Phils eye FA shortstop market, prep to spend big

November 13th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki's Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

I imagine you want to talk about Trea Turner.

Everybody wants to talk about Turner. From the moment the Phillies declined Jean Segura’s $17 million club option for 2023, the speculation ratcheted up that they will take a run at the free-agent shortstop. In fact, the buzz at the GM Meetings was that the Phils were favorites to sign him. The reasons include everything from the club’s financial muscle to Dave Dombrowski’s love of star players to John Middleton wanting his (bleeping) trophy back to Bryson Stott’s ability to play second base to Turner’s fondness for the East Coast and his friendship with Bryce Harper.

Maybe they land Turner for every one of those reasons.

But the first reason -- financial muscle -- is the most likely.

“I would just say, I don’t think we’re looking to cut our salaries back, but I’m not really going to make a specific declaration,” Dombrowski said Wednesday at the GM Meetings. "We have our budget in place. … We had a lot of money that came off. Our owners want us to do well. They’re very aggressive in that regard.”

It goes without saying that Turner would be a fantastic addition to the Phillies. From 2018-22, he ranks seventh in baseball with 24.9 fWAR and 14th with 22.9 bWAR.

But this isn’t a Turner-or-nothing situation. Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson are free-agent shortstops, too.

“There are four really good shortstops out there, right?” Dombrowski said. “I wouldn’t get into any specifics on which ones we like, but we like all of them, as I think probably every club in baseball. That’s not a revelation. We like them all.”

Because the Phillies have money to spend and because they have a need, they can be aggressive and sign one of them.

“We have complete flexibility to do whatever we like,” Dombrowski said. “So that’s how I would answer that question. We’ll just see what happens. … We have a young player in Stott that we really like a lot. He can play short or second. We also have a young player in [Edmundo Sosa] that we like a lot. We feel that even if we didn’t sign Jean back and we didn’t do anything else, internally we have some answers ourselves. But it also gives us, as the winter progresses, complete flexibility to make additions as we want.”

One note about Turner and other free agents: Take any buzz about a player’s preferred destination with a grain of salt. In the end, the player almost always takes the best offer. As he should.

Turner very well might want to play for the Phillies more than anybody else. He might have even told his agents at CAA, “Try to make Philly happen.” But if another team significantly outbids the Phils, he probably will sign with that team.

Remember the reports throughout the 2018-19 offseason that Harper preferred the West Coast and did not want to play for the Phillies? Remember the reports that Manny Machado preferred the East Coast and did not want to play on the West Coast?

Where did they end up? Where the money was.