Phillies

A full offseason checklist for Phillies' next GM

Phillies

We all know the No. 1 item on the Phillies' offseason to-do list. No matter who replaces Matt Klentak to lead the Phillies' baseball ops, figuring out a way to keep J.T. Realmuto will be the top priority.

But the Phillies have plenty of needs beyond that. Let's take an early look, about a month before free agency opens.

Realmuto resolution

Will it take $150 million? Will it take $175 million? How depressed will baseball's economy be and how significantly, if at all, will that impact Realmuto's price tag?

Big-money teams like the Dodgers, Yankees, Mets and Nationals could be vying with the Phillies for Realmuto's services. That would not be good.

The fanbase's focus has been so squarely on re-signing Realmuto that there hasn't been much time spent even thinking about a replacement. The Phillies would have a massive hole behind the plate if the game's best all-around catcher leaves. It is not a role Andrew Knapp or 21-year-old Rafael Marchan could simply walk into. The Phillies would need another veteran catcher.

Finding a veteran catcher of substance is not easy. Ask the Mets how they felt about Wilson Ramos. There are usable free-agent catchers this winter like Kurt Suzuki, Tyler Flowers, Jason Castro and Mike Zunino, but the drop-off from Realmuto would be massive, likely costing the Phillies a few wins.

Bullpen overhaul

With all due respect to Didi Gregorius and the consistency he brought, bullpen upgrades have to be second on the Phillies' offseason wish list because of how much relief pitching ruined their 2020 season.

 

When the Phillies' season ended, Bryce Harper said that bullpens aren't built by going out and spending money but by building from within. The Phillies appear to have a couple of real building blocks in Connor Brogdon and JoJo Romero but that obviously isn't enough.

They need more, a whole lot more. That can't mean entering another season with Tommy Hunter and Hector Neris as your two most important relievers.

This is a strong class of free-agent relievers. Here are a dozen names to keep in mind

Didi's next deal

If the Phillies don't bring Gregorius back, they will have to figure out a new shortstop solution until 2019 first-round pick Bryson Stott is ready. Stott missed out on key development time in 2019 with no minor-league season and still hasn't gone through a full season with a team in the Phillies' system.

In a normal, non-pandemic year, Gregorius would be in like for something like four years, $64-72 million. The 30-year-old only increased his worth this summer. Who knows, though, in 2020-21?

Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons are also free agents this winter. The following year's class, 2021-22, is rich in shortstops. Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, Carlos Correa and Corey Seager could all reach free agency.

Back of rotation

Jake Arrieta is gone after three extremely disappointing years in Philadelphia.

Spencer Howard is still unproven after a rocky summer. 

Vince Velasquez, who has 27 quality starts in 99 starts as a Phillie, will only get more expensive in his final arbitration year and is a non-tender or trade candidate. It's going to be hard for a luxury-tax-conscious team to justify paying Velasquez $4.5 million or so next season.

The Phillies need more starting pitching depth in 2021, no two ways about it. When Arrieta and Howard went down with injuries in September, the Phils had so little starting pitching depth that they had to roll out a series of bullpen games from the worst bullpen in MLB.

The Phils have nearly $37 million coming off the books with just Arrieta and David Robertson. That money would ideally be spent on veteran pitchers who actually help.

There are a couple of big names out there like Trevor Bauer and Marcus Stroman. Both seem unlikely for the Phillies — Bauer because of the expected price tag and the constant attention-seeking/distractions, and Stroman because his pitch-to-contact stuff has not been consistently good enough to warrant a huge price tag. If Bauer is still open to a short-term deal, as he's indicated in the past, many teams will be in on him. But he's coming off a career year and that number could soar.

There are many other useful non-aces on the market. Guys like James Paxton, Mike Minor, Jake Odorizzi, Jose Quintana, Taijuan Walker and Anthony DeSclafani, among others.

Defense must improve

The Phillies ranked 27th in baseball this season in Defensive Runs Saved. They were not strong defensively in either corner infield or corner outfield spot. 

 

If they lose Realmuto, the game's best defensive catcher, the defense will slip further. 

The Phillies don't have a ton of spots to upgrade defensively. One potential improvement could come if Alec Bohm moves across the diamond to first base, but if that happens it means Rhys Hoskins is either missing time in 2021 with his elbow injury or has been traded, and either of those two occurrences would negatively impact the Phils' offense.

Outfield play was a struggle for the 2020 Phillies. Harper wasn't nearly the defender this summer that he was in right field in 2019. Adam Haseley made several critical mistakes in the outfield. Andrew McCutchen didn't have the same mobility or ability to play every day in left field. That led to Jay Bruce starting in left field at times and he shouldn't be out there at this point either.

Defense cost the Phillies multiple games this season. The mix of bad bullpen and shaky glove-work will doom any team.