By Connor Thomas
There’s been a surprising trend from callers and hosts here at the station over the past couple days that I’ve taken notice of: there have been people popping up left and right complaining about the lack of aggressiveness this offseason from the Phillies. It seems like the decade long playoff drought has understandably had an effect on the mentality of the fan base, and now has pushed a normally ravenous group of fans in Philly into overdrive. First of all, I completely get it. It’s absolutely ridiculous that an organization in this market, with this payroll, and with this history has failed to make the playoffs since 2011. It’s totally justified to expect the Phillies to be aggressive this offseason, and they deserve the ire of the fan base if they don’t do just that. But everyone needs to slow their roll just a little bit. The MLB offseason is a marathon, and right now people are expecting the Phillies to sprint the first 3 miles.
At this moment, it’s mid-November. MLB free agency just started on November 3rd, meaning that while I’m writing this, we are only 2 weeks into the real offseason for baseball teams. The biggest move of free agency so far (if you can call it that) just happened yesterday, when the Los Angeles Angels signed a washed up Noah Syndergaard to a 1 year deal to bolster their rotation. Looking at the trends of free agency in baseball, the Phillies have plenty of time until the big name players that are available find their new homes. Just look at the past couple offseasons. JT Realmuto, the presumed best catcher in last year’s free agency class took until January 29th to re-sign with the Phillies after searching for a more lucrative contract elsewhere. In 2019, Gerrit Cole was a lock to head from Houston to New York to join the Yankees and still took until December 11th to officially ink a deal. How soon we forget the Bryce Harper-Manny Machado saga of 2018, when the two young superstars dragged their free agency into late February. Machado took until Feb 21st to sign with San Diego, and Harper of course didn’t sign with the Phillies until Feb 28th. It takes time for the top tier players to work out deals and maximize their value, so don’t start pulling out your hair if Thanksgiving, or even Christmas comes and goes without a splash for the Phils.
You might be thinking “Well couldn’t the Phillies just trade for somebody instead of waiting for a free agent to pick them?” And yes, they could, but it doesn’t make the most sense when you look at a trade logically this time of year. The Phillies had one of the top payrolls in baseball last year, meaning they’re going to have just about as much capital as anyone in baseball to sign the best free agents, making them more prone to add through free agency for two reasons. Monetarily, why would you trade for a player making a set amount, when it’s possible that you could get a better player for a discount? No one truly knows what a given player in free agency is going to command salary-wise, and even though you won’t end up paying a worse player more than a top free agent, you could certainly get more bang for your buck through free agency. Also, the funny thing about trades is that you have to give the other team something in exchange for the player you’re receiving. In free agency, you simply sign that player. The Phillies are bereft of minor league talent already, so why would they give up valuable pieces to fill a hole that could be filled with just a contract in free agency? It doesn’t make sense to go after trades until the team finds out whether or not they can lure a top player at that position to Philly.
The Philadelphia fan base is rightfully impatient when it comes to baseball, but we have to collectively fight that urge while the Phillies progress through this offseason. The team should absolutely still be aggressive, and they deserve criticism if they don’t sign some top outfielders and bullpen arms, but the MLB offseason takes time to develop. Judgement needs to be reserved for March, not November.