Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Some words on baseball and the Phillies

I put this on my SpaceHey blog at 1:15am and figured it should go here too. Call it Pat being frustrated with his favorite team while his kid didn't sleep, I don't know. Let me know if I'm way off base here.

As of right now, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB owners and players union is expired. Everything I've read in the last two weeks points to a lockout. I haven't seen the latest update, but for the sake of argument I'll assume no deal was reached. The Commissioner, in his infinite wisdom, has said he favors a lockout now because the two sides can [theoretically] negotiate a new agreement before games are lost. This is dumb for a few reasons, but that's not why I'm here.

Other teams - namely the rival Mets - took the time recently to make deals while they could. If you're unaware, a lockout means no business (like signing players) can be done. So many front office people saw the urgency of the situation and acted accordingly.

But not the Phillies.

A few years ago, team owner John Middleton said he was prepared to spend "stupid money" to help the team win. Yes, the team signed Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, and JT Realmuto (who have all been worth it thus far) to big deals. But when you make a declaration like that and the team hardly improves, it rings hollow - especially when the team hasn't really been in play on other big free agents. This is made worse by the fact that he refuses to go over the luxury tax threshold to make a deal. Maybe I'm naive, but I think blowing past the tax qualifies as stupid money.

I will admit that because the team hasn't made the playoffs since 2011, my faith in the front office is not strong. But they have made several high picks in the draft during that time and, well, here's a look at that:

2014: Aaron Nola, SP (7)
2015: Cornelius Randolph, SS (10)
2016: Mickey Moniak, OF (1)
2017: Adam Haseley (8)
2018: Alec Bohm, 3B (3)

The only consistent major league contributor on that list is Aaron Nola, and even he had a down year in 2021. Randolph hasn't made it to the majors and is currently a free agent. Moniak only made the big leagues in 2020 because of COVID protocols and he didn't play well enough to stick around. Haseley has been back and forth between the minors and the majors. And Bohm, while I think he can get right, was demoted to the minors last season. When you miss that badly in picking and developing players, you'd better be able to make up for it in trades and free agency. So far they have not.

Seeing big names like Max Scherzer (Mets), Starling Marte (Mets), Marcus Semien (Rangers), Corey Seager (Rangers), and Robbie Ray (Mariners) sign elsewhere while the Phillies' brass sits on their hands is tough. Whether any of these deals works out remains to be seen of course, but at least other teams are trying to improve. The Phillies have needs at multiple positions - mostly where these big names play, in fact - but weren't linked to any of them. The biggest name they've been "in talks" with is Craig Kimbrel, who was dreadful down the stretch for the White Sox. They also let Hector Neris sign with Houston the other day. I've had my complaints about Neris to be fair, but he was much better after being moved to the middle innings. The fact that he wasn't retained when the bullpen is a glaring hole and he was mostly reliable tells me a lot. 

CF, LF, SS, the rotation, the bullpen, maybe even 3B - this team has needs. Near the trade deadline last year, they were linked to CF Byron Buxton. It didn't pan out and the Twins just gave him a seven-year extension. Bryce Harper played with Kris Bryant in high school and has lobbied for his signing. I've not read any credible report that the team is in touch with his people. He can fill the CF or 3B need. Carlos Correa, Trevor Story, Chris Taylor, Nick Castellanos, Marcus Stroman - all of these free agents would make the team better immediately. Are any of them realistic signings? Probably not. But when a mediocre team has "stupid money" to spend and doesn't appear to be in on any big names at positions of need? That's a big problem.

When Matt Klentak was General Manager, the phrase "value at the margins" was repeated more times than I care to recall. So when Dave Dombrowski, famous for being aggressive, came on board I was excited. But the apparent lack of interest in any big names when the team has many holes to fill is disappointing. I realize this isn't all his fault, but why else was he hired if not to try and improve the team? Maybe there's some behind the scenes reasoning I'm not aware of, or maybe my expectations are too high. But for a big market team to be this bad for this long with no real end in sight?

It may not be the money that's stupid.

(This post was brought to you by Broad Street Bound.)

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