At this point, you have to say the Phillies have improved this offseason. Their top two free agents are back, they’ve added bullpen help and have a well-respected new president of baseball operations who has gotten a ton accomplished in less than two months on the job.
The Phillies opened the week by signing J.T. Realmuto to a five-year, $115.5 million contract. They followed with the deal Friday for starting pitcher Matt Moore, then reached a two-year agreement for $28 million Saturday with Didi Gregorius.
The Phillies have committed $152.5 million this offseason to Realmuto, Gregorius, Archie Bradley and Moore. They added about $1 million more by trading for lefty reliever Jose Alvarado.
The only team that has spent more money on free agents this offseason than the Phillies is the Toronto Blue Jays, whose big-ticket item was George Springer for $150 million over six years. The team that signs Trevor Bauer could jump ahead of both in offseason spending.
The Phillies deferred a small portion of money in the deals for Realmuto and Gregorius, sources told NBC Sports Philadelphia. It will help with cash flow in 2021 given the uncertainty of ballpark attendance amid the pandemic.
The numbers that matter toward the luxury tax threshold, however, are the annual average values of these deals. For Realmuto, the figure is $23.1 million. For Gregorius, it is $14 million. From a luxury tax perspective, this puts the Phillies’ 2021 player payroll at just over $195 million. The tax threshold for 2021 is $210 million. A first-time offender, which the Phillies would be if they exceed it, is taxed 20 percent on every dollar over that $210 million, which is calculated at season’s end.
This is a lot of money to spend on a non-playoff team, which is what the Phillies have been every year since 2012. And with these moves, they need to end that drought in 2021. Signed and in their prime, the Phillies have Bryce Harper, Realmuto, Gregorius, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, along with ascending players like Alec Bohm and Zach Eflin.
They’ve spent over $850 million on players over the last four offseasons.
They also already have approximately $134.5 million committed toward the 2022 payroll. Coming off the books will likely be Andrew McCutchen, Odubel Herrera and Vince Velasquez, along with others with smaller contracts.
Context aside, you’d posit that the Phillies will have a better winning percentage this season than they did last. But a lot has happened this winter in the exacting NL East.
The Mets, under new owner Steve Cohen, have turned into big spenders. They’ve added Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco, James McCann and Trevor May this offseason. They might end up with Bauer, too.
The Nationals have made solid one-year additions like Brad Hand, Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber. Without the World Series hangover this season, they should be better.
And the Braves are the class of the division. They have the MVP, Freddie Freeman, and dynamic talents like Ronald Acuña Jr. and Ozzie Albies. They have exciting young pitching with Max Fried, Ian Anderson and Mike Soroka. Adding Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly to the rotation will help. The Braves’ big question mark is Marcell Ozuna, who has lingered in free agency after nearly winning the Triple Crown in the shortened 2020 season. If they lose him, they could slip by a few wins.
The Phillies are better but so is the division. The schedule won’t do them any favors either, as explained here.
We weren't sure the Phillies were in win-now mode when the offseason began. There's no question at this point. The goal will be to make the playoffs, whether the field includes 10 total teams or more.