NASHVILLE -- The Phillies will do something again at some point. In fact, they could have done something Tuesday.
“Today, I could have made a trade,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said during the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort. “Somebody would have said, 'Jeez, that's a good trade.' I could have traded [Orion] Kerkering for somebody like that today. I said, 'I don't really want to do that.' Because, if we're going to have all of these star players, we also have to have some young players that are not making a lot of money.”
The Phillies are not finished trying to upgrade their roster before Spring Training. They would like to find an outfielder to improve their depth and a reliever to help the bullpen. Maybe something else presents itself along the way. But the Phils are not pursuing Shohei Ohtani, Juan Soto or Josh Hader. Philly’s lack of involvement in the star market -- after years of being heavily involved every winter -- has left some fans confused, concerned or even frustrated.
Dombrowski explained why he believes the Phillies will be OK.
“I mean, we did sign Aaron Nola,” he said, referring to the seven-year, $172 million contract. “That's pretty big. The one thing I think you always have to be careful about is – and I understand this -- individuals are fascinated -- and I like them -- by star players. Right? We have a bundle of star players. Right? You’ve got two starting pitchers in [Zack] Wheeler and [Aaron] Nola, who are stars. We’ve got an All-Star catcher. We've got an All-Star first baseman now. We’ve got an All-Star shortstop, highly paid. DH, right fielder. That's seven. And that doesn't even include our young guys. The Stotts. The Bohms. The Marshes. The Walkers. The Suárezes. It doesn’t include anybody from the bullpen.
“You can only have so many stars. I think your better clubs have complementary players. … Now, we've been fortunate that [Bryson] Stott, [Alec] Bohm, [Brandon] Marsh are those types of guys. [Cristopher] Sánchez is that type of guy. I'm not saying that, hey, if somebody said, 'Here's a star for nothing', you do that. I want to keep some of our young players. Because they're good.”
So the Phillies are trying to find value at the margins. The rotation is set with Wheeler, Nola, Ranger Suárez, Taijuan Walker and Sánchez. Nick Nelson, Dylan Covey and prospect Mick Abel are the rotation depth for now. The organization still views No. 5 prospect Griff McGarry as a starter, but he is further behind Abel after struggling in Triple-A.
“Not counting on breaking camp with the club,” Dombrowski said about Abel, “but I've been with young guys who are very talented, and you never can tell when they all of a sudden -- boom -- find it. He does have that type of talent. But I don't want to put that on him because also we’re set with our rotation, too. So it’s a good spot. But sure, I hope that we're in that spot that where we see him at some time during the year because he's pitched well enough to do so.”
The Phillies tendered a $1 million contract to Jake Cave to avoid arbitration. For now, he gives the Phils an extra option in the outfield. He is out of Minor League options.
“Who's better that can fit those type roles out there?” Dombrowski said about Cave. “I'm not sure you're gonna find a lot of different names. … Maybe you’re in a position where [Johan] Rojas isn't with us and you might go with some platoon scenarios out there in left field. So maybe he fits into that.”
The Phillies might have two bullpen jobs available, with Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti, Covey and others competing for them. Those three are also out of Minor League options.
“It’s going to force some decisions for us,” Dombrowski said. “I don't know how it will fall exactly. Will they pitch well enough that you put them on the club because they’re out of options? You can make a trade. I think we can address those things as time goes on.
“I think we're going to do some things as time goes on. But, as you can see, there's not a lot going on because everybody right now is doing the big guys. So that next tier, they're still looking for those dollars. But they're not all going to get them. It's just taking a little longer. But we're on top of it. We're not just satisfied. We want to get better.”