CLEARWATER, Fla. — On the first day of spring training, Phillies owner John Middleton stepped into the team’s clubhouse at BayCare Ballpark, and met with the 40-man roster. His message was succinct.
“He said, ‘Hey, look, I want to win,’’” said first baseman Rhys Hoskins. “‘If I’m here, I can promise you that I’m all in. The day that I’m not all in, I won’t be here.’”
Middleton’s words resonated with the players then, but resonated even more on Saturday morning, when many of them woke up to the news of a $100 million deal bringing Nick Castellanos to Philadelphia for five years. The contract, inked only days after Middleton had shelled out $79 million to Kyle Schwarber over four years, pushed the Phillies into territory they’ve never seen before: past the luxury tax threshold, which currently stands at $230 million. For Hoskins, the message was clear.
“He said he wants to win, and he backed up his words,” the first baseman said.
The Phillies’ lineup was potent to begin with, but now it is downright lethal. Castellanos, who is coming off an All-Star season in which he hit .309/.362/.576, adds obvious depth, but can also take some pressure off the Phillies’ other boppers. Hoskins said that with so many talented hitters, one through nine, there isn’t a need to be the “hero” every night. If one player is slumping, another can pick up the slack.
Phillies special advisor to the general manager Charlie Manuel, sitting in the sun a few hours before the Phillies played their spring-training home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays, agreed with Hoskins’ assessment. Manuel managed a few Phillies teams with some big power bats, most notably the squad that won the World Series in 2008. That team, which featured Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth, scored 799 runs.
Manuel thinks that the additions of Castellanos and Schwarber — and the addition of the universal DH —can push this 2022 Phillies lineup to produce as much, or more, than that 2008 lineup.
“In our 2008 lineup, we had a lot of speed at the top,” he said. “We could manufacture runs without hitting homers. We had a real good balanced lineup. But I think the DH might make this lineup a little stronger, as far as performance.”
A few days ago, shortly after the Phillies signed Schwarber, right fielder Bryce Harper said that he hoped that the team wasn’t done adding pieces. But even Harper couldn’t anticipate the move that president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and Middleton ended up making. When he heard the news on Saturday morning, he walked over to his friend and teammate Bryson Stott in the clubhouse. “It’s a good day to be a Phillie,” he told him.
Harper believes that Castellanos won’t just bring the tangibles — mainly his power — but also a fiery spirit that could ignite the rest of the lineup. Now that Middleton and Dombrowski have acted, it’s up to the players to show them that their money was well spent. But the reigning NL MVP will allow himself a moment to take it all in.
“I’m excited to see [Castellanos] walk into this clubhouse,” he said. “Because, like I said the other day, it’s kind of like this guy that walks in and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is it. We got him.’ Seeing him and Schwarber walk in at the same time is going to be pretty cool.”