March 23, 2023

The 2022 season is over, so what’s next? Two bold predictions for the upcoming free-agent frenzy

Left: Phillies' left fielder Kyle Schwarber celebrates with free agent shortstop Xander Bogaerts (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images). Right: Former teammates and current stars Trea Turner and Bryce Harper chat at Citizens Bank Park (Bill Streicher/USA TODAY).

Any reminiscing in the Phillies’ clubhouse didn’t last for long after their 4-1 loss to the Astros in game six of the World Series. As the Astros’ celebrations started seconds after the final out and continued deep into the night, just eight Phillies players spent only a few minutes reflecting on the magical year they rode through together. Alec Bohm, Nick Castellanos, Darick Hall, Rhys Hoskins, Corey Knebel, Kyle Schwarber, Garrett Stubbs, and Matt Vierling shared a beer before leaving Minute Maid Park for the night. These last few minutes together was the final highlight from the run that will be permanently ingrained into every heart in Philadelphia for years to come. All playoff runs are special, but this team, specifically, was uniquely extraordinary in a way that is nearly impossible to put into words.

Then, it was over.

A tiny part of everything built up over the past few months was deconstructed, though the core remains. Franchise staples Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler aren’t going anywhere; others, unfortunately, are.

Jean Segura, a favorite amongst fans, had his option declined a few days after the conclusion of the World Series. Zach Eflin, another well-liked, long-tenured Phillie, declined his side of a mutual option last week. A few key pieces from the Phillies’ 2022 bullpen are also off the books.

But in typical Bryce Harper fashion, he is already thinking ahead. His comment after the Phillies’ game-six loss went viral on Phillies’ social media communities.

“This is going to be the same team next year with a couple more pieces, I’d imagine,” Harper said. “Dave Dombrowski’s our guy. John Middleton understands that we want to win.”

As of 5:00pm ET on November 10, those pieces are free to sign with teams, ideally before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in February.

The Phillies’ offseason could trend in many different directions, but here are two bold predictions:

Phillies exit Trea Turner market early

Trea Turner is the perfect fit for Philadelphia. He’s versatile defensively, holds his own wherever he’s placed, hits for a high average, and is one of the fastest players in baseball. What attracts many Phillies fans to him is his ability to hit toward the top of the lineup, which is an area that the Phillies lack. Kyle Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins led the Phillies off for most of 2022, but both are more suited to be middle-of-the-lineup sluggers.

In 2022, Turner hit .298, had a .809 OPS, and drove in exactly 100 runs. He is about as consistent of a player as you can find, as he’s proven that he can be successful in all situations. With runners in scoring position, he had an impressive .827 OPS and posted similar numbers when the bases were empty.

A rally starter that’s also run producer is exactly who the Phillies need.

Most analysts consider Turner to be the second-best offensive player on the market. All this sounds great, but this also means he is enticing to more than just the Phillies. The Yankees, Mariners, Giants, Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, and of course, the Dodgers have shown extensive interest in the star shortstop.

By no means will this be an easy acquisition.

At just 29 years old, Turner is expected to sign for around ten years, and given this will be his first major payday, he and his agent will be hungry for a pricey contract. Jon Heyman from the New York Post predicted a $275 million contract over nine years, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he surpasses the $300-million mark.

The question then becomes this: Is Dave Dombrowski willing to spend that kind of money? He spent a bucket load of cash between 2021 and 2022, going over the luxury tax for the first time in franchise history. Compared to the past, Dombrowski has been much more conservative with his prospects since coming to the Phillies. During the trade deadline, he was much more passive and was unwilling to give up any of the Phillies’ top minor leaguers. Going over the luxury tax has a negative impact on your draft pick, so it’s possible he won’t want to pay the tax and have their first-round pick drop for the second year in a row.

If this is his approach—or if he wants to balance the spending of the team’s money—there are other options for the Phillies to fill the hole in the middle infield. Carlos Correa Dansby Swanson could be the cheapest option, but he is known to strike out a lot, which is something the Phillies already struggle with. And now that Jean Segura is no longer in the lineup, the Phillies don’t have a great contact hitter with elite bat-to-ball skills.

Insert Xander Bogaerts.

Bogaerts boasted an imposing .307 average and had a .833 OPS in 150 games in 2022. He is below the major-league average in whiff percentage and chase percentage, and he also has slightly above-average defense at shortstop. He was in Boston from 2013 until he elected free agency on November 7, 2022, where he accumulated five Silver Sluggers, four All-Star game selections, two World Series championships, and was even selected to the All-MLB First Team in 2019.

Because of Turner’s availability, many are overlooking Bogaerts. If he signs early, he could get at least $7 million less in average annual value. If he goes to Philadelphia under these terms, this could allow the Phils’ front office to save some money to spend on other aspects—like the bullpen or starting rotation—while still getting a star shortstop for a cheaper price.

Plus, he was teammates with Kyle Schwarber at the end of 2021 and won a championship under Dave Dombrowski in 2018. Dombrowski has been known to grab players he’s worked with, and he’s in a perfect position to do it again.

FINAL PREDICTION: Phillies sign SS Xander Bogaerts to eight-year, $227 million contract.

Justin Verlander ends his Hall-of-Fame career in Philadelphia

At first thought, the idea seems crazy, but give it a chance.

Verlander, a definite Hall of Famer, is the frontrunner for the Cy Young Award in the American League after one of the best regular seasons from an American League pitcher since Pedro Martinez’s unbelievable run from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. And at 39 years old, Verlander’s accomplishment appears even more incredible. He posted an American-League leading 1.75 ERA, had an impressively lopsided 18-4 record in 28 starts, and finished his regular season with a microscopic 0.83 WHIP.

Going into 2023 with the most recent NL Pennant under their belt, it would make sense for the Phillies’ front office to build a powerhouse in an attempt of building off their successful 2022 campaign. If this is indeed the goal, which most will agree it should be, veteran Justin Verlander is the perfect fit for Philadelphia.

Considering he’s going into his age-40 season, it’s looking like this will be the second-to-last stop of his career, as the final one will be to Cooperstown, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. So with what’s likely to be the final contract Verlander signs, you’d expect that first, he’s going to get a ton of money, and secondly, it’ll be a shorter deal because of his age. He’s predicted to sign a two-to-three-year contract with an average annual value of around $40 million.

If the Phillies can choke that up, this would give them one of the best starters in the business, while Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Nick Castellanos, and Rhys Hoskins are all at the end of their primes.

Some might argue that $40 million is too much money to give a 39-year-old arm, but Verlander has shown no signs of regression and has only been improving since Tommy John surgery in October of 2020. Since returning, Verlander has seen a slight increase in fastball velocity.

Once again, there is also a connection with Dave Dombrowski. Verlander was with the Tigers from 2005 to 2017, and Dombrowski was his GM for a few years during that span. Verlander has also been teammates with Nick Castellanos and Garrett Stubbs, so there are surely some ties between Verlander and the Phillies.

FINAL PREDICTION: Phillies sign RHP Justin Verlander to two-year, $88 million contract.

Oh, and don’t forget, Phillies fans got to see a glimpse of Verlander both on and off the field during the World Series at Citizens Bank Park.

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