You may not have noticed, but the MLB hot stove season is officially underway with free agency having opened last Sunday. The Philadelphia Phillies enter the offseason a full decade removed from their last postseason appearance and just having watched a divisional opponent win the World Series for the second time in three years. President of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski will be looking to improve the roster in his first full offseason at the helm in order to break that postseason drought. The Phillies’ biggest holes are in their lineup, particularly the outfield and the left side of the infield, and their bullpen. Rotation depth is another area of need but not to the same extent.
As of this writing, the Phillies stand a little over $43M under the $210M competitive balance tax threshold. However, that is before settling on new salaries for arbitration eligible players and a new collective bargaining agreement that will most likely raise the CBT threshold. With those caveats in mind, here we will attempt to predict what the Phillies will do this offseason as well as list some names to keep an eye on.
Phillies sign 3B/OF Kris Bryant to 6 year, $140M contract (30 y/o in 2022)
Bryant has long been linked to the Phillies by fans and reporters alike due to his history and friendship with Bryce Harper. Harper even went so far as using a Kris Bryant bat in games leading up to the trade deadline. Bryant also just so happens to be one of the best fits for the Phillies lineup holes. In 2021 while splitting the season with the Cubs and Giants, Bryant started 51 games at third, 42 games in left field, and 17 games in center field. He isn’t spectacular defensively in any of the three spots (-3 DRS total) but he plays them competently enough to not be a negative.
Offensively, Bryant had his best season since 2019. He finished with an .835 OPS and 124 OPS+ including 25 home runs and was elected to his fourth All-Star game. Bryant owns a .268/.363/.479 in 427 games played since 2018, the year following his MVP season. He is one of 16 MLB players with at least a .260/.360/.460 line in 400 games played over that span.
Phillies sign RP Kenley Jansen to 2 year, $30M contract (34 y/o in 2022)
The longtime Dodgers closer turned in his best season since 2017 in 2021. Jansen posted a 2.22 ERA in 69 games and collected 38 saves in 43 opportunities. However, his walk rate of 12.9% (highest since 2010) and BABIP (.213) suggest that he is ripe for regression. Nevertheless, the Phillies are desperate for a dependable closer and Jansen has fit that bill for much of the last decade. The right hander has notched at least 30 saves in every season since 2014, with the pandemic-shortened 2020 being the only exception.
Phillies sign SP Jon Gray to 3 year, $40M contract (30 y/o in 2022)
Gray is a curious case of a Rockies pitcher who performs better at Coors Field than on the road. For his career, Gray is 31-18 at Coors Field with a 4.54 ERA in 74 games and 22-31 with a 4.65 ERA on the road in 77 starts. Opposing hitters own a 96 OPS+ against Gray at Coors field and a 104 OPS+ on the road. Regardless, Gray’s 4.59 ERA and 150 innings pitched in 2021 would have remedied the Phillies problems in the back half of their rotation. For what it’s worth, Gray has made three starts at Citizens Bank Park in his career and allowed 15 earned runs in 14 innings pitched but has 24 strikeouts.
The Rockies seemed destined to trade their former number 3 overall pick in 2021 as he was in the final year of his contract. The Phillies were rumored to have some interest in Gray at the trade deadline. However, the Rockies decided to hold onto him and then even more confusingly, they also elected not to give Gray a qualifying offer. That now means that any team that signs Gray will not have to forfeit draft compensation.
Names to Monitor
Nick Castellanos OF/DH (30 y/o in 2022)
Castellanos was drafted in 2010 by Dombrowski when the latter was president and general manager of the Tigers. The 44th overall pick has gone on to amass a career 12.3 WAR and 115 OPS+ in nine major league seasons with the Tigers, Cubs, and Reds. Castellanos was an All-Star in 2021 and posted a career-best 34 home runs and 136 OPS+. Those numbers were good for 8th and 10th in the N.L. respectively. Castellanos has been one of the most consistent hitters in baseball over the last few seasons, but his poor defense has limited his ceiling. He was mostly a DH in Detroit and has played primarily RF with the Cubs and Reds since leaving the AL. Castellanos had -7 DRS with the Reds in 2021.
