2022 Phillies, NL East: 3-Way Spending War

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By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful can no longer bemoan that managing partner John S. Middleton will never exceed the Luxury Tax, even though the new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) raised the $210 million AAV to $230 million AAV (average annual value). Yes, they committed $236.6 million before 2022’s first pitch.   

 

Keeping up with Cohen:

The Phillies weren’t the only divisional organization signing top talent; the Atlanta Braves also made expensive expenditures. But while the New York Mets can reach $300 million AAV, the Fightins and Bravos have acquired major pieces for ‘22 also. So, it’s a three-club race!

Put Another Way:

“They talked about each others' houses, and characters, and families just as the Joneses do about the Smiths. – William Makepeace Thackeray

At 2021’s trading deadline, two divisions had a winner and two possible wild-card teams: the National League West and the American League East. Translation: Top organizational prospects went to the Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs. Now, three NL East franchises have spent heavily.    

Divisional Pitching:

While the red pinstripes have a complete rotation, three hurlers will build up arm strength during their first 2-3 starts like many staffs. But the pen will be better than most believe because locals base their thinking on recent 162s and stats. Note: expect more doubleheaders, two extra arms in April, and fewer off days. 

Realistically, Corey Knebel will be the closer, and he wants to use 2022’s results for a multi-year contract. Plus Brad Hand made the necessary adjustments at season’s end with the Mets to handle the eighth inning, and Jeurys Familia will work in the sixth and seventh frames. Also, expect big contributions from Seranthony Dominguez.       

Phillies:

RH Corey Knebel, 30: 

  • 2021: 27 Gms., 25 ⅔ Inn., a 2.45 ERA, 3 Saves, 7 Holds and a 0.6 fWAR.
  • fWAR: FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement.

LH Brad Hand, 32: 

  • 2021: 68 Gms., 64 ⅔ Inn., a 3.90 ERA, 21 Saves, 3 Holds, 8 BS and a -0.1 fWAR.
  • Mets: 16 Gms., 13 ⅓ Inn., a 2.70 ERA and 3 Holds.

RH Jeurys Familia, 32.5: 

  • 2021: 65 Gms., 59 ⅓ Inn., a 3.94 ERA, 1 Save, 11 Holds and a 0.0 fWAR.

Mets:

RH Max Scherzer, 37.5:

  • 2021: 30 Gms., 179 ⅓ Inn., 15-4, a 2.46 ERA and a 5.4 fWAR.

RH Chris Bassitt, 33:

  • 2021: 27 Gms., 157 ⅓ Inn., 12-4, a 3.15 ERA and a 3.3 fWAR.

RH Adam Ottavino, 36:

  • 2021: 69 Gms., 62 Inn., a 4.21 ERA, 11 Saves, 22 Holds and a 0.5 fWAR.

Scherzer and Bassitt will give the Metropolitans a one-two punch behind ace Jacob deGrom, who fired only 110 ⅔ innings in ‘21. But if he again has difficulties, they now have two solid arms for serious October baseball. However, many New Yorkers believe their bullpen is shaky, and Octavino won’t calm their ninth-frame jitters.                

Despite the uncertainty after their front three moundsmen, Atlanta signed closer Kenley Jansen to a top-dollar, one-campaign pact they have done in recent summers for starters and regulars. So, their strategy will again be piecing things together with signed veterans and youngsters.

Braves:

RH Kenley Jansen, 34.5:

  • 2021: 69 Gms., 69 Inn., a 2.22 ERA, 38 Saves, 5 BS and a 1.8 fWAR.

RH Collin McHugh, 34.5:

  • 2021: 35 Gms. (7 as opener), 64 Inn., a 1.55 ERA, 1 Save, 6 Holds and a 1.8 fWAR.

RH Tyler Thornburg, 33.5: 

  • 2020: 7 Gms., 7 Inn., a 3.86 ERA, 1 Hold and a 0.2 fWAR.

Divisional Hitting:

The Phillies inked Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and Johan Camargo. Leading off will be Schwarber, who excelled in the one hole, and Jean Segura will bat next without the workload increase again affecting him in the second half. Basically, Bryce Harper and Castellanos will both hit in the first inning many times. 

Camargo could be the biggest surprise of the three because he lost his everyday gig in 2019 to Josh Donaldson and then Austin Riley: promotion and emergence. Ergo, the Braves didn’t have playing time for him, and it affected his performance. But, now, he has a decent shot to replace Alec Bohm.                    

Phillies:

RH Nick Castellanos, 30:

  • 2021: 138 Gms., 585 PA, a .309 Avg., 34 HR, 100 RBI, a .939 OPS, a 4.2 fWAR and a 140 wRC+ (40% over offensive production overall with 100 as average).

LH Kyle Schwarber, 29:

  • 2021: 113 Gms., 471 PA, a .266 Avg., 32 HR, 71 RBI, a .928 OPS, a .374 OBP, a 3.1 fWAR and a 145 wRC+ (45% over offensive production overall).
  • Batting 1st: 101 AB, a .297 Avg., 17 HR, 30 RBI, a 1.216 OPS and a .385 OBP.

SH Johan Camargo, 28:

  • 2021: 104 AAA Gms., 436 PA, a .326 Avg., 19 HR, 70 RBI, a .958 OPS and a 155 wRC+ (55% over offensive production overall).
  • 2018: 134 MLB Gms., 524 PA, a .272 Avg., 19 HR, 76 RBI, an .805 OPS, a 3.2 fWAR and a 115 wRC+ (15% over offensive production overall).

