
- 13 coaches
With retired numbers including the upcoming retirement of Roy Halladay's number 34 and numbers not assigned for Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, and Chase Utley, Zolecki wonders if the Phillies will run out of numbers.
It was common for the Phillies to have many non-roster invitees back in 2016, when the club was not expected to win. That year they had to set up extra lockers in the clubhouse at then-Bright House Networks Field. This time the Phillies will do the same but with aspirations of winning. A year removed from the acquisitions of catcher J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper, and in the wake of the hiring of high-profile manager Joe Girardi, this is much different.
The Phillies are up against the Competitive Balance Tax, or commonly called the "Luxury Tax" number of $208 million. The Phillies do not appear to be willing to exceed this limit so they must come up with a new plan for talent. The strategy this time appears to be throwing as many players at the metaphoric wall and hope that some sticks. And if that does not stick, go to the next one.
That means the Phillies bench will probably include more than one of several minor league free agents, including Josh Harrison, Ronald Torreyes, Logan Forsythe, Mikie Mahtook, Neil Walker, and Matt Szczur.
The best will rise to the top. Those who do not make the team will be due a retention bonus or be released prior to the season. That could be why the Phillies added the optionable Nick Martini.
The bullpen will be constructed in the same way. It is really hard to project who will be staples in the Phillies bullpen in 2020. The pricey David Robertson will be nowhere to be found. Aside from the two reliable relievers from last season, Hector Neris and Joe Alvarez, it is hard to find some certainty.
Seranthony Dominguez, Victor Arano, and Adam Morgan all spent significant time on the injured list, including the end of the season.
Ranger Suarez pitched admirably in the bullpen last season. But he could return to starting. Or he might not. His future is unclear. Speaking of starters, whoever of Nick Pivetta or Vince Velazquez does not make the starting rotation could be in the bullpen. Unless there's an injury to starter, since there is no real depth there aside from Cole Irvin, who was not great last season in that role.
Newly-claimed Robert Stock is on the 40-man roster. He had a 10.13 earned run average last season. As is Reggie McClain, who had a 6.00 earned run average, and Deolis Garcia, who pitched in one major league game last season. They could help, but that is no sure bet.
The usual cast of 40-man roster minor league players will be present, at least for a while. But they will probably not pitch much while the many veterans attempt to make their case.
Non-roster invitees who could help include veterans such as lefty Francisco Liriano and righties Bud Norris, Anthony Swarzak, Drew Storen and Blake Parker, who pitched for the Phillies last season. Tommy Hunter could join them, but he recently said that he is not ready yet to pitch. The Phillies could add him on minor league deal and give him the chance to work his way back to the major leagues later. Yesterday, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reported that he could indeed be in camp.
The one area of certainty heading in 2020 seem to be two areas: the starting lineup, though we remain unsure where Jean Segura and Scott Kingery will remain on the field. A trade for Kris Bryant would be surprising, even though there have been reports that the Phillies did some due diligence in seeing what the Cubs were up to. So what you see is what you get.
But there will be much up in the air in Clearwater. The Phillies are hoping that some step up and claim jobs. Will someone do so in such a way that they will make a difference? The Phillies are hoping that with many options, the odds will be in their favor.