Two wins. That’s what separated the Philadelphia Phillies from a World Series Championship and them pulling off one of the greatest upsets in baseball history. Now, another grueling 162-game regular season awaits them in 2023 and with a taste of a deep playoff run that left a nasty after taste, there are going to be a few changes in order to arrive at the final destination.
Most of the team will be returning, especially in the lineup with sluggers like Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos and J.T Realmuto all locked in for the long haul. Aaron Nola’s option was picked up as he will join Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suarez back in the rotation.
As far as the other two option-based decisions, Zach Eflin declined his side of a mutual option for another year at $15 million. The Phillies also elected to decline the $17 million team option on Jean Segura, which may be the end of his four-year tenure in Philadelphia.
After years of being many pieces away, the Phillies are only a couple pieces away from a championship. So, how can they build that perfect championship roster? Here is what my ideal offseason would look like for the Phightins.
Sign a premier shortstop
By now, most Philly fans have heard the rumors about the Phillies going after a superstar shortstop, with this year’s market featuring Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts and Dansby Swanson. On paper, I would say there’s no need to pay top dollar for a premier shortstop with all the offensive firepower they already have. However, the Phillies lineup features a lot of streaky hitters and it would be ideal to add another slugger that can keep the offense going when some other guys are struggling. The hot stove rumors have indicated that the likelihood of Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts coming to Philly is very realistic. If the Phillies fail to sign a premier shortstop, Bryson Stott needs to be back at shortstop. Stott was a rookie shortstop on a team that went to the World Series. That isn’t common and nothing to scoff at. As far as second base goes, if Plan A doesn’t happen, I would like to see Jean Segura return to the Phillies. Segura has delivered time after time in clutch spots, while being a good, reliable defender for a team that struggles defensively. A one-year deal with an option for a second year around $12 million a year would suffice from the Phillies standpoint and if he accepts it, this situation can be revisited next year.
Sign Quintana, not Rodon
The rotation will look different on the back end next year. Three of the five will be returning with Nola, Wheeler and Suarez. Realistically, it’ll probably take at least another year before we see Andrew Painter or Mick Abel make a significant big league impact—if we see them at all. The name fans are calling for is Carlos Rodon, but I don’t think the biggest name in the market (after Jacob deGrom) is the right choice for the Phillies. Rodon has been one of the league’s best pitchers, holding a 2.67 ERA over the last two years. However, Rodon might not translate well into Citizens Bank Park. Rodon, who pitched for the San Francisco Giants last season, benefitted from pitching mostly in a pitcher’s park, as Oracle Park was 27th in the home runs given up. You might be saying, “Well Rodon pitched for the White Sox, who’s home field is a hitter’s ballpark.” You’re right, as Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the Chicago White Sox and where Rodon pitched in 2021, gave up the second most homers back in 2021. However, Rodon’s metrics indicate that it might not be sustainable. His fly ball rate in 2022 was 29.5 percent, above the league average 23.1 percent, and his ground ball rate was 35.3 percent, below the league average 44.9 percent. He also finds barrels at about a league average rate, as his barrel rate was 6.5 percent compared to a league average 6.7 percent. Also, Rodon has now spent an entire season in the National League. Of course, information and film is always available on a pitcher, but now the senior circuit has the information on how Rodon attacks their specific team and players.
So, who should the Phillies add to the rotation because they definitely don’t have the resources to fill out the starting staff internally? The answer is Jose Quintana, the 33-year old lefty who split 2022 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, he is 33 years old but that means he’ll cost a little less and can be signed to a shorter, and therefore, safer short-term deal. He’s coming off by far his best year with a 2.93 ERA in 23 starts. The metrics paint Quintana to be a similar pitcher to Suarez. He’s not going to blow it by guys, but Quintana misses barrels with a 5.5 percent barrel rate. His ground ball rate is 47 percent with a fly ball rate at 20.8 percent. Quintana seems like the better fit at a lower cost than Rodon.
Bring Back Eflin
Nola, Wheeler, Suarez, Quintana and one more talented player to wrap out the rotation. The answer is clear cut but the situation is complicated. Zach Eflin is the guy to fill out this rotation. A starting staff with Nola, Wheeler, Suarez, Quintana and Eflin would be projected as one of the best rotations in baseball. Eflin’s injury history complicates things, but when healthy he pitches like a number three. If they can agree to a contract in the $12 million range, I’d love to see him back in pinstripes. I’m not even opposed to adding a second year or a mutual option for a second year to give Eflin some contract security, something he most likely is looking for this offseason.
Upgrade the pen
Bullpens are tricky to construct, however of course Phillies fans don’t need to be told that. Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Sam Coonrod, Connor Brogdon, Nick Nelson, Andrew Bellatti and Bailey Falter are the guys still on contract and most likely returning to the roster. That leaves about two, maybe three if Coonrod does not make the team out of spring training, spots to fill in the bullpen. With Brad Hand becoming a free agent, they need a lefty reliever and Andrew Chafin is that guy, delivering a 2.83 ERA last year with the Detroit Tigers. Second arm to the bullpen, Adam Ottavino. After a couple of shaky years in the American League East, Ottavino found himself again with the Mets posting a 2.06 ERA. Relievers are never a sure thing to repeat success, but hopefully these two can come in and pick up right off where the Phillies bullpen did last year.
It’s going to be an important offseason for the Phillies, especially in the front office. With the expectation to be in the playoffs, they will have to add, replace and bring back the right guys to get them back to October baseball in 2023.