#Phillies Dave Dombrowski drafted FA Nick Castellanos 44th overall in 2010 when both were with the Tigers— Joe Edinger (@Joe_Edinger) November 11, 2021
List of MLB players with at least an .850 OPS and 100 HRs in 600+ games since 2017
-Paul Goldschmidt pic.twitter.com/WekOgFloKm
Craig Kimbrel RP (34 y/o in 2022)
Kimbrel is not a free agent, but it is widely speculated that the White Sox will look to trade the All-Star closer after a disastrous showing after the trade deadline. After sporting a pristine 0.49 ERA in 39 games with the Cubs, Kimbrel had a 5.09 ERA with the White Sox in 24 appearances. Jim Salisbury of NBCSN reported that the Phillies had interest in Kimbrel at the deadline but balked at the asking price.
Phillies loved the idea of Kimbrel. Price started with Mick Abel. No can do— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyNBCS) July 30, 2021
Now that Kimbrel’s value is presumably lower, they may check back in again with the White Sox who seem eager to cut their losses. Keep in mind that Dombrowski traded for Kimbrel in 2015 as his first big move after being hired by the Red Sox.
Michael Conforto OF (29 y/o in 2022)
Conforto has been a hot name linked to the Phillies of late due to their need of an outfield bat. The Phillies are certainly familiar with Conforto, as he has a career .884 and 22 HRs against Philadelphia in 95 career games with the Mets. His numbers are even better at Citizens Bank Park, as he has a .924 OPS and 15 career HRs in 53 games. Conforto had a down year in 2021 with a career low in slugging (.384) and the lowest OPS (.729) since his first full season in the Majors in 2016.
Freddy Galvis INF (32 y/o in 2022)
The Phillies and Galvis reunited at the trade deadline when the Phillies acquired him from Baltimore. Galvis played in 32 games with the Phillies post-deadline and had a batting line of .224/.292/.393 with 5 HRs. Galvis is of course known for his glove more than his bat, but he curiously had 0 DRS with the Phillies total. That includes -3 in 10 games at shortstop. Small sample size caveat of course, but it’s fair to question whether Galvis is not the same fielder he once was. However, he may be in the mix for a utility infielder position with the Phillies. This would be especially true if Ronald Torreyes doesn’t return and the Phillies find a way to move Didi Gregorious. Galvis could be a veteran stopgap/insurance for top prospect Bryson Stott who appears to be the frontrunner for the shortstop job in 2022.
Hector Neris (33 y/o in 2022)
Neris is a master of raising Phillies fans’ blood pressure, but he had a good season in 2021 and would be a perfect set-up man for a new closer. Neris had a 3.64 ERA in 74 games with the Phillies in 2021. He was excellent in the second half, posting a 2.70 ERA in 40 innings pitched. Neris excelled once he was removed from the closer spot and even became Philadelphia’s most reliable reliever during August and September (2.15 ERA.) He may receive a better offer elsewhere, but Neris is one to keep in mind if the Phillies acquire a bona-fide closer.
Jake Diekman RP (35 y/o in 2022)
Diekman hasn’t played for the Phillies since 2015 when he was traded to Texas along with Cole Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline. In the ensuing six and a half seasons, Diekman has a 3.66 ERA in over 280 innings pitched. The left hander appeared in 67 games with the Athletics in 2021 and had a 3.86 ERA and a 31.7% strikeout percentage. The A’s shockingly declined his $4M option for 2022 as they look to slash payroll. The Phillies could use a reliable left hander in their bullpen, as they only had one lefty in their ‘pen for the majority of the season in Jose Alvarado. Diekman is still very effective against lefties, limiting them to a .229/.379/.337 batting line in 2021.