The hot stove was put on ice after Dec. 1 when the owners locked out the players for 99 days. But now baseball is back and so begins the sprint to opening day on April 7 with spring training happening amid the restarting of roster construction through trades and free agency.
With the lockout in the rearview mirror, let’s get back to baseball with a refresher on where things stand for the Phillies, what has happened this offseason and what awaits:
Improving the roster
The Phillies won’t be able to bolster their roster all via free agency. Center field, in particular, likely will require a trade. The Phillies have talked with the Tampa Bay Rays about Kevin Kiermaier, multiple major-league sources confirmed. Toronto’s Randal Grichuk may be available. And they will keep shaking every tree in Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the hopes that Bryan Reynolds or Cedric Mullins falls out. Regardless, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski will almost certainly have to move players off the 40-man roster. Here’s a look at a few who could be sent packing.
Finding protection for MVP Bryce Harper in the lineup must be a priority and there are plenty of good (and pricey) options available. We broke down three who could make the most sense for the Phillies, why they would be a good fit and what they might cost.
Kris Bryant: How about reuniting Las Vegas Little League teammates Bryant and Harper? The former Cubs slugger would bring proven production and versatility to the Phillies, but also comes with a steep price tag.
Michael Conforto: The Phillies could fill their opening in left field with Conforto, who would be a far better defensive fit than Schwarber. And Conforto is a left-handed power hitter — with experience batting in the middle of the lineup — who could balance out some of the Phillies’ right-handed hitting sluggers.
This offseason has been anything but normal, and few understand that better than new hitting coach Kevin Long, who was hired by the Phillies in October, just 52 days before MLB’s owners locked out the players. Unable to talk to his future pupils, Long has spent three-quarters of his day, every day, looking at videos of swings, and jokes that, mechanically-speaking, he might know the Phillies’ hitters better than they know themselves. And that includes young third baseman Alec Bohm, who struggled last season after his runner-up finish in 2020 rookie of the year voting. Long’s forecast: Bohm is “going to be a force in this league for a long time.”
Who’s next: The prospects
At first glance, the Phillies’ minor-league system is less a farm than a forest. Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, right-handed pitchers and the last two first-round draft picks, are 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7, respectively. They also represent the organization’s best hopes for homegrown No. 1 starters since Aaron Nola. And if they’re honest, some Phillies officials at the time pegged Nola as a No. 3 or 4.
“The two of them are like a couple of redwoods,” one National League scout said.
Here’s how they fit into our ranking of the Phillies’ prospects along with some other names you should know.
Abel and Painter have become fast friends since they met in September. It makes sense. They have a lot in common. They almost certainly will be joined at the hip as they ascend the minor-league ranks together beginning this season.
In five months’ time, Matt Vierling went from informing the Phillies’ instructional league coaches that he’s capable of playing multiple positions to attending major-league spring training as a non-roster invitee. Four months after that, he batted seventh and played center field for Joe Girardi. Which Phillie can be the 2022 version of Vierling? Here are a few worth watching.
Having watched the rival Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals mine Latin America for superstars Ronald Acuña Jr. and Juan Soto, respectively, the Phillies are holding out hope that they hit it big with Yhoswar Garcia. At a minimum, they need one of Garcia, Johan Rojas, or Símon Muzziotti to graduate to center field on an everyday basis in the majors, unlike back-to-back first-round picks Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley. “I like all three of them,” a National League scout said. “I think they all have a chance to be everyday center fielders with a big-time tool package. The youngest one, Garcia, my gosh, he does some things on the field that are incredible to watch.”
That the new guy hired to improve the Phillies’ minor-league system is bullish on its overall talent isn’t a big surprise, but part of his background might be. Here’s how Preston Mattingly went from first-round draft pick of the Dodgers to 26-year-old college basketball player, learning how to build a culture along the way.
The Phillies’ top positional prospect hopes the tweaks he made in the Arizona Fall League continue into spring training as he competes for that big-league shortstop job Dombrowski mentioned last year. And Bryson Stott is definitely embracing the competition.
How we got here
The Phillies got to work on shaping their 2022 roster as soon as the 2021 campaign ended. Here’s a look at what happened before the lockout shut down the business of baseball for more than three months.
One day after the World Series ended, the Phillies declined two club options: Andrew McCutchen ($15 million option, $3 million buyout) and Odúbel Herrera ($11.5 million option, $2.5 million buyout). McCutchen became a free agent, while Herrera remained eligible for salary arbitration.
The Phillies cleared space on the 40-man roster by outrighting a half-dozen players: Herrera, catcher Andrew Knapp, infielder Ronald Torreyes, outfielder Travis Jankowski, and right-handed pitchers J.D. Hammer and Ramon Rosso. All six became free agents.
The Phillies made their first offseason acquisition, claiming left-handed reliever Ryan Sherriff off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Deadline for teams to extend qualifying offers to free agents. The Phillies did not extend any this year.
J.T. Realmuto and Zack Wheeler were finalists for the Gold Glove, but lost out to the Pirates’ Jacob Stallings and the Braves’ Max Fried, respectively.
Players who became free agents after the World Series can sign with a new team. Cam Bedrosian, Archie Bradley, Freddy Galvis, Ian Kennedy, Brad Miller, Matt Moore, and Héctor Neris officially hit the market.
The GM meetings opened in Carlsbad, Calif., bringing together all of the game’s decision makers along with player agents. Among the news made by Dombrowski:
The Phillies will Stott a chance to begin the season as their starting shortstop. “There’s no promises attached to him. But I want to make sure he comes in with the right mindset to go about it,” Dombrowski said.
