Phillies offseason FAQ: What to look for

November 2nd, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- The National League East suddenly looks a little tougher with the Braves in the World Series.

Philadelphia will try to snap Atlanta’s four-year reign atop the division in 2022. It starts by making the right moves in the offseason. Here are a few answers to some frequently asked offseason questions by Phillies fans:

Which players are free agents?
The Phillies have seven players who will become free agents one day after the final game of the World Series (listed in alphabetical order): , , , , , and .

Are any of them likely to receive qualifying offers, and when is the deadline for that?
In short, no.

Last year’s qualifying offer was $18.9 million, meaning any free agent accepting it would be signed to a one-year, $18.9 million contract. Last year, the Phillies made the offer to J.T. Realmuto. They fully expected him to reject it, because they knew he wanted to sign a record-setting multiyear contract instead. But the offer protected the Phillies if he signed elsewhere, because they would have at least received Draft-pick compensation. Because none of the current Phillies’ free agents will come close to a one-year, $19 million contract on the open market, it would be surprising to see any of them receive it.

The deadline to make a qualifying offer is at 5 p.m. ET, five days after the final game of the World Series. The deadline to accept is 10 days later.

Which players have options, and what’s the dollar figure and the impact on the payroll?
Andrew McCutchen and Odúbel Herrera each have club options for 2022.

McCutchen has a $15 million club option with a $3 million buyout. Herrera has an $11.5 million club option with a $2.5 million buyout. The Phillies are expected to exercise buyouts with both players. McCutchen, 35, crushed left-handed pitching last season, but struggled against righties and had to be monitored at times because of left knee issues. McCutchen would be a valuable platoon-type player, but not at that price for a team that says it needs to spread around its money to solve its issues.

Herrera is interesting. He is still under club control, even if the Phillies take the buyout, because he remains eligible for salary arbitration. So, in theory, the Phillies could exercise the buyout, then try to re-sign him for less and bring him back. Why would they do that? Because the Phillies have few internal options they can count on to produce near the big league average in the outfield. Herrera had a .726 OPS and a 95 OPS+ in 2021. It could be better, of course, but it also could be much worse.

Who are the non-tender candidates, and when does the club have to make that decision?
The Phillies have nine players eligible for salary arbitration (listed in alphabetical order): José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, Zach Eflin, Rhys Hoskins, Travis Jankowski, Andrew Knapp, Roman Quinn and Ronald Torreyes. Herrera also will be eligible, if the club option is declined.

The deadline to tender contracts to these players is 8 p.m. ET on Dec. 2. If they are not tendered contracts, they will become free agents.

Alvarado, Domínguez, Eflin and Hoskins are expected to be tendered deals. Knapp could be non-tendered if the Phillies feel comfortable with their organizational catching depth (Rafael Marchan, Logan O’Hoppe, etc.) Jankowski, Quinn and Torreyes are likely to be non-tendered, but it does not mean they will not return on Minor League deals.

What kind of help do they need, and will they be active in free agency? Who might they target?
The Phillies need to rebuild their bullpen because Neris, Bradley and Kennedy are free agents. They particularly need to find a lockdown closer.

They also need to find at least one outfielder (maybe two), and figure out what’s happening on the left side of the infield. The Phillies said Alec Bohm is a third baseman and only a third baseman (as opposed to working out at first base and left field), but that he will have to earn his job next spring. Didi Gregorius is entering the second year of a two-year, $28 million contract, but he suffered the worst year of his career in 2021, and the Phillies said he needs to earn his job, too.

President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski was asked last month if the Phillies could sign a high-priced free agent, like they have in recent offseasons (Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, etc.).

“Could we?” Dombrowski asked. “Yes, I’d say we could. But is that the answer? We have star players, so the star-player aspect of it, we probably match up with most organizations at the top. But you also need to get complementary pieces that fit together for you and do better jobs.”

It sounds like an organization that wants to spread its money around. If that is the case, it probably rules out free agents like Kris Bryant, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager. But does it rule out somebody like Nick Castellanos? Marcus Semien?