As of today, Phillies have 4th-best roster in NL East

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As of today, Phillies have 4th-best roster in NL East

Prior to the arrival of new GM Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets largely operated like a mid-market team these last few years. It didn't help the Phillies much in their head-to-head matchup, with the Phillies going 50-82 against the Mets the last seven seasons.

It did, however, make the Mets less of a threat in the division race. The same can't be said now after the Mets added Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano and Wilson Ramos, brought back Jeurys Familia and watched Zack Wheeler transform in the second half of 2018 into a legit top-of-the-rotation starter. 

Suddenly, the Mets can talk themselves into a wild-card spot or perhaps even an NL East title if things break right. There is just a major advantage to having Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Wheeler, two very good late-inning relievers and a deeper lineup.

Wheeler is a major key to this. You know how amazing deGrom is. You know how unhittable Syndergaard is most of the time. Did you know that Wheeler went 10-1 with a 2.06 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and .195 opponents' batting average in his final 15 starts last season? He was basically Aaron Nola from the midpoint of the season. Sometimes, it all clicks for a pitcher when he figures out how to perfectly spot his fastball. It looks like that has happened for Wheeler.

Philly fans love to hate the Mets, but as of the final days of 2018, it would require some major hometown goggles to call the Phillies a better team than their rivals from New York.

Therein lies the problem. The Mets are better. The Braves are ascending, with the best bat in the division in Freddie Freeman and maybe the best overall player in Ronald Acuña Jr. 

The Nationals will lose Bryce Harper, but Patrick Corbin isn't a bad consolation prize. Between deGrom-Syndergaard-Wheeler and Max Scherzer-Corbin-Stephen Strasburg, the two best rotations in the National League are probably both in the Phillies' division.

As of this exact date, the Phillies have the fourth-best roster in the NL East. They need at least one more upgrade in the lineup, one more upgrade in the rotation and one more upgrade in the bullpen to realistically push for the 90 wins required for a playoff spot. 

If the Phils can add Manny Machado, Zach Britton and a veteran starting pitcher via trade, then they can call themselves the division favorite. But outside of that? It's going to be tough. 

The Phillies' front office likely banked on the Braves adding a difference-maker of Josh Donaldson's caliber and the Nationals finding a way to remain in contention despite losing Harper. It's hard to believe they foresaw the Mets making the impact moves they made.

There were many ways this offseason could have played out in the NL East and many ways it still can play out. If the Phils land one of the two free-agent superstars, it will help to nullify the additions made by their top competitors.

If they can't, then this offseason will have resulted in one of the worst-case scenarios for the Phillies, despite solid pickups like Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen.

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J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

J.T. Realmuto feeling 'blessed' as he heads into arbitration showdown with Phillies

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto will participate in Tuesday’s workout before taking a flight to Phoenix for Wednesday’s salary arbitration hearing.

Realmuto is dreading the long flight, not the hearing.

“One way or another, I’m going to be playing baseball in Philly this year,” he said. “I’m going to either be making $10 million or $12 million, and I’ll be happy either way. I’m blessed to get to do what I do for a living for a lot of money so either way, I’m happy.”

Realmuto is actually seeking $12.4 million. The Phillies have filed at $10 million. The arbitration panel will select one figure or the other. There is no middle ground (more details here).

Realmuto, who made $5.9 million last year, is in his third and final year of arbitration and is scheduled to become a free agent after this season. To date, the highest-paid catcher in that class was Matt Wieters, who avoided a hearing with Baltimore and made $8.275 million 2015. Catcher Mike Napoli actually made more — $9.4 million — in a negotiated settlement with the Texas Rangers in 2012, but he was in his fourth year of arbitration because of his Super-Two status with the Anaheim Angels in 2009.

So, no matter how the arbitration panel rules, Realmuto’s 2020 salary will be a record for an arbitration-eligible catcher.

Once Realmuto’s 2020 salary is established, the Phillies will turn their attention to negotiating a long-term contract extension with him. Realmuto is expected to seek in the neighborhood of $23 million per season, matching Joe Mauer’s record salary for a catcher, over a five- or six-year deal. 

The Phillies would like to get a deal done by opening day to avoid any potential distractions. Would Realmuto negotiate during the season?

“We haven’t gotten there yet,” Realmuto said. “I’ll talk with my agent and we’ll communicate with Matt (Klentak, the general manager) and let him know.”

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Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

Joe Girardi asks Phillies players to give him their hearts — and their trots

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Joe Girardi officially opened his first Phillies spring training camp by telling the players to give him their hearts.

“He knows if he can get our heart, he’ll get our best on the field,” J.T. Realmuto said.

Both Girardi and managing partner John Middleton stressed that the goal was to play deep into October. The Phillies have not been to the postseason since 2011.

Middleton reminded the players of the passion that Philadelphia fans have and urged them to give back to the fans by playing the game hard and respecting it.

Girardi roamed the fields of Carpenter Complex during the workout. He lightened the mood at the end of a base-running drill by asking a group of players, including Jean Segura, to show off their home run trots.

“Just to have some fun,” Girardi said after the workout.

The home-run trot "drill" came with some instructions.

“Make sure you run hard before you know it's out,” he told the players. “The big thing is if you run hard to first, there is a great chance it'll be out by then. Then you don't get caught on first base or caught on second base when you should be a base ahead. Just run hard.”

Phillies pitchers will begin throwing live batting practice during Tuesday’s workout.

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