By only looking at the last month of the season, many would understandably feel the 2022 Philadelphia Phillies were somewhat of a disappointment. After a great start to the postseason in which they only lost two games before reaching the World Series, they would eventually lose to the Houston Astros in six games.
However, looking at the much larger picture offers a more positive outlook.
After a rough two-month start to the season, they fired their manager, named a man who had never managed before as the interim manager, and lost the reigning National League MVP for a two-month stretch in the middle of the year. They would go on to become the National League Champions; something the organization hadn’t achieved since 2009.
So, yes, 2022 was a success, even though the ultimate goal of becoming World Champions didn’t come to fruition.
Questions and Answers
Even though it didn’t end with a world championship, 2022 offered answers to important questions.
The Phillies now know the core of their current roster is able to get into the postseason and win games. They were able to find their next manager in Rob Thomson. Also, some of their young players, like Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott, not only developed over the course of the year but contributed down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Philadelphia was able to go on a deep playoff run and was a good team in 2022. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be tweaks made to the roster or that there aren’t other questions surrounding the team.
One of those questions involves how much money they will spend on the roster for next season. Another is if they are going to pursue a shortstop that is available on the free agent market. There is also a question about how they are going to construct their pitching staff in 2023.
Before attempting to answer those questions, here is a look at what transpired with their roster before the start of free agency:
The following players became free agents after their contracts expired:
- Noah Syndergaard, Kyle Gibson, David Robertson, Brad Hand, Corey Knebel, Johan Camargo, and Chris Devenski.
There were other decisions made involving options in some other contracts:
- The team exercised the 2023 club option in Aaron Nola‘s contract, and declined the club option in Jean Segura‘s contract, making him a free agent. Zach Eflin also became a free agent after declining his side of a mutual option for the 2023 season.
Now, back to the questions mentioned above.
The Competitive Balance Tax
Around this time last year, the question of whether or not the Phillies were going to go over the luxury tax surrounded the organization. It will certainly be discussed this offseason, as well.
Right now, a rough projection of the Phillies’ 2023 payroll has them spending around $170 million. The projection includes a guess as to how much arbitration and pre-arbitration contracts, along with some other items that count towards the payroll, will cost the Phillies. That would leave the club with around $60 million to spend this offseason in free agency without going over the 2023 competitive balance tax threshold of $233 million.
Phillies’ managing partner, John Middleton, has been open about wanting to win another World Series. With the team falling two wins short this year, it will be interesting to see if he gives President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski the okay to go over the tax threshold once again this offseason.
It does seem like ownership has given the front office the same amount of flexibility with the payroll as last offseason.
Dombrowski recently spoke at the General Manager Meetings in Las Vegas and had this to say about the 2023 payroll:
“…I don’ think we’re going to cut our salaries back. But I’m not really going to make a specific declaration…Our owners want us to do well. They’re very aggressive in that regard.”
Since they exceeded the threshold of $230 million in 2022, they will have to pay a tax of 20 percent of however much they spent over that number. If they do so again in 2023, the penalty will be increased to a 30 percent tax on all overages since it would be their second consecutive season going over the tax threshold.
Does Middleton want to win? Yes. Is he willing to give the go-ahead to have a projected payroll north of $233 million next year? It seems like he is, but it all depends on if the team can land the free agents they want.
Pursuing A Shortstop
With Jean Segura a free agent, it leaves a hole in the middle of the infield. The most likely scenario right now is that the Phillies will move Bryson Stott to second base full-time next year. This would give them the freedom to sign a shortstop.
It seems as though the Phillies would like to go after Turner or Bogaerts. The only people who really know their current plans are Dombrowski and the rest of the front office.
It is easy to link both Turner and Bogaerts to the Phillies. Turner is a former National and teammate of Bryce Harper, so he knows the N.L. East very well. He could be given some insight on the team and be persuaded by Harper to come to Philadelphia.
There have also been reports that Turner has liked playing for the Dodgers and is open to the idea of staying out west. His hope, though, is to return to the East Coast this winter. He grew up in Florida and played his collegiate baseball at NC State.
The current consensus by some does have Philadelphia as the front runners to land Turner in free agency:
The main connection between Xander Bogaerts and the Phillies organization is Dombrowski. He was the President of Baseball Operations of the Boston Red Sox when Bogaerts signed the contract he just opted out of.
Turner and Bogaerts would both make sense for the Phillies. Nobody should rule out the possibility of them pursuing Correa or Swanson, though. Correa is the youngest, and arguably the best, shortstop of the group. Swanson could make sense financially if the Phillies are hoping to sign a shortstop and a starting pitcher this winter.
