How each of the top 20 MLB free agents would impact the Phillies

How each of the top 20 MLB free agents would impact the Phillies

Another crucial free-agent period for the Phillies opens this evening. Beginning at 5 p.m. Monday, the exclusive signing window for teams ends and all MLB free agents can sign with new clubs — though we all know how slowly things can develop.

The Phillies committed more than $430 million of new money last offseason with the signings of Bryce Harper, Andrew McCutchen and David Robertson and trades for J.T. Realmuto and Jean Segura. (That figure incorporates the salary difference from Jorge Alfaro to Realmuto and from Carlos Santana to Segura.)

The previous offseason, the Phillies committed $135 million to Santana and Jake Arrieta. 

For a third straight offseason, John Middleton and the Phillies' ownership group will open the checkbooks. This team badly needs starting pitching and we don't mean one arm. Even Gerrit Cole alone doesn't make this a 90-win team. The Phillies need multiples of starting pitching.

Let's reset and take a look at the Top 20 free agents overall this winter:

1. 3B Anthony Rendon
2. RHP Gerrit Cole

This is the elite tier. You could argue Cole belongs ahead of Rendon. I have Rendon higher because he's an everyday player coming off a nearly flawless season. 

Cole should be able to sign for $250 million or more this offseason. Max Scherzer and David Price signed for $210 million over seven years so why wouldn't the Cole talks begin at eight years and $240M?

It's hard to predict where the Rendon number will fall. If it goes seven or eight years, the AAV should be similar to Nolan Arenado's ($260M over eight years). But there's also some reason to believe Rendon may not want to play eight more years.

3. RHP Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg could ultimately return to D.C. on a better deal. He was set to earn $100 million over the final four seasons of his Nationals contract before he opted out over the weekend.

We may see Strasburg simply go back to Washington for something like five years, $150 million. He shouldn't have much trouble getting between $150M on the open market, even at age 31.

More here on the pros and cons of Strasburg to the Phillies.

4. RHP Zack Wheeler

Wheeler may end up being a better signing than Strasburg. Wheeler is 29 years old, two years and two months younger than Strasburg. A team may be able to sign Wheeler for something like five years, $90 million or four years, $72 million. You'd be paying for some of his past success but also the hope of unrealized potential.

Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons and posted a 3.65 ERA with a strikeout per inning and a better-than-average home run rate. His high-90s fastball has always been there but he's reached a higher level with a more consistent changeup, slider and curveball.

Wheeler would be a very, very good get for the Phillies, a pitcher to slot in behind Aaron Nola over the next handful of years. Taking him away from the Mets would make it even sweeter.

If the Phillies could somehow end up with Cole or Strasburg, plus Wheeler, that would be the ideal offseason. It will be very difficult.

5. 3B Josh Donaldson

Donaldson is in a tier above Mike Moustakas, but Donaldson is likely to receive a qualifying offer whereas Moustakas cannot. Can a team trust Donaldson to stay as healthy over the next two years as he was in 2019?

6. LHP Madison Bumgarner

It will be extremely interesting to see how Bumgarner's market develops and how much he eventually signs for. He was underpaid with the Giants, who locked him up early. It is unlikely he'll leave more money on the table this time. 

Bumgarner fell two innings short of leading the NL in innings pitched this past season. He had a 3.90 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP and his highest strikeout rate (8.8 per nine) since 2016.

It doesn't feel like it, but Bumgarner is actually younger than Strasburg. Bumgarner turned 30 on Aug. 1. He probably won't get $100 million, but why would he sign for anything less than the $75 million over three years the Phillies paid Arrieta?

7. OF/DH J.D. Martinez

Not a fit here because his defense is bad and only getting worse. The bat would be great to slot behind Harper's but it would mean playing McCutchen every day in center field coming off ACL surgery and that's just not realistic.

