The Phillies have added more than $100 million of payroll three offseasons in a row.

There was the $135 million combined to Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta in 2017.

There was the $403 million for Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson.

And then $132 million more for Zack Wheeler and Didi Gregorius this offseason.

The Phils have been as aggressive as any team over those three offseasons, yet as they prepare for 2020, questions remain about more than half of the pitching staff.

All that spending and the No. 5 spot in the rotation still projects to go to Vince Velasquez or Nick Pivetta.

Jake Arrieta and Zach Eflin, if healthy, will fill the Nos. 3 and 4 spots.

A Phillies optimist could say that the battle between Velasquez and Pivetta could lead to actual progress, that a healthy Arrieta will be better and that Eflin showed meaningful signs of promise in 2019. But there are just as many valid reasons to be skeptical about that group.

In the bullpen, Hector Neris is proven and that's really it. 

Adam Morgan has shown at times he can be a very good left-handed reliever. Seranthony Dominguez in 2018 looked like a dynamic right-handed flamethrower. Jose Alvarez was solid as a lefty specialist a year ago. But those three are far from slam-dunks as your setup trio, especially from a health perspective with Dominguez.

Over the past week, the Mets signed Dellin Betances and the Twins reportedly added starters Rich Hill and Homer Bailey on one-year deals. There aren't many free-agent pitchers left even if the Phillies wanted to add between now and spring training.


The free-agent starting pitching market is now so thin that Drew Smyly and Jason Vargas might really be two of the top five options left. 

Lefty Alex Wood is still out there. So are low-risk, potentially high-reward reclamation projects like Danny Salazar, Aaron Sanchez and Jimmy Nelson. It would behoove the Phillies to take a serious look at one of them; they sure could use a player who outperforms the contract he signs.

The most notable relievers left on the free-agent market are Will Harris, Daniel Hudson, Steve Cishek, Jeremy Jeffress, Arodys Vizcaino and Pedro Strop. All could help. All have pitched higher-leverage innings than many of the Phillies' relievers.

The best path to a good starter would be a trade. Lefties Robbie Ray and Matt Boyd still look destined to be dealt between now and the trade deadline. The issue there is the Phillies will have trouble acquiring any high-end starting pitcher without trading Spencer Howard or Alec Bohm, which is extremely unlikely. Ray and Boyd themselves might not be good enough to warrant a big prospect package anyway.

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