PHILADELPHIA -- If you watched the Dodgers’ run to the World Series, including their comeback against the Braves in the National League Championship Series, then you probably wonder how the Phillies can make enough improvements to challenge the NL’s best next year.
They have plenty of work to do. Here are some things to know as the offseason begins.
Philadelphia has a $12 million club option on Robertson (with a $2 million buyout) and a $4.5 million club option on Phelps (with a $250,000 buyout). It will exercise the buyout on Robertson, and it very likely will take the buyout on Phelps. After joining the club at this year’s Trade Deadline, Phelps had a 12.91 ERA in 10 appearances. But even acknowledging that he is much, much better than that, Phelps signed free-agent deals for $2.5 million in 2019 and $1.5 million in ‘20. It is hard to imagine he gets $4.5 million from anybody, especially in this market.
Did any of them receive qualifying offers?
Realmuto received a one-year, $18.9 million qualifying offer and now has 10 days to accept or reject the offer. The Phillies did not extend the offer to Gregorius.
Realmuto will reject it. If he accepts it, he is no longer a free agent and is signed to a one-year deal with the Phillies. Realmuto is eyeing a record-shattering contract for a catcher, perhaps in the $200 million range. If he rejects the qualifying offer and signs elsewhere, the Phils will receive Draft-pick compensation. It will be a small consolation prize, especially if they watch Miami’s Sixto Sánchez pitch against them for the next several years.
Regardless, the club is not optimistic that Realmuto will return.
“Can you tell me what the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia are going to allow us to have next year in the way of fans?” Phillies managing partner John Middleton said. “Because if you do, you know something that I don't. So I have no idea what we're going to be allowed. Obviously, that will determine our revenues, and revenues determine what you can do and what you can't do.”
In normal times, the Phillies might have made the qualifying offer to Gregorius. But they seemingly did not want to lock themselves into a one-year, $18.9 million deal. They could roll the dice and try to re-sign him for less. Every dollar counts this offseason.
No other free agent was a candidate for a qualifying offer.
Other than Realmuto and Gregorius, are there any other free agents the Phillies might try to re-sign?
Álvarez was the team’s best reliever until he was injured in August. They could try to bring him back. The Phillies need outfield depth, but it is difficult seeing them bring back Bruce, unless the price is right.
Who might be non-tender candidates, and when do the Phillies have to make that decision?
It might be better to ask: Who are the best bets to be tendered contracts before the Dec. 2 deadline?
Eflin and Hoskins are locks. Neris and Knapp are safe bets, too. The Phillies have a $7 million club option on Neris. They could decline the option, but tender him a contract and try to re-sign him for less.
Domínguez is recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he might not pitch again until late next year. He could make $900,000 in arbitration. The Phillies must ask themselves if they can stomach the potential price to keep him in the fold or non-tender him and risk losing him. A team that believes in Domínguez’s talent might try to steal him.
Velasquez might be on the bubble. He made $3.6 million this season, but the Phils could go in another direction, even though they are remarkably short on starting pitching depth. Hale made only $800,000 this season, but he was a long man. The club's money would be better spent elsewhere.
Left-hander Morgan just had surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his left elbow. He will be sidelined for six to nine months, making him a likely non-tender candidate. Parker, Hembree and Gosselin fit in that category, too.
When is the deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft?
What kind of help do they need, and will they be active in free agency? Who might they target?
The Phillies need a lot of help, and they will not be spending as much as they did last season, when they had the highest payroll in franchise history and one of the top five payrolls in baseball.
Everything seems to start and end with Realmuto, right?
But consider this: Say the Phillies break the bank to keep Realmuto. Then what? They still need a shortstop, at least one or two starters, an entirely reconstructed bullpen and an outfielder or two. It would take an excellent offseason from their front office to find the correct pieces at the right price.
But who will be making those decisions for Philadelphia? Will it be a new president of baseball operations or general manager? Interim general manager Ned Rice with the help of former GM Matt Klentak, who remains with the organization as an advisor? Is team president Andy MacPhail going to be more involved, as Middleton suggested? Will owner Pat Gillick, special assistant Terry Ryan and others be asked to share their opinions? Gillick always had a knack for finding diamonds in the rough. His input should be sought. Ryan made the postseason several times working for the small-market Twins. His input should be sought, too.