The Phillies have a substantial amount of money coming off of their books this offseason — more than $60 million with the expiring contracts of four players in Jake Arrieta, Didi Gregorius, David Robertson and J.T. Realmuto.
From a luxury tax perspective, those four expiring average annual salaries equal $60.5 million.
Jose Alvarez ($2.95M), Phil Gosselin ($1M) and Tommy Hunter ($850,000) reach free agency too, clearing up another $4.8 million.
That's over $65 million that was applied to the Phillies' 2020 luxury tax threshold that won't be applied in 2021. That's a ton of wiggle room for the Phillies to accomplish what needs to be accomplished this offseason by signing Realmuto, adding pitching and potentially bringing back Gregorius.
Beyond that $65 million, the Phillies can clear even more money if they decline the club options for Hector Neris ($7 million) and/or David Phelps ($4.5 million). It may not make sense to cut ties with either reliever, though, given how thin this bullpen is. That is a more-than-fair price for Phelps if he pitches as he did in the five years before the Phillies acquired him, not the month after.
Three more players who will get more expensive in 2021 if the Phillies keep them are Vince Velasquez, Heath Hembree and Adam Morgan.
- Velasquez made $3.6 million (pre-proration) in 2020 in his second arbitration year. A reasonable estimate for his final arbitration year would be $4.5 million, which is steep for a pitcher who hasn't solidified himself in the rotation or bullpen.
- Hembree made $1.6 million and will likely be in that $2 million range again after a disastrous stint with the Phils. He could be a non-tender.
- Morgan made just a bit under Hembree's $1.6 million and should be in line for something like $2.5 million this time.
If the Phillies were to non-tender all three pitchers, that would clear another $7.7 million.
So that's a minimum of $65 million coming off of the Phillies' books and a maximum of about $73 million. Either number will shrink by only a couple million dollars with the arbitration raises Zach Eflin and Rhys Hoskins are due.
It is feasible that the Phillies could sign Realmuto for an AAV around $25 million and Gregorius for $15 million per year, add a good starting pitcher and a strong closer-type all for about $70 million of annual salaries.
It is also possible that the Phillies and many other teams drastically reduce payroll in 2021 to account for their nine-figure financial losses in 2020 caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here are all of the players coming off the Phillies' books, with their expiring AAV as it applied to the luxury tax:
Neris: $7M club option
Phelps: $4.5M club option
Jay Bruce and Brandon Workman are also free agents, though the Phillies were not on the hook for much of their money. Bruce was due $21.3 million when the Phillies acquired him from Seattle last June but they had to pay only $2.75 million.