If the Phillies hope to contend for the NL East title in 2021, they’re going to need some help.
Philadelphia is coming off a pandemic-shortened season that saw them finish 28-32 and miss the playoffs for the ninth-straight season. It was a disappointing result for a team that entered the year with World Series aspirations, especially considering MLB expanded its normal playoff field of 10 teams to 16.
However, expectations are expected to be tempered in 2021. The Phillies have a litany of roster holes to fill this offseason — chief among them re-signing star catcher J.T. Realmuto — but all indications coming out of Philadelphia have signaled that the team plans to cut spending, not increase it.
NBC Sports Philadelphia analyst Corey Seidman joined the Nationals Talk podcast for an NL East roundtable. He discussed the best- and worst-case scenarios for the Phillies in 2021, putting a cap on his expectations for their final win total.
“I would say that the best-case scenario would be that the Phillies, entering a season with lower expectations, actually surprise some people and win like 88 games and make the playoffs,” Seidman said. “I don’t anticipate that happening, especially if they lose J.T. Realmuto. Worst-case scenario would be just a dismal season that pisses off Bryce Harper and sours the fanbase and makes you really wonder what pathway the Phillies have out.”
The Phillies will be tasked with competing in a tough NL East, which figures to be among the most contentious divisions in baseball.
At the top are the Atlanta Braves, division winners each of the last three years with stars such as Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr. coming off Silver Slugger-winning seasons. The Nationals are only two years removed from winning the World Series while the New York Mets are a revamped threat following their purchase by billionaire Steve Cohen. Even the Miami Marlins are coming off a season in which they surprised everyone by making their first playoff appearance since 2003.
Despite a core that includes Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm, the Phillies have question marks across their roster. Realmuto’s departure would leave a gaping hole in the middle of their lineup and behind the plate. The back-end of the rotation has few reliable options while their bullpen is coming off a season in which it compiled the second-highest reliever ERA of all time at 7.06.
If the Phillies don’t change course and shore up their roster in free agency, even 88 wins could prove a bit too optimistic. Then again, these past two seasons have shown that Philadelphia’s rebuild didn’t produce enough key pieces to field a contender. Success in 2021 may already be out of reach.