Mets:

SH Eduardo Escobar, 33:

  • 2021: 146 Gms., 599 PA, a .253 Avg., 28 HR, 90 RBI, a .786 OPS, a 3.0 fWAR and a 107 wRC+ (7% over offensive production overall).

RH Mark Canha, 33:

  • 2021: 141 Gms., 625 PA, a .231 Avg., 17 HR, 61 RBI, a .746 OPS, a 2.6 fWAR and a 115 wRC+ (15% over offensive production overall).

RH Starling Marte, 33.5:

  • 2021: 120 Gms., 526 PA, a .310 Avg., 12 HR, 55 RBI, an .841 OPS, a 5.5 fWAR and a 134 wRC+ (34% over offensive production overall).

While the squad from Queens added outfielders Marte, 33.5, in right and Canha, 33, in left, they also bade farewell to Michael Conforto. And they signed Escobar, 33, to shore up the hot-corner defense with some firepower. However, players begin a slight decline at 30 with a bigger falloff at 32. So what will their value be beyond ‘22?            

Like the Phillies, Atlanta picked up a star in his prime. So, Matt Olson is a regular who is changing leagues (unfamiliar pitchers), replacing an icon, and must live up to a lengthy deal. And they moved on from Freddie Freeman, who had been the heart of this team. Who will fill that void? Ronald Acuna Jr.?

Braves:

LH Matt Olson: 28:

  • 2021: 156 Gms., 673 PA, a .271 Avg., 39 HR, 111 RBI, a .911 OPS, a 5.0 fWAR and a 146 wRC+ (46% over offensive production overall).

Divisional Dollars and Warts:

Dave Dombrowski, PBO (president of baseball operations), has built a run-scoring machine, picked up three back-end arms, and committed the Fightins to $202.4 million. Moreover, the execs pushed the AAV payroll to $236.6 million or $6.6 million AAV over the CBT (competitive-balance threshold).                  

Phillies:

POS

PLAYER

AAV

TOTAL

LF/DH

Nick Castellanos

$20 million

$100 million

LF/DH

Kyle Schwarber

$19.75 million

$79 million

CLSR

Corey Knebel

$10 million

$10 million

SETUP

Brad Hand

$6 million

$6 million

SETUP

Jeurys Familia

$6 million

$6 million

3B/INF

Johan Camargo

$1.4 million

$1.4 million

TOTAL

 

$63.15 million

$202.4 million

Owner Steve Cohen, aka the king of Queens, has exceeded 2022’s CBT by $47.7 million after adding $98.7 million AAV. And although he committed $267 million for ‘22 and beyond, his six pickups are from 33 to 37.5 years old. And he’s only $12.4 million AAV shy of the “Steve Cohen” tax: $290 million AAV. 

Pitching-wise, the Mets after Scherzer and Bassitt have questions with Taijuan Walker plus the health of deGrom and Carlos Carrasco. And the relief corps’ weakest link is closer Edwin Diaz according to their fans and media. Translation: They believe he will prevent them from succeeding in the playoffs.   

Mets:

POS

PLAYER

AAV

TOTAL

SP

Max Scherzer

$43.33 million

$130 million

SP

Chris Bassitt

$8.65 million*

$8.65 million

SETUP

Adam Ottavino

$4 million

$4 million

RF

Starling Marte

$19.5 million

$78 million

3B

Eduardo Escobar

$10 million

$20 million

LF

Mark Canha

$13.25 million

$26.5 million

TOTAL

 

$98.73 million

$267 million

* Arb Estimate

Braves:

POS

PLAYER

AAV

TOTAL

1B

Matt Olson

$21 million

$168 million

CLSR

Kenley Jansen

$16 million

$16 million

RP

Collin McHugh

$13.25 million

$26.5 million

RP

Kirby Yates*

$4.125 million

$8.25 million

RP

Tyler Thornburg

$0.9 million

$0.9 million

TOTAL

 

$47.025 million

$203.15 million

* IL (injured list) for at least half of 2022 and $1 million on regular payroll.

 

While Atlanta will have Marcell Ozuna now and Acuna in May, Olson is replacing Freeman at first base and in the batting order. And they’ve inked Jansen and McHugh to complement Will Smith in the late innings, plus Yates may figure into their stretch-drive plans.           

However, the four slot in their five-man staff is Huascar Ynoa, who struggled after coming off the IL. He had broken his pitching hand by punching the dugout bench after a poor outing and wasn’t the same hurler down the stretch. Moreover, the Bravos five spot could be a bullpen game and might produce overworked relievers.   

The Phillies, meanwhile, have a pen working behind five starters who averaged 6-7 frames each without the universal DH. Ergo, the entire rotation will have run support, and a fresh bullpen will have Knebel, Dominguez, Hand and an improved Connor Brogdon according to a national publication.   

Overblown fears of a porous defense equaling the red pinstripes’ scoring is questionable. For instance, up-the-middle fielding has strong catching, keystone, and a healthy Didi Gregorius. Plus the defense is solid in right field and adequate in center and first base. Also, Camargo or Bryson Stott can handle third base.         

To sum up, Schwarber and Castellanos are the Pat Burrells of the 2022 Phillies, and Bohm must win the third base job including with his glove. So, I don’t expect one-run victories when averaging 6-7 runs per game. But while armchair GMs dwell on yesterday, what does the PBO concentrate on? Tomorrow!   

 

NEXT:

Spending Middleton’s Money

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