Heading into the free agency period this year, most reports have been a bit depressing from the player point of view. We've heard things about how major players like the Cubs, Dodgers and Yankees might not be willing to spend top dollar. We hear about teams like the Diamondbacks and Mariners wanting to sell off. With the league continuing to swim in cash -- MLB just agreed to a deal with Fox for seven years and $5.1 billion for national TV rights alone -- it's a bit maddening.
is anyone gonna spend big? Yes. The Phillies.
We've long thought this to be the case. They are a large-market ballclub with only an estimated payroll of $114.6M committed to next season and the salary commitment for 2021 is a paltry $15.1 million. They could go nuts if ownership wanted to. According to owner John Middleton in an interview with USA Today, he is pretty good with that.
"We're going into this expecting to spend money,'' Middleton told USA TODAY Sports. "And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.''
Middleton laughed, then said without smiling: "We just prefer not to be completely stupid."
Let's get stupid!
The Phillies are coming off an 80-82 season in which they were actually in first place as late as August 12. They were only two games out heading into September. Bottom line: This is a contender that isn't losing anyone from the foundation of the team and is now looking to spend big in free agency to supplement the talent.
Two big names jump off the page this season in free agency, and they are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado.
In the case of Harper, it would make the most sense for the Phillies to deal Carlos Santana to an AL team to DH while pushing Rhys Hoskins to first base. Even if they don't, however, they can easily fit Harper and rearrange the other furniture how they see fit.
Machado is an easy fit at shortstop too, with Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford having thus far not been able to establish themselves at the major-league level. The Phillies actually got the worst shortstop play in baseball last season, per Baseball-Reference wins above average.
I'm still dubious when it comes to the Phillies' ability to land both, but it's possible. They'll certainly be heavily in on the bidding for both superstars.
Past that, the rotation doesn't have any southpaws, so Patrick Corbin and/or Dallas Keuchel could fit. If they go with a righty, Charlie Morton is familiar and his wife's family is from nearby Delaware (he's been said to be worried about being away from his kids too much).
The back-end of the bullpen currently has Seranthony Dominguez, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter. What if they bumped everyone back a spot and threw Craig Kimbrel into the closer role? That would move the needle. Adam Ottavino, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Cody Allen and a host of other relievers are on the market as well.
If they don't land Harper, A.J. Pollock and Andrew McCutchen are out there.
Behind the plate, the Phillies could bring back Wilson Ramos or elect to pursue Yasmani Grandal.
Don't consider anything off the table for now when it comes to the Phillies. Especially if you're a Phillies fan, go nuts. It sounds like that's just what ownership is willing to do.