A Look at Phillies Key Free Agent Decisions and Potential Targets
With the Phillies' playoff run in the rearview, after failing to make the World Series, it’s only natural to take a look ahead at the offseason and what the team may or may not do to get them over the hump in 2024.
So now what? With MLB free agency opening five days after the World Series, the team has five free agents to make decisions on, including two key name. Both names have spent their entire careers with the team, Rhys Hoskins and Aaron Nola. The other three with likely not be back in Philadelphia in 2024, Craig Kimbrel, Michael Lorenzen. and Scott Kingery (club option).
Hoskins is a tough one, the team could use his right-handed bat. However, the problem is he only plays first base and with Kyle Schwarber around, they don't need another DH-type on the roster.
Following Tommy John surgery, Bryce Harper returned to the field, he played first base and seemed pretty comfortable there. Would the team want to move Harper back to the outfield? Are they happy with Harper playing first base, and moving on from Hoskins and his 148 career home runs in red pinstripes?
Hoskins missed the entire 2023 season with a torn ACL and hit .246 with 30 home runs and 79 RBI in 156 games in 2022.
My guess is the team moves on from Hoskins and keeps Harper at first base.
Nola, who had maybe his worst season as a pro, pitched well in the playoffs, and reportedly was looking for a deal in the neighborhood of eight years, worth over $200 million before the season started. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the two sides weren't close, with the Phillies offering a four- or five-year contract.
Philadelphia Phillies starter Aaron Nola and the Phillies never came close to reaching a contract extension last winter and it’s unknown whether they can bridge that gap now.
Nola was seeking an eight-year contract in excess of $200 million, while the Phillies were hoping to sign him to a four- or five-year deal.
Talks broke off, Nola bet on himself and if he continues to pitch well this postseason, he just might get that payday from someone else.
My guess is the Phillies would like to have Nola back, but he is one of the top arms and players available in a weak free-agent class and will get a big payday from a team desperate for his ability to eat up innings.
So if Nola walks, how will the Phillies replace his 193 innings pitched? They could bring back Michael Lorenzen to pitch at the back end of the rotation and elevate Ranger Suárez to the No. 2 spot behind Zack Wheeler in the rotation.
That would give you a starting rotation of Wheeler, Suárez, Cristopher Sánchez, Taijuan Walker, and Michael Lorenzen (if he is resigned) or a young pitcher from their farm system like Mick Abel, or another free agent.
Is that rotation good enough to win a World Series? Probably not.
The top names on the market would be
- Blake Snell, Padres
- Marcus Stroman, Cubs ($21 million player option)
- Sonny Gray, Twins
Another name to keep an eye is on 25-year old Japanese ace, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and CBS Sports lists the Phillies as a potential suitor for his services.
2. Yoshinobu Yamamoto, RHP
Yamamoto is a five-time All-Star, a three-time ERA champion, and a two-time Triple Crown champion in the NPB. Last year, he won the Pacific League's equivalents of the MVP and Cy Young Awards.
In addition to Nola and Yamamoto, here are the other pitchers of the Top 25 MLB free agents, CBS Sports thinks the Phillies could be suitors for.
6. Blake Snell, LHP
Here's a complete list of pitchers who have won the Cy Young Award in each league: Gaylord Perry, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, and Max Scherzer. Snell might join that group this winter, even if it feels wrong to see his name in that class.
7. Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP
Rodriguez showed improved velocity (up about half a tick) and bat-missing ability throughout the 2023 season. He shuffled his repertoire, too, ditching his sinker to lean more heavily on a three-pitch mix that included his low-90s four-seam fastball, a cutter he can command to both sides of the plate, and a changeup that led the way in whiffs. Rodriguez will turn 31 in April, and he seems like a reasonably safe bet to remain a mid-rotation starter for at least the next few seasons.
We mentioned above that Kimbrel is a free agent, and will almost 100% be gone. So do the Phillies stay in-house for a closer, or look to finally find someone who they can turn the ninth inning over to in big games?
In-House, they could look at Orion Kerkering, who struggled in the playoffs, but obvioulsy showed he has big league stuff. jeff Hoffman had an amazing season, and could be in line for a bigger role in 2023. Outside of those two, I'm not sure there is a realistic option to close games in the organization, which brings us to...
14. Josh Hader, LHP
Plunking down $20-plus million on a closer isn't for everyone, and some suitors might raise their eyebrows at Hader's strikeout and walk rates moving in the wrong direction. It's hard to knock the results, however, and someone will pay up.
Are the Phillies willing to pay that kind of coin for a closer? I think its doubtful, but I won't rule it out. Kimbrel cost the Phillies two games in the Arizona series, two games they might have won if a pitcher like Hader was closing it out.
23. Jordan Hicks, RHP
Hicks appeared close to being designated for assignment after a rough introduction to the season. He then executed a nifty turnaround, doing some of the best relief work in the business the rest of the way. Hicks remains a flamethrowing sinkerballer who suppresses quality of contact.
Hicks is just 27-years old, and could be had for a cheaper price, but it has to be concerning that he has been pretty inconsistent outside of the 2023 season, pitching for a bad Cardinals team this year.
As for the everyday lineup? Don't expect a lot of changes, unless Dave Dombrowski can pull off a trade.
The lineup in the World Series was pretty much the game from Game 1 til the very end. Yes, they used Cristian Pache against left-handed pitching in the Miami series and against Braves lefty Max Fried, but Brandon Marsh took every at-bat in left field during the D-Backs series.
Bryson Stott, Trea Turner and Alec Bohm will all be back at second, short and third respectively. Harper could move to the outfield, Marsh, Johan Rojas and Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber are all outfield candidates.
Could Dombrowski look to move Marsh, Rojas, or Castellanos just to try and shake things up?
The team needs a more consistent bat hitting behind Harper in the lineup, but finding a spot in the field for that bat seems to be a challenge. They could re-sign Hoskins, and hit him in the No. 4 spot in the order, moving Harper back to the outfield.
Either way, there are plenty of questions for the Phillies brass to consider, with the first questions being asked today at 4pm when Dave Dombrowski, Sam Fuld, and Rob Thomson meet with the media.