Phillies

All this spending and still, half of Phillies' pitching staff in question

All this spending and still, half of Phillies' pitching staff in question

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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Phillies Talk podcast: Jeff Francoeur on MLB’s financial dispute and 2020 season

Phillies Talk podcast: Jeff Francoeur on MLB’s financial dispute and 2020 season

Former Phillie, Brave and Met Jeff Francoeur joined the Phillies Talk podcast to talk about the return of baseball.

• Francoeur's unique perspective on the dispute between owners and players

• Thoughts on the proposal made to the MLBPA on Tuesday

• Will there be a season?

• Jeff's memories of Philadelphia

• His recollection of the infamous "white towel" game

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What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This paints a clearer picture of how it could shake out:

From a Phillies perspective, it would mean Harper would earn about $6.5-7M of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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