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Phillies: Focusing on Center Field for 2022

 

By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

If the Philadelphia Phillies and other big-market organizations don’t plug every hole during this offseason to their fans’ satisfaction, they will shoulder the blame for not doing enough. It’s an annual ritual with rare reprieves from the faithful, and the last one here was in 2016. Yeah, rebuilding year one!   

       

Up-the-middle Defense:

To many Phillies and MLB supporters, their club still has shortcomings, unfixed or ignored; but their divisional rival did this, this and that right. Basically, here’s why the other team succeeded or will succeed, and our locals will not: They did nothing wrong and we did.             

IN OTHER WORDS:

“Alone of all the races on earth they seem to be free from the 'grass is greener on the other side of the fence' syndrome and roundly proclaim that Australia is, in fact, the other side of that fence.” - Douglas Adams

With fielding as a priority, Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, will focus primarily on up-the-middle defense: catcher, keystone combo and center field. The corners, though, are for adequate fielders: One unchanged thing about baseball for many moons.        

With second baseman Jean Segura and receiver JT Realmuto, the Fightins have half of the pieces, and, hopefully, Didi Gregorius’ problem was his balky elbow. Otherwise, his surprisingly rapid decline will be problematic, but the decision-maker may have medicals influencing his thinking.             

Although Gregorius doesn’t have a guaranteed spot, the Phillies are allowing him to earn it, and they hope he can buy them time for Bryson Stott, 24, to be major league ready. The young shortstop hit .301 at Double-A over 351 plate appearances and .303 in 41 Triple-A PAs but may need three months with the Allentown affiliate.

Current Phillies AAV Forecast:

(average annual value)

AAV COST

PLAYERS

$143.9 million

7 stars and 14 MILB players on the 40-man roster and benefits.

$19.8 million 

*Arbitration projection for 7 players. 

$4.6 million

**Pre-arbitration projection for 7 youngsters.

$9 million

Early free-agent projection for Hector Neris and Freddy Galvis.

$11.5 million

Accepting Odubel Herrera’s club option.

$188.8 million

TOTAL for 24 slots

$24.2 million

Balance to spend for a projected $212 million AAV.

* Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins, Jose Alvarado, Andrew Knapp, Ronald Torreyes, Seranthony Dominguez and Roman Quinn (out of options).

** Ranger Suarez, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod, an outfielder and two relievers.

Phillies Potential Acquisitions:

AAV COST

PLAYERS

$14 million

Raisel Iglesias, Closer

$14 million

Starling Marte, Leadoff-hitting Center Fielder

$28 million

$29.2 million is $5 million over $212 million AAV.

As a plan B, Galvis, who made $1.75 million in 2021, could be a one-year stopgap if Gregorius is still having difficulty with the glove and bat. Plus the red pinstripes would have a solid defender for $2 million instead of a rushed-to-the-majors rookie at approximately $600 thousand, and Galvis could help Bohm defensively.   

In the corners, Bryce Harper, Herrera and Hoskins are satisfactory or better, and Bohm at third base must produce to make the squad according to Dombrowski. Ergo, they will live with Bohm’s fielding if he provides offense, and Kevin Long, the new hitting coach, is currently working with the third sacker in Clearwater.     

Center field isn’t the main position for most top free agents, so Marte will be atop many wish lists. Yes, his asking price was $50 million for 3-4 campaigns, but $70 million now reflects a lack of alternatives to him. Translation: that’s $17.5 million each for four summers or $14 million apiece for five seasons. 

The competition for Marte includes the Washington Nationals for one big splash, the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, and Seattle Mariners as a Jayson Worth type signing. For the Phillies, a five-campaign pact at $14 million AAV is workable.                                        

Financially, the Phils have the resources for Marte and Iglesias by exceeding the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by $3.8 million with a $5 million overage tops. But $1.2 million won’t be enough for a right-handed DH or a quality setup man.           

While some have finalized their beliefs about Herrera, POB Dombrowski hasn’t. He wants a center fielder and a leadoff hitter, but Herrera batting in the  7-8 hole is acceptable. Moreover, Andrew McCutchen’s club option is for $15 million, and Herrera could slide over there for $11.5 million.             

Spending to ink a left fielder for stats like Herrera’s .260, 13 homers and 51 RBIs would run $12 million plus $2.5 million to buy out Herrera’s team option. Though, they could pay him the $11.6 million arb estimate plus $2.5 million. But keep in mind, he only made a magnified handful of bad plays for ‘21 compared to none.   

Dollars and Sense:

With unwavering expectations, MLB supporters believe you can win a World Series title with unlimited spending and only productive, successful trades. Unfortunately, players suffer injuries and have down 162s, while some regress after a career year. But fans quickly blame the organization for mistakes, real or perceived.        

One Championship Only:

2009-2021 New York Yankees:

  • Dropped below the $210 CBT in ‘21 to reset the Luxury Tax penalty from 50% to 20% for the first taxable level after paying roughly $600 million in penalties since year one of the tax to only make the playoffs annually.

2018-2021 Los Angeles Dodgers:

  • Not winning a second World Series title despite spending $275.4 million AAV in ‘21: $65 million over the first CBT and $25 million over the third CBT of $250 million AAV (top level).

2018-2021 Boston Red Sox:

  • Failing to make the 2019 playoffs because they didn’t re-sign Craig Kimbrel and increase their then $242.4 million AAV by $20-25 million AAV to $262.4-267.4 million AAV despite a $206 million CBT.

2008-2021 Phillies: 

  • Without Pat Gillick, this surefire winner hasn’t paraded a second trophy down Broad St.

Behind the front-office doors, the execs recognize fans’ behavior toward other big-market franchises. To illustrate, the Red Sox fired Dombrowski for a high AAV payroll and not making the postseason; now, their locals believe he had ruined the club. Here, many think the same about Amaro. The fire-him answer!                   

Obstacles:

Realistically, 2020’s --and 2021’s-- statistics can be misleading due to interrupted preparation and a delayed 60-game season. Plus ‘21 had increased workloads by 102 contests. Ergo, many probably tailed off in August and September: Gassed starters in the rotation and the everyday eight: many, not all.                        

Only two teams didn’t lose money in ‘21, and revenue is always a factor regarding large expenditures for an upcoming summer. So, November will continue to be slow, like it has been over the last two years. But low offers won’t be as drastic this winter with a full campaign of paying customers ahead.

With the current CBA (collective bargaining agreement) ending on Dec. 1, some will lock in a deal before rules change. However, most stars will not sign so quickly and will wait for the new CBA to go into effect. But a delay extending into March could leave considerable unfinished business for roster construction.                

With the current free-agent class, center field is a secondary position for most top free agents. For instance, third baseman Kris Bryant, corner outfielder Mark Canha, and middle infielder Chris Taylor are those available players. The others are bench pieces and players with options including Herrera.       

To sum up, one star can plug the center field hole and lead off. He’s solid with the leather, can steal 50 bases, and hit .300. However, he’s 33 and could require a five-year pact, but what is a trade instead of Marte? Alternative to or incentive for?

 

NEXT:

5 Free-agent Closers for 2022

Rsz_cbp_schmidt___

 

 

Comments

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Jim Finnegan

Good analysis Tal. As always , deep into the background.

Gerald Giampetro

Thanks, Jim.

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