The Phillies spent more than $200 million in 2021 -- sixth-most in MLB -- on a non-playoff team with numerous holes. While most of the work last winter came in re-signing catcher J.T. Realmuto and shortstop Didi Gregorius, actually improving the team over these next few months will be a much broader task.
Significant roster turnover is expected in Dave Dombrowski’s first full offseason as the Phillies’ president of baseball operations and he will have more room to maneuver.
The Phils’ payroll this past season was an estimated $205 million, just under the luxury tax threshold of $210 million. There are escalating penalties for teams over the threshold based on the number of consecutive years they’ve been over. Teams also face draft pick penalization if they’re $40 million or more above the limit.
There is uncertainty with the luxury tax moving forward as MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 1. It could be raised or altered entirely as the league and players negotiate.
In any case, the Phillies have a good amount of money coming off of their books before 2022. Slated for free agency are:
- OF Andrew McCutchen
- OF Odubel Herrera
- RHP Ian Kennedy
- RHP Hector Neris
- RHP Archie Bradley
- INF/OF Brad Miller
- INF Freddy Galvis
- LHP Matt Moore
- RHP Cam Bedrosian
The biggest savings comes from McCutchen’s contract expiring. Former GM Matt Klentak signed McCutchen early in the 2019 offseason to a three-year, $50 million contract. McCutchen earned $10 million, $17 million and $20 million in the three years of that deal and is due a $3 million buyout if/when the Phillies decline his $15 million club option.
From a luxury tax perspective, that is a savings of $16.7 million, the annual average value of the deal.
Herrera has club options the next two seasons at $11.5 million and $12.5 million. There’s no chance the Phillies pick those up. The options can be bought out for a total of $3.5 million. His luxury tax figure during his contract was $6.1 million.
The Phillies paid Neris $5 million and Bradley $6 million in 2021. They paid Miller $3.5 million and Moore $3 million.
Add up those six expiring contracts and you get $40.3 million. The raises due in year two of arbitration to Rhys Hoskins ($4.8M in 2021) and year three to Zach Eflin ($4.45M) will subtract from that number. It’s not enough to go sign a bunch of high-priced players while still remaining under the theoretical tax threshold of $210 million but enough to fill several holes. The Phillies have never exceeded the tax, though Dombrowski, Klentak and managing partner John Middleton have all said the organization could do so at the right time for the right opportunity.
The Phillies have little experience and difference-making talent in their bullpen and would benefit from bringing Neris back as a setup man. If Bradley is willing to take a lesser deal, he also could be a consideration to return. Bradley was not quite the reliever the Phillies hoped they were getting. He finished with a 3.71 ERA in 51 innings but allowed 11 earned runs in 12⅓ innings with two losses and a blown save from August 14 to September 17, a crucial period for the Phils.
Miller could be worth bringing back as a bench bat, particularly if the National League adopts the designated hitter as part of the next CBA. He would likely be looking for at least the same salary after hitting 20 home runs with a .774 OPS in 377 plate appearances this season.
With approximately $170 million already committed toward the 2022 team, the Phillies project to again have one of the majors’ highest payrolls, trailing only the Yankees, Dodgers, Padres and Red Sox.