This is an almost impossible exercise for the offseason ahead because of the financial unknowns of all 30 teams, but let's take a crack at it anyway.
Here are predictions for the next contract of the Phillies' free agents, factoring in recent production, age, comparable contracts and adjusting for what figures to be a less fruitful offseason for free agents.
J.T. Realmuto: 5 yrs, $130M
This number would set the record for a catcher on a per-year basis at $26 million per year.
In a normal offseason, Realmuto would probably be in line for even more because he’s the top player at a crucial position where production is scarce, and his main suitors, in theory, are deep-pocketed teams.
The Phillies last offseason signed Zack Wheeler to a five-year, $118 million contract. Realmuto is 10 months younger than Wheeler, though the wear and tear accumulated behind the plate is as important as a catcher’s age. Realmuto has caught 3,477 innings since 2017, most in the majors by 57.
Didi Gregorius: 3 yrs, $45M (team option fourth year at similar AAV)
Gregorius and Marcus Semien are the top two shortstops on the free-agent market, with defensive whiz Andrelton Simmons the next best option. All three shortstops would be hurt by going the one-year, prove-it route because there are five stud shortstops — Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Correa and Javy Baez — set for free agency a year from now.
The contract of Gregorius’ 2020 teammate, Jean Segura, provides a loose template. In June 2017, Segura signed a five-year, $70 million extension with the Mariners. Segura was 27 years old at that point, three years younger than Gregorius is now. In a normal offseason, the 30-year-old Gregorius might still not get five years but would certainly be in line for something like $60-64 million over four years.
The three-year contract projection above factors the pandemic into the shorter guarantee.
Jake Arrieta: 1 yr, $1.5M
Some team will give Arrieta, 35 in March, a chance to pitch at the back of its rotation. The perpetual league-wide need for starting pitching should keep him from having to sign a minor-league deal.
David Robertson: 1 yr, $3M
A one-year contract designed to reestablish value makes sense for Robertson, who was limited to seven appearances in two seasons with the Phillies because of an elbow injury.
Robertson still has a solid reputation around the league, and his next team is likely to get so much more value out of him than the Phillies did. Prior to signing with the Phils, Robertson made 60+ appearances in nine straight seasons. They got him at the wrong time. It’s difficult to ever truly know whether a pitcher’s track record of durability means he’s due for an arm injury or has a better chance to avoid one.
Jose Alvarez: 2 yrs, $6M
A solid lefty specialist with a 2.95 ERA the last three seasons. Similar contract to the ones signed last offseason by relievers Jake Diekman and Joe Smith.
Jay Bruce: 1 yr, $1M
Bruce’s market will be larger if the designated hitter remains in the National League in 2021. That decision still needs to be reached by the players and league this winter.
Bruce is no longer an everyday outfielder, obviously, because of his age, speed and recent rash of injuries. But when healthy he is still a powerful hitter with a high home run rate who can alter games with just an at-bat or two.
Tommy Hunter: 1 yr, $900K
Hunter was the only reliever the Phillies signed last offseason to a major-league deal. It was worth $850,000 for one season. His market didn’t exactly expand given MLB’s financial losses, but he did have better than a 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio this summer which will catch the eye of some teams in search of bullpen depth.
Brandon Workman: Minor-league deal
He was one of the least effective relievers in baseball this summer, particularly after the Phillies acquired him the third week of August.
What a difference a year makes. Had Workman reached free agency after his masterful 2019 season (1.88 ERA, MLB-best .123 opponents’ batting average), he might have gotten $40 million.
Phil Gosselin: Minor-league deal
Gosselin will likely find himself on a major-league bench somewhere next season, but teams just rarely give guaranteed deals to extra utilitymen these days. We saw in July what happens when the guy gets hot at the plate. That and his versatility should keep in the majors another couple of years.
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