The Phillies’ top priority is finding a closer, and the White Sox’s Craig Kimbrel could be a trade option.
The designated hitter appears destined for the National League. How would the Phillies use the extra bat in the lineup? Expect a committee approach.
Dombrowski said left field and center field are “complete necessities,” but he doesn’t expect former first-round picks Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley to be solutions.
Harper won his second career Silver Slugger, becoming the first Phillies outfielder to claim the award since Bobby Abreu in 2004. Realmuto was also a finalist for the award that is presented annually to the best hitters at each position as voted by managers and coaches.
Former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler wins the National League’s Manager of the Year, two seasons after John Middleton overruled Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail to fire Kapler after another September collapse. Kapler’s Giants won 107 games this season and the Phillies have gone 25-33 in the last two Septembers without him.
Wheeler lost the National League Cy Young Award by the thinnest of margins as he finished just 10 points behind Milwaukee’s Corbin Burnes. Wheeler led the majors in innings (213⅓) and the NL in strikeouts (247) while finishing with the fifth-best ERA (2.78) in the NL.
Harper put together one of the best offensive seasons in Phillies history and it culminated with him winning the National League’s MVP Award. It was his second time winning the award, which is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Harper finished with 348 total points, ahead of Washington’s Juan Soto (274) and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. (244). Harper led the majors in slugging percentage (.615) and OPS (1.044.) His batting average (.309) ranked third in the NL and his 35 homers were the sixth most. A second MVP only bolstered his already strong case for Cooperstown and makes that $330 million contract look like money well spent, writes Marcus Hayes. It also cements Harper’s status as one of the best players of his generation.
Harper’s peers also awarded him in October with the NL’s Outstanding Player Award.
The deadline to add minor-leaguers to the 40-man roster and protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies added infielder Luis García, pitcher James McArthur, and outfielder Jhailyn Ortiz.
The Phillies claimed off waivers reliever Kent Emanuel, a 29-year-old left-hander who had elbow surgery in May after serving an 80-game suspension for a performance-enhancing drug he denied taking. Emanuel made 10 relief appearances as a rookie last season with Houston before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. He avoided a second Tommy John surgery, which he had in 2015, and should be ready for spring training.
The Phillies acquired relief pitcher Nick Nelson from the Yankees. Nelson, who turns 26 in December, has a 6.43 ERA over the last two seasons in 22 appearances. He racked up 22 strikeouts last season in 14⅓ innings but also walked 16 batters. He leans heavily on his fastball, which tops out near 99 mph, and uses a changeup as his preferred secondary pitch.
The Phillies also acquired minor-league catcher Donny Sands and sent the Yankees left-hander Joel Valdez and first baseman T.J. Rumfield. Valdez, 21, pitched last season in the Dominican Summer League and Rumfield, 21, was drafted last summer in the 12th round.
The Phils acquired 28-year-old catcher Garrett Stubbs from Houston for outfielder Logan Cerny, a 22-year-old who was drafted in last summer’s 10th round. Stubbs has played 51 major-league games over the last three seasons with a .485 career OPS in 87 plate appearances. He hit .265 last season with a .781 OPS in 146 plate appearances at triple A.
The Phillies continued to stock up on left-handed pitchers by claiming Scott Moss off waivers from Cleveland. Moss, 27, made 11 starts for Cleveland’s triple-A affiliate this year. He was acquired in 2019 from Cincinnati as part of the Trevor Bauer trade.
This is the deadline for the Phillies to tender contracts to players not yet eligible for free agency. José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, Zach Eflin, and Rhys Hoskins were eligible for arbitration. Roman Quinn was a candidate to be non-tendered, but the Phillies designated him for assignment on Nov. 29. A non-tendered player becomes a free agent.
The Phillies announced the signing of Domínguez to a one-year deal that will be worth $727,500, according to a source.
Alvarado, Eflin, and Hoskins were tendered 2022 contracts, as expected.
The Collective Bargaining agreement expired at midnight and MLB soon announced it was imposing a lockout. MLB negotiated in Texas with the players’ union, but the talks proved fruitless. The lockout started minutes after the CBA expired and hours after a brief final negotiation between the two parties. “We are taking this step now because it accelerates the urgency for an agreement with as much runway as possible to avoid doing damage to the 2022 season,” Manfred said in a statement.
The re-construction of the Phillies bullpen received its first addition just before the expiration of the CBA when they signed right-hander Corey Knebel, who recorded key postseason outs in October for the Dodgers and could be the new closer.
In the waning minutes of Dec. 1, before the lockout froze transactions for an undetermined length of time, the Phillies’ 40-man roster churned once more. They signed infielder Johan Camargo to a one-year, $1.4 million contract and designated pitcher Adonis Medina for assignment.
As the 11-month international signing period opened, the Phillies signed 17-year-old shortstop William Bergolla Jr., the headliner from among 17 players with whom they were expecting to reach agreements, according to major-league and team sources. Bergolla signed for $2,050,000, which represents nearly 40% of the Phillies’ $5,179,700 international bonus pool.
The Phillies picked up where they left off before baseball’s lockout began as they continued Saturday to solidify the back of their bullpen with the signing of free-agent right-hander Jeurys Familia. He made 65 appearances last season for the Mets, logging a 3.94 ERA with 10.9 strikeouts and 4.1 walks per nine innings. The one-year contract, which was first reported by FanSided, is worth $6 million and is pending a physical.