That escalated quickly: Phillies Offseason Check-in

We’ve come a long way from tracking planes and searching for small bits of news.

The 2019-2020 MLB Offseason is moving at a much more brisk pace than its predecessor. Three of the four top free agents have already come off of the board before Christmas. The Winter Meetings have come and have brought news and rumors at a fast and furious pace. Here, we will take a look at what the Phillies have done so far and what they are connected to by rumors.

Signed Zack Wheeler to a five year, $118M contract

We detailed the Wheeler signing extensively here, so we won’t go into more detail. What we can say now that we didn’t in that previous piece is that this contract is already looking like a great move after seeing the contracts of the other top pitchers.

Wheeler doesn’t have the pedigree of Stephen Strasburg or Gerrit Cole. No one is debating that. He is the third best of the three. But, after seeing Strasburg’s record-setting seven year, $245M contract and Cole’s nine year, $324M contract that obliterated those very records set days before, giving Wheeler $118M feels a little better.

Wheeler is younger than Strasburg and very well may out-perform him over the next five seasons. Cole was always going to get record money, but the numbers still exceeded expectations.

Mandate to stay below the Luxury Tax

Matt Gelb of the Athletic reported that the Phillies front office has been given a mandate to stay below the $208M luxury tax threshold.

This is incredibly short sighted if this is indeed the case. The Phillies need to catch the Braves and the Nationals in the division. As of right now, they don’t possess a robust farm system supplying young talent to plug their holes.

One thing the Phillies do possess is money. Lots of it. They need to use it to improve their team. The first luxury tax threshold shouldn’t be a problem as the first time penalty is a 20% tax on all overages. That is chump change to a billionaire owner. Of course, that percentage rises for each year the team is over the tax. Also, not wanting to cross the second threshold and have your top draft pick moved back ten spots is understandable.

But that would require eclipsing $248M in payroll. And regarding the percentage increase, the Phillies would easily be able to get right back under the tax for 2021. The expiring contracts of Jake Arrieta and David Robertson alone would clear $36.5M worth of space. But, we also need to keep in mind a projected $100M extension for J.T. Realmuto. Even with that, the Phillies can afford to go over the tax for one year and then get right back under it next year. Or they can blow past the first threshold but stay under the second for a year or two before resetting and keeping their draft position.

Reportedly signed Didi Gregorious to a one year, $14M contract

New York Post writer Joel Sherman was the first to report that the Phillies and Gregorious reached an agreement.

Gregorious will likely play shortstop with some combination of Scott Kingery and Jean Segura playing second base and third base. Gregorious’ 2019 numbers weren’t good (.276 OBP), but he was returning from Tommy John surgery which limited him to just 82 games. There is reason to believe that he is healthy and will regain his good numbers from his previous three years with the Yankees, especially back under the tutelage of Joe Girardi.

For one year, Gregorious is a good signing. If he bounces back, you get one season of top ten shortstop numbers and can then extend a qualifying offer. If he doesn’t, he walks after one season with no harm, no foul. There’s minimal risk.

However, regarding their supposed luxury tax mandate, this leaves the Phillies with roughly $6M in space. This number is from general manager Matt Klentak’s estimation of $20M in space after the Wheeler signing.

$6M is not a lot of money to work with. Especially when the Phillies still need another starter, a reliever, and a bench. They will need to get creative in order to address their needs.

Or, they could just pay the tax.

Kris Bryant trade?

Rumors are swirling around the Cubs’ star third baseman. And the Phillies have been directly linked to Bryant.

There are some hurdles with a potential trade, however. The largest is Bryant’s pending service time manipulation grievance against the Cubs. If the ruling is in Bryant’s favor, he would be a free agent after the 2020 season. If he loses, he will be under control until after 2021.

The difference between one year of control versus two is enormous. It dictates what kind of trade package it would take to land the former MVP. Cubs’ president Theo Epstein has said that the decision on the grievance may take weeks.

Right now, a package of Alec Bohm, Adonis Medina, and Adam Haseley might be enough for the Phillies to acquire one of Bryce Harper’s best friends. However, they are not alone in their rumored pursuit, as the Nationals and Braves are two teams also reportedly interested in Bryant.

The likelihood of a Bryant trade is not high, especially with luxury tax concerns, and not much will happen before that grievance is settled. But, it’s still something to keep an eye on.

Francisco Lindor trade?

The Phillies have often been a suggested trade partner for the Indians’ star shortstop, and they have indeed inquired about him according to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. However, Morosi notes that it is likely Lindor is not moved this offseason and the Gregorious signing makes this a little more murky.

In or out on Rendon?

Multiple reports have said that the Phillies are pursuing Rendon. However, after the Gregorious signing, Texas Rangers beat writer TR Sullivan is saying that the Phillies are now out on Rendon.

Acquiring Rendon would mean leaping over the first luxury tax threshold, something it seems the Phillies would rather avoid doing. Their hope should be that both he and Josh Donaldson find new homes outside of the NL East.