The Phillies have set up their roster to fit the signing of a shortstop.
In the outfield, they have Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, and Matt Vierling coming back. Their current infield for next year consists of Rhys Hoskins, Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm, Edmundo Sosa, and Nick Maton. Behind the plate, they have J.T. Realmuto and Garrett Stubbs.
If they end up signing a shortstop, the Phillies should have a strong roster next season.
How the Phillies start to put together their pitching staff for next year is an interesting topic to dive into. They went through their postseason run in 2022 without having a true fourth starter while piecing their bullpen together.
That being said, they will probably have to add to their rotation for two reasons, one being the need more depth in their rotation if they want to make another deep playoff run in 2023. The other is that Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola can’t be the only two workhorses in the rotation.
Wheeler was shut down for a month from late August into September with forearm tendinitis and experienced fatigue during the postseason. He was also behind schedule at the start of spring training and the regular season due to shoulder discomfort. Wheeler has pitched a good amount of innings since joining the Phillies, and it showed in 2022.
Aaron Nola has also had a heavy workload over the years. He looked like he ran out of gas starting in the National League Championship Series against the San Diego Padres. Including the postseason, Nola threw 230.2 innings, which was the most in baseball this year.
With Wheeler and Nola showing signs of wear and tear, it would benefit the Phillies to add depth to the starting rotation to help decrease the workload for their two best pitchers.
Ranger Suarez is developing into a nice left-handed starter for the Phillies. Beyond him, there isn’t a pitcher who seems ready to take on the responsibility of providing innings in the regular season and the playoffs.
If they want to add a third big arm to the rotation, they will have to spend money on one in free agency. They could also make a trade, which may not be likely given their lack of top prospects.
Going the free agent route could lead to the pursuit of Carlos Rodon. Rodon seemed like a player Philadelphia had an interest in at the trade deadline, but they couldn’t come to terms on a deal. They could also pursue right-handed starter Chris Bassitt. There are other starters available to sign, but those two might be the most likely options for the Phillies.
Another option the Phillies could lean into to fill out their rotation comes from within their organization. Three names many Phillies fans came to know over the course of 2022: Andrew Painter, Mick Abel, and Griff McGarry, could be called upon to pitch for the big league club next season.
Andrew Painter is the best prospect out of the three. He was MLB Pipeline’s Pitcher of the Year, Baseball America’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Phillies’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2022.
Painter, who is 19 years old, pitched at three different levels in 2022; Single-A, High-A, and Double-A. He threw a total of 103.2 innings, with 155 strikeouts, 55 walks, a 1.56 ERA, a .181 batting average against, and a 0.89 WHIP.
When answering questions back around the time of the trade deadline, Dave Dombrowski had this to say about the young pitching talent the organization currently has:
“…there are some people that could be competing for spots next year that are youngsters. I’ve had no problem pitching guys who are 20 years old and having a lot of success and putting them in the big the leagues… They’ll be going to Spring Training with us next year. I mean, some of those young guys are really good”
Clearly, Dombrowski has no issues using any of the three top arms currently sitting in the Phillies’ farm system at the big league level in 2023. While they probably won’t rely on those guys to give them a heavy workload in the majors right away, they could be expected to provide the Phillies with quality innings out of the starting rotation or the bullpen in 2023.
The front office is also likely going to improve the bullpen. The Phillies’ bullpen had a 4.27 ERA in 2022, which was 23rd in the majors.
The team did see an emergence of two arms in the back of the bullpen in Seranthony Dominguez and Jose Alvarado. They will still have to add other relievers in order to have a stronger bullpen moving forward.
How the Phillies address their pitching depth needs doesn’t matter, as long as they do address it. Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola can’t continue to be the only two workhorses the Phillies have. They are in need of some middle relievers, too.
Whether it’s by way of free agency, digging into the farm system, or both, if the team expects to win next year, pitching is going to have to be added to the roster.
The 2022 Phillies were a success. Not only did they end their lengthy playoff drought, but they also won the National League.
Ownership and the front office shouldn’t get complacent, though, and it doesn’t seem as if they will. All signs point to another aggressive push from the front office to put together a championship-caliber team for 2023.
How they put that kind of team together depends on three answers to three major questions.
- Will they exceed the competitive balance tax once again?
- Is a free agent shortstop at the top of their wish list?
- What is the plan for the 2023 pitching staff?
Between now and the start of spring training, there is plenty of work to be done for the Phillies’ front office.
Featured Photo: Twitter / @Phillies