We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies Mailbag.  Each week we take your questions and answer them on The Sports Bash with MIke Gill.  Tune in each Tuesday afternoon to hear your questions answered on the air.

Why did the Phillies make the deal with Cristopher Sanchez now?  He was not going to be a free agent anytime soon.
~Fred

The news broke on Saturday, somewhat surprisingly, that Phillies starter Cristopher Sanchez and the Phillies agreed to a four-year contract.  It was surprising because the Phillies had four more years of control remaining before he would be a free agent.  Yet, the Phillies and Sanchez made a deal.

The reason behind it?  Sanchez asked.

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski explained at the press conference (via Matt Gelb of the Athletic) that he prefers not to do in-season deals, as they can be a distraction.  But was willing to engage Sanchez and his agent should they get something done quickly.   And they did.

Gelb reports that the deal is worth $22.5 million over the next four years, with club options for $14 million and $15 million in 2029 and 2030, respectively.   Those amounts can increase should he finish in the Top 10 of Cy Young voting.

Sanchez captured a spot in the Phillies rotation in 2023 out of sheer necessity.  Always a hard thrower, not always with command, Sanchez formed himself into a pitcher and went 3-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 19 games, 18 of which were starts.  Then headed into 2024, the Phillies counted on Sanchez as a member of the starting rotation.

That has paid off.  In the 14 starts prior to his deal, he has gone 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA.

Should Sanchez keep this up, the deal will be a good one for the Phillies.  And considering fellow rotation mates Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola have signed new deals, the Phillies rotation will have depth for years to come.

Do you think the Phillies are also able to extend Ranger Suárez?
~Mike

With the aforementioned Wheeler, Nola, and Sanchez all signed, the next obvious candidate for an extension is starter Ranger Suárez.  While he has always been good, Suárez is pitching well enough to be considered a potential All-Star game starter and Cy Young candidate.

And the Phillies would love to have him extended.  At the Sanchez press conference, Dombrowski indicated that any such talks would likely happen in the offseason.

As quoted in the piece by Matt Gelb of the Athletic:

“We love Ranger, of course,” Dombrowski said. “Why wouldn’t you? We hope that he’s part of the organization for a long time.”

The Phillies track record points to getting a deal done.

With Wheeler, Nola, and Sanchez all signed, two things are clear.  One is that players wish to stay with the Phillies.  Second, is that the Phillies are very willing to pay to retain their own players.  It's hard to believe that after the other signings, this would be the one that would fail.

But the Phillies have time. Suárez is not a free agent until after the 2025 season.  I would imagine that an extension is high on their shopping list this coming offseason.

If Taijuan Walker was on another team, would you trade for him?
~James

You may have a hard time believing this, but I do believe that if he was healthy, Taijuan Walker could be a tradeable piece.  Despite his performance being obviously behind the others in the starting rotation, Walker is a fifth starter that a team out there might be able to use.

Walker signed a four-year deal prior to last season at an average value of $19 million per season.  That could be a tick above market, but it's not obscene.   There is value in someone who can give a team innings.

Walker departed Friday's start with what we now know was a finger injury.  He lasted just four innings.  But most of his starts are at least five innings; he has averaged around 5 1/3 innings in his 10 starts this season.  That is helpful to a team.

Walker is the fifth starter.  He's not the ace.  Not even in the top of the rotation.  And the Phillies have four other starters who have put up tremendous numbers this season.

The Phillies would need to replace him.  Yes, it could be Spencer Turnbull, who will likely re-join the rotation.  But as we've said several times, the Phillies hope to limit his innings to keep him fresh down the stretch.

But I think back to the Phillies of 2016 and 2017.  Jeremy Hellickson got about the same amount of money two years in a row.  Overall, he was decent enough.  But his main role was to keep the pitching staff from being overworked by giving them innings on a rebuilding team.  It was a job well-done for Hellickson.

If the Phillies acquired more depth, someone could use Walker.  The Phillies might have to eat some money, but they could move him.   We will have to see how the injury goes, but a team like the Phillies still can use someone like Walker.  As a fifth starter, he's been OK.

And let us remember: the fifth starter does not pitch in the playoffs.

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