2023 Phillies: Dollars and Sense

The Philadelphia Phillies faithful are performing their annual ritual to improve on last summer’s finish. Unfortunately, armchair GMs have no monetary limits plus endless prospects to pry loose a star from another franchise. But they want a stud for what they want to unload. Why would another club want the player you don’t? Hint: They don’t.


The Go-for-it Year:


Every offseason, the fanbase decides whom they don’t want. Other than small-market organizations, though, most supporters want the top starter, reliever and hitter, and Phillies fans are no exception. Garnering the most attention now, Rhys Hoskins’ less-than-flawless defense and streaky hitting –like most batters– put him atop the trade list.

Put Another Way

“If you don’t love me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe

Again, Hoskins is disappointing. In 2019, the first baseman hit .180 with nine home runs for the entire second half. But even though his stats are now consistent for three consecutive summers, he had a career-high 12 errors. But magnifying those as a yearly occurrence is a false equivalency: He had six, nine and four miscues not including 2020 since 2018.

For those who want to move him, how do you replace 30 right-handed bombs? Realistically, the Fightins won’t get that from J.T. Realmuto and Alec Bohm, plus Nick Castellanos is only a maybe. And thought it’s easy to name first sackers from other teams, some base their thinking on past performances from 2-3 seasons ago.

Money is another consideration because Hoskins’ arbitration is $12.6 million for his final 162 before free agency. Yes, that’s a fair amount for his production, and it’s why Dave Dombrowski, PBO (president of baseball operations, tendered him a contract. And while some see this as a position to improve, who replaces him besides that’s Dombrowski’s job?

In his recent 40-minute presser, the PBO named his priorities: a starter, a shortstop and one or two backend pen pieces. But the acquisitions for the relief corps will depend on the cost and holding back $10 million for the trade deadline. And while some fans have a wish list, the reality is not so earth-shattering: It boils down to what they need.

Lineup-wise, Hoskins is a two-hole bat because the two and four are the RBI slots. But if the Phils aren’t in the thick of it, the PBO may deal Hoskins in late July because his agent is Scott Boras, who may want a lengthy negotiation the red pinstripes would not desire. Regardless, offseason moves should improve on 2022’s Phillies.

Up-the-middle defense takes precedent over the corner positions. And if Dombrowski inks a free-agent shortstop, who can hit .300 with 20-homer power, he will have the final defensive piece. He already has Realmuto, Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh, plus corner spots have traditionally been offensive positions.


Winter Additions:


Although many will want the top rotation arms, the PBO can only reach $253 million AAV (average annual value) to be $20 million AAV over the $233 million penalty threshold for a second time, which is a 30 percent tax on $20 million or $6 million. So, spending $30-45 million for a top-shelf hurler won’t be feasible with only $58.8 million AAV to hit the ceiling.

After allocating $25 million AAV for a star shortstop, the Fightins will be in the $15 million AAV range for a mid-rotation arm to slot before or after Ranger Suarez. And the tally for those two spots is $40 million AAV leaving $20 million for the pen and second-half possibilities. Moreover, you can’t assume the red pinstripes will be injury-free.

For the batting order, the Phils are favoring Xander Bogaerts, who has hit .300 or over in three of the last four campaigns (a .295 average in 2021). In fact, he may be the best fit defensively, offensively and dollar-wise. Plus Stott would slide over to second base, where many feel he’s better. Again, Darick Hall will fill in for Bryce Harper. Only a month or two.

Phillies AAV Payroll for 2023 (average annual value):

The CBA (collective bargaining agreement) with a $233 million CBT (competitive-balance threshold).

$190.7 million*Starting Point for 33 players.
$3.5 million to re-signGarrett Stubbs, Nick Maton, Nick Nelson & 2 players
$194.2 million38 players
**$58.8 million2nd baseman/shortstop & starting pitcher

** To replace Zach Eflin and Jean Segura.

* 6 of 7 Guaranteed salaries:  Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola and Nick Castellanos plus Scott Kingery (non-roster).

* 6 Arbitration eligible: Rhys Hoskins, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, Sam Coonrod and Edmundo Sosa.

* 7 Pre-arb salaries: Alec Bohm, Connor Brogdon, Bryson Stott, Matt Vierling, Bailey Falter, Brandon Marsh and Andrew Bellatti. 

* 14 players on the Phillies 40-man roster.

For the bullpen, Dombrowski mentioned Seranthony Dominguez, Jose Alvarado, Connor Brogdon and Andrew Bellatti. Plus the PBO has re-signed Sam Coonrod. Basically, the Phillies will need at least one $10 million arm and two middle relievers through the first half. And though they’d prefer two top hurlers, they can’t commit every dollar before July’s end.

Being unrealistic, many fans want Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander or Carlos Rodon. Unfortunately, Dombrowski can’t plug every hole with top-tier talent alone, even if they will be more appealing than a three-slot pitcher. But ’22 proved a club doesn’t require the best roster to make the World Series.

Basically, the inkings may not be for the stars many have in mind, but it’s not what you want but what they need. And the Fightins require a .300 bat and a major shortstop glove, a starter to slot before or after Suarez, and hopefully two backend relievers. Ergo, what they need outweighs what you prefer.

While some are anticipating a Fall Classic encore, others have their doubts. Many have again reverted to their previous winter expectations of signing the best players available without regard to cost. As usual, nothing has changed regarding pickups even after 2022’s squad, defying the odds, had won two World Series games.

Although the hot team appears to have a magical season, this may not be accurate. Basically, the 2007 Colorado Rockies seemed like a one summer fluke, but the St. Louis Cardinals make a second-half run with more regularity. And if the ’21 Phils had been at full strength, they may have made the run they did in ’22. So, look forward to ’23!