Surprisingly, Martinez will reportedly remain with the Red Sox. He and his representation must have thought the defensive concerns would have affected his ability to earn more through opting out. 

8. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Hard to see him leaving his comfort zone in L.A., but money talks. Ryu turns 33 the week before the 2020 season begins. A two-year deal with a high AAV seems most realistic.

9. C Yasmani Grandal

The second-best catcher in baseball behind Gold Glover J.T. Realmuto in 2019.

10. OF Nick Castellanos

I'm higher on Castellanos than most because I think defensive metrics are flawed and have arbitrary values, and I think Castellanos' offense outweighs his defense. Like Martinez, he is an imperfect fit in Philly because it would create a shaky outfield defense.

11. OF Marcell Ozuna

Ozuna is interesting. He can play center field and hit, though he's extremely inconsistent. He would improve the Phillies and would be a better all-around fit than Corey Dickerson, but the Phillies might be better served addressing center field via trade. Starling Marte in Pittsburgh is someone to keep an eye on.

12. LHP Dallas Keuchel

The Phillies didn't pursue him in 2019 and it turned out to be a huge mistake. Keuchel pitched as expected for the Braves — his ERA went from 3.74 to 3.75, and in the year of the juiced ball, Keuchel's rates of homers, walks and strikeouts all rose.

He's in line for a multi-year deal this time, maybe two years at $13-15 million a pop. His side will hold out for at least three years but there are too many other starting pitchers teams will be able to talk themselves into over Keuchel for him to have a ton of leverage.

13. 3B Mike Moustakas

A legit possibility as a stopgap third baseman here until Alec Bohm is ready. Moustakas declined his $11 million option with Milwaukee so he'll want at least that much per year over multiple years.

14. LHP Cole Hamels

Why not reunite at this point? The Phillies should be able to sign Hamels to a one-year, eight-figure deal with a vesting option. He'd be a solid mid-rotation option. He's not the Hamels of old, but even the Hamels of 2019 would have been a big upgrade over any non-Nola SP the Phillies had.

15. SS Didi Gregorius
16. RHP Jake Odorizzi
17. 1B Jose Abreu

These guys aren't fits for the Phillies, who have a first baseman and a shortstop and already have enough inconsistency among their young right-handed starting pitchers.

18. OF Corey Dickerson

If the Phillies can bring Dickerson back as a part-time player/extra man, it would be fantastic. He has a valuable bat when he's healthy. You just can't go into next season thinking an alignment of Dickerson in left and McCutchen in center will work every day.

19. RHP Kyle Gibson
20. LHP Wade Miley

Two veteran arms who could help stabilize a rotation. Miley is not a guy you want facing a lineup more than twice, which will keep him to 5⅓ or 5⅔ innings in a good portion of starts. He continues to get weak contact, though.

Gibson had a good year in 2018 (3.62 ERA in 197 innings) but took a step back last season.

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Scott Boras lays out reasons why MLB players shouldn't give owners a 'bailout'

Scott Boras lays out reasons why MLB players shouldn't give owners a 'bailout'

In an e-mail to his clients obtained by The Associated Press, agent Scott Boras urged his players (which includes Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins and other Phillies) to reject MLB's salary reduction proposal, citing debt financing as the reason franchises are facing financial issues during the coronavirus pandemic.

Boras wrote this:

"Remember, games cannot be played without you. Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.

"Owners are asking for more salary cuts to bail them out of the investment decisions they have made. If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization. The owners' current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks. This type of financing is allowed and encouraged by MLB because it has resulted in significant franchise valuations.

“Owners now want players to take additional pay cuts to help them pay these loans. They want a bailout. They are not offering players a share of the stadiums, ballpark villages or the club itself, even though salary reductions would help owners pay for these valuable franchise assets. These billionaires want the money for free. No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.

