Wednesday, May 29, 2024
AnalysisMLBNational LeagueNL EastPhiladelphia Phillies

Phillies Need to Make Moves to Compete in 2021

The Phillies rebuild has been unsuccessful — to say the least. After they initiated a full tear-down around 2014-15, the expectation was that they would emerge as a top contender starting the 2018 season. However, despite a number of aggressive free agent signings and trades in recent years, the team has not finished the season above .500 since 2011. Acquisitions of names like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Zack Wheeler led to expectations of success, but a combination of mediocre play and epic bullpen meltdowns have mitigated any sustained success.

Now, the Phillies find themselves in an unfortunate situation. After the departures of Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, Jake Arrieta, and others in free agency, the Phillies have holes in their offense along with the lack of pitching depth that plagued them last season. Owner John Middleton has spent the first month of the offseason claiming that the impacts of the pandemic have left the Phillies with very little financial flexibility. If the front office does not have the clearance to acquire significant depth, which seems likely, the Phillies could be in for a rough 2021 season.

In a lesser division, the Phillies could have a decent shot at being competitive, but the NL East should be stiff competition. The Braves have won the division for the last three years, and only seem to be improving. The Mets have a talented roster and if new owner Steve Cohen puts together the offseason that many think he will, New York should be a prime contender in the National League.

The only headlines the Phillies have grabbed this offseason surround ownership’s desire to shed payroll. This has included the lack of funds to resign Realmuto, rumors of trading Wheeler, and the possibility of unloading the gargantuan Harper contract. Unfortunately for fans, all of this makes it unlikely the Phillies will add any significant pieces this offseason.

The aforementioned leave the Phillies in an awkward position for the upcoming season. Without bringing in new pieces, it is unlikely that they can hang with the top tier of the National League in 2021. However, entering anything resembling a rebuilding period is likely off the table with their prolonged playoff drought. The best-case scenario may be that the newly hired President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski can pull off a few smart trades and perhaps take advantage of a unique and unpredictable free agent market. Ideally, this would allow the Phillies to field a competitive roster in 2021 while simultaneously leaving space for significant additions next offseason after the pandemic is (hopefully) behind us.

Knowing all this, what can we realistically expect the Phillies to do this offseason?

On the offensive side, unless the market for J.T. Realmuto dries up significantly, the front office may be best served making depth signings, leaving any real spending money for the pitching staff. If the team can put together a competent pitching staff, they could rely on the big bats of Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Alec Bohm, and Andrew McCutchen to score enough runs.

On the pitching side, the Phillies could use a starter to add to the group of Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Spencer Howard. A cheap deal for a high-upside pitcher like James Paxton or José Quintana makes sense. Paxton is coming off a rough 2020 season with decreased fastball velocity and injury problems, making him an ideal buy low candidate with a proven track record of success, and while Quintana may cost a few millions more, neither pitcher is a high risk when fully healthy and built up.

In order to compete at a high level, this team will also need a number of reliable bullpen arms. Fortunately for them, there are a number of reliable relief pitchers available. Two or more of this group, that includes Liam Hendriks, Archie Bradley, Shane Greene, and others, would go a long way towards stabilizing a bullpen that was historically bad in 2020. In addition to this, the front office would be well served to sign a number of reclamation projects to minor league deals in the hopes a few can find some success at the major league level. In this pursuit, they signed Neftali Feliz to a minors deal this week.

When all is said and done, the Phillies are a team to watch moving forward. With the talent to beat top teams in a playoff series, it will be exciting to see how well they can put their pieces together and consistently win games in 2021.

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