2022 Phillies: Spending Middleton’s Money

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By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

With the Philadelphia Phillies offseason completed, some faithful supporters have forgotten they had complained about stars not signed, players not wanted, and a team not built for victory. But while most like the recent acquisitions, some may only see every wart as a competitional flaw this club can’t overcome. 


Dollars and Sense:

There’s a difference between Dave Dombrowski, Phillies PBO (president of baseball operations), and an armchair GM. Unfortunately, the PBO doesn’t have unlimited spending, has competition for the best talent, and has limitations on filing shortcomings. Knowledgeable fans don’t! 

Put Another Way:

“Building a baseball team is like building a house. You look for the best architects, the best builders – and then you let them do their jobs.” – Pat Gillick

To determine the Fightins’ moves, using Dombrowski as the source is the best starting point. In October’s 40-minute presser, he named a closer, leadoff hitter, center fielder, and a right-handed bat with power as his objectives. And he mentioned Hector Neris and Odubel Herrera as re-upping candidates.    

While it’s easy to imagine a slugger in the order’s heart to protect Bryce Harper, the PBO worked within financial parameters of only exceeding the CBT (competitive-balance threshold) by roughly $5 million AAV (average annual value). And $236.5 million AAV allows the franchise to seriously compete in the National League East.  


Phillies AAV Payroll:

The new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) with a $230 million CBT.



$209.775 million

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

$16.225 million 

**Arbitration projection for 3 players. 

$10.5 million

***Pre-arbitration projection for 9 youngsters.

$236.5 million

TOTAL for 26 slots.

$6.5 million

Balance over $230 million AAV.

* Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Jean Segura, Kyle Gibson, Corey Knebel, Didi Gregorius, Seranthony Dominguez, Johan Camargo, Brad Hand, Kyle Schwarber, Jeurys Familia, Nick Castellanos and Scott Kingery (non-roster).

** Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins and Jose Alvarado.

*** Ranger Suarez, Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Sam Coonrod and five additional players.


Phillies for 5 Spots:



1 RP

*Bailey Falter, *Ryan Sherriff, Hans Crouse,

*Kyle Dohy (NR), *Damon Jones, Nick Nelson, Cam Bedrosian (NR) or *Christopher Sanchez (* LHP) (NR = non-roster)

1 C

Rafael Marchan, Donny Sands, Garrett Stubbs or Austin Wynns (NR)


Bryson Stott, Nick Maton, Luke Williams, Ronald Torreyes (NR) and/or Scott Kingery (NR)

1 OF

Matt Vierling, Mickey Moniak and/or Adam Haseley

Boldface names have the best shot to make the squad.


Beginning with center field, the exec pursued Starling Marte, who had been willing to re-up with the Miami Marlins for $50 million over 3-4 summers. But after he had finished strong, he changed his asking price to $80 million for four seasons. And the New York Mets inked him for $78 million. Now, he’s experiencing oblique soreness.           

After the Metropolitans had basically met Marte’s asking price, Dombrowski pursued the Tampa Bay Rays center fielders. But the Rays are successful because they take advantage of situations to maximize their return. However, the new CBA would count Kevin Kiermaier’s $14.67 million remaining against a new club’s CBT.        

Plan B was re-signing Herrera amid some local outcry. Basically, many fans decided they didn’t want him, and they’ll only need one mistake for the entire 162 to claim being correct. But he was an adequate fielder and hit .301 with seven homers and 23 RBIs down the stretch, including his four for 12 in Atlanta.               

While Marte could be an excellent leadoff man, they were a scarce commodity like center fielders. So, the Phils improvised with Kyle Schwarber, even though he isn’t the typical one-hole bat. But that’s what a POB must do to succeed, whether naysayers disapprove or not.  

In the leadoff spot for the Washington Nationals, Schwarber hit .297 with 17 bombs and 30 RBIs in 101 at-bats. And his asking price was $60 million for three campaigns, but the competition was stiff. So, Dombrowski proposed a fourth year and $79 million total to close the deal because it was his best play. And he got his man!                    

