Phillies manager Rob Thomson did not watch the World Series.
“Not a pitch,” he said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn.
It would have been too painful, he explained. Philadelphia had 2-0 and 3-2 leads over Arizona in the best-of-seven National League Championship Series, but lost Games 6 and 7 at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies’ failure to win a second consecutive NL pennant bothers Thomson so much that he still finds himself thinking about postseason moments, then going back and rewatching them.
Thomson wants to make sure those things don’t happen again. He wants the Phils to finish the job.
So, no, the Phils are not pursuing Shohei Ohtani. They are not talking to the Padres about Juan Soto. The Angels said they are not trading Mike Trout, which doesn’t really matter anyway because sources said weeks ago that the Phillies had no plans to pursue him.
Philadelphia isn’t interested in free-agent closer Josh Hader, either. Essentially, the Phillies would like to add an outfielder to complement Nick Castellanos, Brandon Marsh, Johan Rojas and Cristian Pache, and a reliever to either replace Craig Kimbrel in the late innings or pitch multiple innings.
The Phillies believe they can win the World Series with what they’ve got, and a little more. Thomson explained why he believes it can work.
“Because I think you're going to get a better [Bryson] Stott, a better [Alec] Bohm,” the skipper said. “The younger guys are going to -- I think they will improve a little bit. You’ve got a full year of Trea [Turner] that's going to be Trea, hopefully. You're going to have [Bryce] Harper for a full year, hopefully.
“I really like our roster. I felt like we had a great chance at winning a World Series, and it really hurts me that we didn't. It hurts me more than it did the year before when we did get to the World Series and didn't win it. Because I just thought we were good, we were good enough.
“So, I love our roster. I love the makeup of our club, the talent of our club. I think we're right there.”
Thomson touched on several topics Tuesday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Resort:
The Phillies will not anoint Rojas as their everyday center fielder, although he will get every opportunity to prove himself. Asked what he needs to see in Spring Training, Thomson said, “I think getting back to his regular-season at-bats, where he's using the field, swinging at strikes, not chasing, that type of thing.”
If Rojas struggles, Thomson said Marsh could open in center field, although Pache is an option.
But, really, this is where the unsigned outfielder could come into play.
“We want to do the best thing, the right thing for Johan,” Thomson said. “And if that is going to Triple-A and getting how many ever at-bats that he needs, then that's what we'll do.”
Thomson said he is already thinking about his ideal 2024 lineup, but right now it sounds like it could be Kyle Schwarber and Turner in the 1-2 spots again.
“The one thing that you can't argue is that when Schwarber's at the top of the lineup, we won a lot of games,” Thomson said. “I don't know how to really get away from that. But I am thinking through a lot of different things.”
The Phillies are not pursuing Hader in part because they believe they can handle the late innings by choosing pitchers based on matchups, like seasons past. “We won a lot of games doing it the way we're doing it,” Thomson said. “I'm comfortable with the way we do it. If we had a set guy, that would be great, but I'm comfortable with what we do.”
For the first time in a long time, there will be no battle for a job in the Phillies’ rotation.
“I was really pleased with him last year,” Thomson said. “He came leaps and bounds.”
Thomson said he thinks Sánchez can make 25-30 starts because of his strike-throwing ability and his changeup.
Walker expressed his frustrations following the NLCS, liking a couple tweets, including one that was harshly critical of Thomson’s managing. Thomson said he has texted back and forth with Walker, and that everything is cool.
“Everything's good,” Thomson said. “Taijuan is a great guy. I love his competitiveness. I love the way he works. He's a great teammate. There's no issues there.”
Soto was supposed to be a late-inning weapon for the Phillies in 2023, but it didn’t play out that way, especially late in the season. He fell behind José Alvarado, Kimbrel, Jeff Hoffman, Matt Strahm, Seranthony Domínguez, and even Orion Kerkering, on the depth chart. The Phillies need a better version of Soto in 2024.
“It’s about consistency with him, because when he throws the ball over the plate, he gets outs,” Thomson said. “Whether that's delivery, mindset, whatever it is, that's what we're going to go try to attack in Spring Training, just to get him to be a little -- to power the ball through the zone and just let it happen, try not to be too fine.
“Because the stuff's going to eat hitters up if he throws strikes.”