Although they officially signed catcher J.T. Realmuto to a five-year, $115.5 million contract on Friday, the Phillies still have a lot of work to do to challenge for the National League East crown.
In their first two seasons with Realmuto and Bryce Harper in the fold, the Phillies went 109-113 (.491 winning percentage), missing the postseason both years.
ZiPS’ updated 2021 NL East standings put Philadelphia in fourth place with an 80-82 record, behind the Braves (91-71), Mets (90-72) and Nationals (86-76).
It’s not going to be easy, but here are some realistic moves Philadelphia could make to significantly improve its 2021 postseason hopes while remaining under the CBT line.
Adding a strong defender in center field would be especially valuable for the Phillies, who have Andrew McCutchen (-3 OAA in 2020) in left and Harper (+0 OAA in ’20) in right.
As a bonus, signing Bradley would keep him away from the rival Mets, who need a center fielder and are said to be eyeing the 30-year-old after missing out on George Springer.
Sign Jake McGee
With a long list of accomplished relievers remaining on the market, the Phillies may be able to snag McGee for $3 million or so on a one-year deal.
Trade for Trevor Story
While Bradley and McGee would be nice additions, this is the type of blockbuster move the Phillies need to make to be a serious contender in the NL East this season.
Story would become the second superstar shortstop to be traded this offseason, joining Francisco Lindor. To get Lindor and Carlos Carrasco from Cleveland, the Mets traded two former MLB Pipeline Top 100 prospects in Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario, plus righty Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene, New York’s No. 9 and 10 prospects, respectively. Lindor, like Story, can become a free agent next offseason.
Spencer Howard, the Phillies’ No. 1 prospect (MLB's No. 42), may be off limits, but Philadelphia has another pitcher on MLB Pipeline’s newly released Top 100 prospects list -- right-hander Mick Abel, the 15th overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Shortstop Bryson Stott, meanwhile, was part of the Top 100 in 2020.
To convince the Phillies to part with both prospects, the Rockies agree to take back Jean Segura, who is guaranteed $31.7 million over the next two seasons, including a $1 million assignment bonus for being traded. The Phillies can chip in $10 million -- $5 million in 2021 and $5 million in '22 -- to cover part of Segura’s contract.
The full (hypothetical) trade:
Phillies get: SS Trevor Story
Rockies get: RHP Mick Abel (MLB’s No. 76 prospect), INF Jean Segura, SS Bryson Stott, $10 million
Would Colorado do it? With the Rockies reportedly close to a trade that would send third baseman Nolan Arenado to the Cardinals, they may be better off continuing down the path toward a rebuild rather than attempting to re-sign their 28-year-old shortstop to a new contract, as the NL West could be dominated by the Dodgers and Padres for the foreseeable future.
Using estimated contract figures for Bradley (two years, $18 million) and McGee (one year, $3 million), these three moves would add $20.65 million to the Phillies’ 2021 payroll and $16.75 million to their CBT figure, putting them between $11 million and $11.5 million below the $210 million tax line.
The Phillies would have less than $120 million in guaranteed money on the books in 2022, meanwhile, leaving plenty of room to re-sign Story.
Philadelphia’s ability to complete this plan is heavily contingent on the team moving Segura, which could prove difficult. The veteran infielder will soon be 31, and he hasn’t posted an OPS over .800 since 2016. Segura also has a full no-trade clause, and he may be unwilling to waive it to go to a rebuilding team such as Colorado.
Even if the Phillies can pull that off, trading two of their top three prospects for a player with one year of team control remaining is a risky move for a club that already has one of the weaker farm systems in the game. But it's a risk they need to take. The club isn't good enough to contend for a title as is, and it isn't going to rebuild with Harper, Realmuto and Zack Wheeler signed to big-money deals.