After exciting journey, time to re-Phil the tank


Hot Stove Time: The Phillies, after a triumphant run through the World Series in October and November, now turn their eyes to December and the free agent market.

Were the 2022 Phillies a success? It’s safe to say that they were. Going from a team who’s been consistently behind in their stacked NL East division for the past decade, to one who has not only been seen as not only a legitimate competitor against their division rivals, but also one that made their first world series appearance in 13 years, is a feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed. However, while the main structure that made the team is still present, some members of the team have either opted for free agency, have had their contracts denied, or have gotten certain medical diagnoses that will make them unable to play until later next season.

The Phillies need to acquire players this offseason, and they have the money – and the mojo – to do so. Coming off a red-hot World Series run, players coming to Philly aren’t just coming to a city with money, having a record-breaking $177 million projected total payroll for 2023, but also a city with real playoff and winning potential.

They used critical pieces such as Jean Segura and Zach Eflin throughout the postseason, who, while having relatively small parts in the long run, did have a larger impact if thought about further. Segura, for example, drove in the hit that began the go-ahead onslaught of runs that saved the Phils in Game 1 of the Wild Card series against the Cardinals. Eflin would finish off the Cardinals in this game as well. Neither of them have had their contracts renewed for the 2023 season with the Phillies.

Bryce Harper, the Phillies’ star slugger, has been the tragic hero of the team’s run this year. Injuring his elbow early in the year, and then breaking his thumb in an at-bat against the Padres half-way through the season, Harper found himself on the disabled list, then serving as the team’s designated hitter. Upon his return, his production wasn’t the same as before his injuries, and Phillies fans weren’t too keen to let him slide. However, he proved himself to be the Phillies’ postseason hero, launching 6 home runs, including a two-run go-ahead shot in the NLCS, leading the Phillies to the World Series.

Harper, after the World Series, now finds himself in recovery again, after having Tommy John surgery on his elbow, meaning he likely won’t be back in any capacity until the All-Star Break next year.

The Phillies need to find solutions, and fast. Their pitching is good, not great. Their hitting is certainly above average, but they now face the holes punched by Harper and Segura’s losses to fill. Their defense is, as always, abysmal, save for a few players’ performances (Bohm, Marsh, and Castellanos, anybody?).

Their first priority needs to be finding a replacement for second-baseman Jean Segura, which will seem to be current shortstop Bryson Stott. But who will replace Bryson Stott at short? A good couple of people could fit the position. First pick: Trea Turner. Second? Carlos Correa. Third, Bogaerts. Fourth, Dansby Swanson. An underrated fifth pick, in my opinion, could be Elvis Andrus. Much like Jean Segura, he doesn’t hit for power, but for contact.

With Andrus, you get contact and good fielding, at a nice price, estimated at just $4.5 million market value. This could potentially open up pitchers to give the Phillies more pitching depth, as well as another DH signing to replace Harper for the short-term.

Pitching depth is a lesser, but still important, issue for the team. Despite having aces such as Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, their bullpen has been leached of its dominance with the disappearances of David Robertson, Kyle Gibson, and Zach Eflin. One potential solution could be for the Phillies to call up some new minor-league pitching prospects, such as Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, who have really shown their pitching prowess in the Phillies’ lower-level teams this year. However, there are many pitchers on the free-agent market this year, and the Phils are ready to spend.

While the Rangers and Giants seem confident about signing him, the Phillies also have shown interest in veteran starting pitcher Carlos Rodon. While he is getting up there in age, turning 30 this December, pitchers nearly a decade older than him, such as Justin Verlander, continue to show their pitching skills even in modern baseball, winning awards such as Cy Youngs and Gold Gloves.

This could give the Phillies the ability to move some under-performing starters into the bullpen, in order to give a transition from the higher-stressed environment of the mound from the first inning to the bullpen, where you may or may not be needed. Bailey Falter is a good example of this, not even lasting a full inning in Game 4 of the NLCS against the Padres, giving up four runs, while only getting two outs. He is, however, a much more dominant relief pitcher than he is a starter, meaning the starting rotation and the relief rotation could be swapped around in order to make things better for both sides.

Regardless of any signings the Phillies make this offseason, it’s fair to say, though, that this year’s team may be the worst of the Phillies that we see in the coming years. They’ll continue to improve under new management and, if they receive the help of new players, they should improve to the point where they become one of the most consistently feared teams in baseball, and, hopefully, will be repeating its appearance in the postseason.