By Connor Thomas
I know what you’re thinking. A Phillies post on a day where the Delaware Valley is covered in almost a foot of snow? It certainly isn’t baseball weather right now, but the reality is that we’re just about 2 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for the 2021 MLB Season. When this offseason began for the Phils, there were plenty of question marks surrounding the organization, and very few of them had apparent answers. Would Matt Klentak be back as GM? What about Andy MacPhail? How do you pull out of the hole of having one of the worst bullpens of MLB history? Are you going to lose your starting catcher and shortstop in free agency? The list goes on. One of those questions was answered early, as Klentak was
fired reassigned shortly after the end of the season. But during a John Middleton press conference announcing the change at the GM spot, we were given more excuses than answers, including a statement that finding a Klentak replacement might take some time because of people’s reluctance to move in a pandemic. (The Sixers hired a new coach within a week who did not mind moving coast to coast) Without a General Manager the prospects for real organizational change for the Phillies seemed slim.
Enter Dave Dombrowski. It took longer than most of the teams in the MLB for the Phils to get their offseason rolling, but with the hire of Dombrowski, who has put together multiple World Series winning rosters, the team finally got their offseason rolling. Multiple signings followed, headlined by Archie Bradley, a hard throwing reliever who has one of the few sub-4 career ERAs in the Phillies bullpen. Bradley won’t completely solve the bullpen issues of 2020, but he will be a proven arm to rely on. Dombrowski also re-signed two key pieces of last year’s squad in shortstop Didi Gregorius and catcher JT Realmuto. They aren’t perfect answers to the questions posed above, but they are answers. And with Andy MacPhail set to step away from his position as Team President, it checks off most of the list of issues that the organization faced heading into this offseason. They didn’t trade for Francisco Lindor. They haven’t signed Trevor Bauer. There is always more that a team could have done when you look back on an offseason, but you’d be hard pressed to convince me that the Phillies have not been successful over the past couple months.
I say all that to say this: the Phillies are not in as bad of shape as many people would have you believe. The biggest obstacle this team will face is the fact that the NL East may be the toughest division in baseball this year. But if you throw on blinders to the rest of the division, the roster in Philadelphia looks plenty competitive. Their rotation will feature both Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler, who each had valid claims to the “ace” title at points last year, and will be rounded out by Zach Eflin – one of the more underrated pitchers in all of baseball – and Spencer Howard – a top prospect who, despite a tough rookie campaign, still has tremendous upside. The bullpen, well it couldn’t possibly be worse than last years, right?? And with new pitching coach Caleb Cotham taking over, there is interesting potential with the Phillies hurlers.
If the pitching staff doesn’t sell you, take a look at how the lineup could look on opening day for the Phils:
1.) Andrew McCutchen, LF – a veteran leadoff bat, even if he is aging
2.) Rhys Hoskins, 1B – heated up in second half last year, still high ceiling
3.) Bryce Harper, RF – MVP ceiling
4.) J.T. Realmuto, C – best catcher in baseball
5.) Didi Gregorius, SS – led team with 40 RBIs last year
6.) Alec Bohm, 3B – one of the best rookie bats in baseball last year
7.) Jean Segura, 2B – has hit over .300 3 times in the last 5 seasons
8.) Whoever the hell plays CF – ok even I will admit CF will be an issue
9.) Pitcher – SHOULD BE A DH SPOT BUT BASEBALL IS BEING STUPID
That is a lineup with some serious pop, some veteran hitters with great bat control, and one that scored the 5th most runs in baseball last year.
I don’t know if the Phillies will make the playoffs this year in a stacked NL East. But what I do know for sure is that they are being underrated by way too many people who are dismissing them as a basement dweller. With his first full season as Manager ahead of him, don’t be surprised if Joe Girardi and this group make some noise in the NL Wild Card race come September.