The 2021-22 MLB offseason is a few weeks old and we saw our first major moves last week. Like the MLB season itself, the offseason is a marathon rather than a sprint -- though the impending expiration of the collective bargaining agreement throws a giant wrench into the hot stove. Still, baseball's offseason is underway.
With that in mind, we're going to examine each prospective buyer's offseason wish list over the next few days, continuing with the Philadelphia Phillies. Let's get to it.
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Phillies outfielders not named Bryce Harper hit .230/.295/.398 in nearly 1,600 plate appearances this past season. That is untenable. Philadelphia needs help in center and left fields, preferably stablished veterans to push players like Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, and Matt Vierling into depth roles. It's not just offense either. Their non-Harper outfielders posted minus-12 defensive runs saved in 2021. They need to upgrade their outfield offensively and defensively.
Wish list: Starling Marte would be ideal, though it is fair to wonder how much longer he'll remain a top of the line center fielder at age 33. Marte would give Philadelphia a legitimate leadoff force and bring a speed element to an offense that can be a little too station-to-station at times. Start your outfield with Marte and Harper, and you're in good shape. That gives you the latitude to experiment with platoons and young players in left field, if you want.
For the left field spot, either Michael Conforto or Kyle Schwarber would look lovely launching balls into the Citizens Bank Park right field seats. Lower-cost free agents like Mark Canha, Joc Pederson, and NLCS MVP Eddie Rosario would fit as well. On the trade front, Athletics center fielder Ramón Laureano would be a solid alternative to Marte, and it's worth giving the Rays a call about Kevin Kiermaier. Center field is the more difficult position to fill. Focus on that first, then figure out left field.
The left side of the infield
Last offseason the Phillies re-signed Didi Gregorius to a two-year, $28 million contract, and Year 1 went about as poorly as anyone could have expected. Gregorius didn't hit (.209/.270/.290) and his defense regressed badly. On top of that, 2020 NL Rookie of the Year runner-up Alec Bohm took a step back at the plate (.247/.305/.342) and was never much of a defender to begin with. The left side of the infield is a big question right now. Running Gregorius and Bohm back out there would be a mistake, though it may happen given Sir Didi's contract and Bohm's status as a high draft pick (No. 3 overall in 2018) and Rookie of the Year runner-up.
Wish list: Signing a top free agent shortstop (Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, etc.) seems unlikely given the money the Phillies already have on the books. A sensible alternative: Chris Taylor. He can fill in at short and third should Gregorius or Bohm flop again, and he'd also provide coverage in the outfield. Taylor can only play one position at a time, but he would serve as a pretty great Plan B all over the field while getting Plan A playing time. It's easy to get him into the lineup every game given his versatility.
Matt Chapman would be the ideal trade target at third base. He would be a gigantic defensive upgrade -- Bohm might be the worst defensive third baseman in baseball and Chapman might be the best -- and Philadelphia could either include Bohm in the trade package, or move him to left field, which might be his long-term home anyway. An under-the-radar name to watch: Adalberto Mondesi. The Royals are set on the infield with Nicky Lopez, Whit Merrifield, and soon Bobby Witt Jr., so I would assume they're at least willing to listen on Mondesi. Mondesi brings elite athleticism and loud tools, but also a long injury history. He could be a sneaky-great 300-400 plate appearance super utility guy and help the Phillies all over the infield.,
Philadelphia's bullpen wasn't nearly as bad in 2021 as it was in 2020. Of course, the bullpen posted a 4.60 ERA and 1.1 WAR in 2021, so it wasn't good, but it wasn't a full-blown disaster either. Seranthony Domínguez is expected back from Tommy John surgery next year and will provide some help, but not enough. Archie Bradley, Héctor Neris, and Ian Kennedy are all free agents, leaving José Alvarado and Connor Brogdon as the club's only holdover high-leverage relievers. The bullpen is a top priority (again).
Wish list: Raisel Iglesias and Kenley Jansen are free agents and would solidify the closer's spot, but gosh, it's tough to ignore the Craig Kimbrel/Dave Dombrowski connection, isn't it? Dombrowski, currently the Phillies president of baseball operations, traded for Kimbrel when he ran the Red Sox a few years ago. Kimbrel's trade value is down a tad given his poor showing with the White Sox and fairly expensive $16 million salary, so it might make sense to pick him up in a trade rather than give Iglesias or Jansen a long-term contract. Either way, it feels like one of these three big-name closers winds up in Philadelphia this winter.
Building a reliable middle relief unit is more about having as many options as possible than spending dollars on free agents. You need the flexibility to shuttle relievers up and down to Triple-A, and change the mix should someone not work out. The Phillies began the depth-building process by acquiring hard-throwing righty Nick Nelson from the Yankees last week. Similar trades to stockpile arms are inevitable. If the Phillies are going to throw money at middle reliever(s), slider specialist Ryan Tepera and spin-rate monster Brooks Raley are sensible free agent targets. Corey Knebel could be the fallback plan at closer should things not work out with Iglesias, Jansen, and Kimbrel.