While many locals expect a repeat of last summer’s performances, higher-ups understand a career bad season is reversible: Giving up isn’t an option. And a healthy Didi Gregorius competing for a job against Bryson Stott may surprise some. Moreover, Alec Bohm’s results could be between his last two campaigns. 

Bullpen Pieces:

Even though the red pinstripes signed three former closers, the doubting Thomases will only be a blown save or two away from disappointment. Yes, all firemen blow save opportunities, and elite arms have 90 percent success. But if you only focus on the bad outings, you’ll be unhappy.  

Phillies Illustration:

Brad Lidge, 30.5 in 2007:

  • 2007: 66 Gms., 67 Inn., a 3.36 ERA, 19 Saves, 7 Holds, 8 BS and a 0.8 fWAR (Astros).
  • 2008: 72 Gms., 69 ⅓ Inn., a 1.96 ERA, 41 Saves, 0 BS and a 2.2 fWAR (Phillies).

Due to a dismal 2007, Lidge was available. And he had no blown saves in 2008 and that postseason. So, the faithful shouldn’t anticipate 2021’s difficulties will repeat themselves for Brad Hand and/or Jeurys Familia: Usually, players focus more with a new employer.        

After Corey Knebel had missed 2019 with an elbow injury before the abbreviated 2020 schedule, he returned for an excellent 2021 by dominating with his curveball instead of his four-seam heater. And his average velocity in 2021 was 96.5 mph instead of 97.6 mph in 2017. Moreover, he punched out 11 during his 5 ⅔ playoff innings.    

New Phillies:

Corey Knebel, 30: 

  • 2021: 27 Gms., 25 ⅔ Inn., a 2.45 ERA, 3 Saves, 7 Holds and a 0.6 fWAR.
  • 2021: 58.2% with four-seam fastballs and 41.8% with curveballs.
  • 2017: 76 Gms., 76 Inn., a 1.78 ERA, 39 Saves, 11 Holds, 6 BS and a 2.8 fWAR.
  • 2017: 71.8% with four-seam fastballs and 28.2% with curveballs.
  • fWAR: FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement.

Brad Hand, 32: 

  • 2021: 68 Gms., 64 ⅔ Inn., a 3.90 ERA, 21 Saves, 3 Holds, 8 BS and a -0.1 fWAR.
  • 2020: 23 Gms., 22 Inn., a 2.05 ERA, 16 Saves, 1 Hold, 0 BS and a 1.1 fWAR.

Jeurys Familia, 32.5: 

  • 2021: 65 Gms., 59 ⅓ Inn., a 3.94 ERA, 1 Save, 11 Holds and a 0.0 fWAR.
  • 2016: 78 Gms., 77 ⅔ Inn., a 2.55 ERA, 51 Saves, 5 BS and a 2.1 fWAR.

While Knebel had wanted just one year before free agency, Hand and Familia received only one-summer offers. Basically, Hand –an off 162?– and Familia are Knebal’s backup plans, and they could either work in a setup role instead of or with Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez. But a solid pen is possible. 

The Acquisition Topper:

When some fans base their expectations only on the previous season's numbers, they ignore other factors. To illustrate, a healthy Gregorius is playing for a contract and an everyday job, and his career most likely isn’t over. So, some boobirds may be glad he’s still here.         

In many professions like writing, people progress over time, and a rookie is rarely an All-Star. Basically, Bohm is playing for his career, and Stott is a wild card. He could win a regular gig, hit .300, or need more seasoning or playing time at Triple-A. However, this short camp could affect his ‘22.                   

While the signing of Nick Castellanos is the latest buzz, Dombrowski had backup options in Jorge Soler and Austin Meadows. And remember, Castellanos’ asking price was $160 million for eight campaigns, plus his agent is Scott Boras. So, what does signing him for five years with no opt-outs imply? He wants to be here!  



Harper and Machado 3 Years on



Photo: Catcher Logan O'Hoppe


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