"Make no mistake, owners have chosen to take on these loans because, in normal times, it is a smart financial decision. But, these unnecessary choices have now put them in a challenging spot. Players should stand strong because players are not the ones who advised owners to borrow money to purchase their franchises and players are not the ones who have benefited from the recent record revenues and profits.

"... Please share this concept with your teammates and fellow players when MLB request further concessions or deferral of salaries.”

Boras used Cubs ownership, the Ricketts family, to illustrate the point.

"Throughout this process, they will be able to claim that they never had any profits because those profits went to pay off their loans," Boras wrote. "However, the end result is that the Ricketts will own improved assets that significantly increases the value of the Cubs — value that is not shared with the players."

Boras' e-mail followed MLB's proposal to the players' association Tuesday of a sliding scale of prorated pay in 2020 in which the highest-paid players would receive the lowest percentage of their prorated salaries and the lowest-paid players would receive the highest percentage of their prorated salaries. In essence, Harper would receive a lower percentage of his $25.4 million AAV than Hoskins would receive from his $605,000 salary.

The players' association found the proposal insulting and is not interested in the sliding scale of pay. Max Scherzer, who is on the MLBPA's eight-man subcommittee, released this statement Wednesday night.

The Phillies are well stocked with Boras clients: Harper, Hoskins, Jake Arrieta, Alec Bohm, Bryson Stott, Vince Velasquez, Cole Irvin, Nick Williams. Boras also, as of this week, represents Rays lefty and former AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, whom Harper backed up recently after Snell commented on the pay dispute in a polarizing way.

Of course, not everyone agrees with Boras, as outlined in this NY Post piece and in this tweet by outspoken Reds right-hander Trevor Bauer.

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How to watch NBCSP's re-airs of Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run

How to watch NBCSP's re-airs of Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run

While MLB's pay dispute between owners and players rages on, we'll have some classic baseball for you to enjoy during the first three weeks of June.

Beginning this Monday, June 1, NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-air the Phillies' entire 2008 playoff run — all 14 games — along with two specials and a replay of the '08 parade.

Forever Philly: Cole Hamels is a half-hour, 1-on-1 interview with the '08 World Series MVP about the postseason that defined his career.

And World Champions: The Story of '08 Phillies is an expanded 90-minute documentary with bonus '08 footage and plenty of interviews with the key figures such as Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Charlie Manuel, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth and many more.

Throughout these three weeks, Jim Salisbury and I will also be looking back at different angles of each game in articles, videos and in each Phillies Talk podcast in June. We'll dig back into those big moments, but also the moments behind the scenes.

Here is the TV schedule. Each game will be re-aired at 7 p.m. Both parts of the famous multi-day World Series Game 5 will air on the same night.

NLDS vs. Brewers

Monday, June 1 — NLDS Game 1

Tuesday, June 2 — NLDS Game 2

Wednesday, June 3 — NLDS Game 3

Thursday, June 4 — NLDS Game 4

NLCS vs. Dodgers

Monday, June 8 — NLCS Game 1

Tuesday, June 9  — NLCS Game 2

Wednesday, June 10 — NLCS Game 3

Thursday, June 11 — NLCS Game 4

Friday, June 12 — NLCS Game 5

World Series vs. Rays

Monday, June 15 — WS Game 1

Tuesday, June 16 — WS Game 2

Wednesday, June 17 — WS Game 3

Thursday, June 18 — WS Game 4

Friday, June 19 — WS Game 5 (Parts 1 & 2)

Forever Philly: Cole Hamels

Monday, June 1 — 9:30 p.m. (Premiere)

Monday, June 1 — 10:30 p.m.

Monday, June 1 — 11:30 pm (NBCSP+)

Tuesday, June 2 — 11 a.m.

Monday, June 8 — 9:30 p.m.

World Champions: The Story of the ’08 Phillies

Sunday, June 21 — 7 p.m. (Premiere)

Sunday, June 21 — 8:30 p.m. (Replay)

Sunday, June 21 — 4 p.m. World Series Parade

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