It is difficult to know when Trader Dave Dombrowski decided this offseason to sort of stand pat with his current Phillies lineup. So far, he has re-signed starter Aaron Nola. In a year when the NL-rival Dodgers decided to spend so much money on a star player that many older MLB fans literally gagged, however, nothing further may strike some as questionable. However, by the time Los Angeles signed Shohei Ohtani, Dombrowski had already left the Winter Meetings empty-handed.
Surely, everyone had understood the Dodgers were a leading contender for the Japanese-born star, if for no other reason than geography.
The Philadelphia Phillies have, no doubt, a very good starting lineup and a quite decent bullpen.
They have made the playoffs two years running, once all the way to the World Series. Twice, however, their lineup — largely designed to mash baseballs lopsided — have fallen to good postseason pitching (in 2022 to the Astros bullpen, and last season to a Diamondbacks rookie starter and their bullpen).
Something seems needed, many Philadelphia fans would say, and, of course, one clear need that might be filled is a bullpen closer since theirs from this year’s ultimate stumble, Craig Kimbrel, is now an Oriole. Another might be an established center fielder because their up-and-coming defensive wizard, Johan Rojas, may need a few at-bats in Triple-A to make all concerned feel truly at ease.
Wasn’t Cody Bellinger available when the decision-makers met in Nashville? (Yes, and he still was as this was typed.)
Well, he is expensive, and many expect that the Phillies are done with big contracts for a while after Bryce Harper’s and Trea Turner’s. Bellinger is only 28 and will be asking for a lot of money, if not an Ohtani-level deal.
As has been documented, Dombrowski believes his team is “a good club.” The context of that remark suggested a bit more positivity than the simple phrase itself does. He might have added that two of his younger players, Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott, had ’23 seasons that were very, very encouraging. Stott in particular looks like a genuine rising star.
Additionally, some view the rest of the NL as weaker — after the Dodgers (now) and Braves, of course.
But the rest of the Phillies, particularly their starters, are now, arguably, beginning to pass their peaks. J.T. Realmuto will be 33 on Opening Day, Nick Castellanos 32, and Kyle Schwarber 31. Zack Wheeler will turn 34 in May, and Turner is the baby. He will be merely 30 to start the season, but 31 in June.
Bryce Harper will open the season at 31, but no one sensible thinks he is declining yet. Still, that’s six of the likely Opening Day lineup in their age-31 seasons or older.
Dombrowski has said he looks forward to a full year of Harper playing first, and he expects Turner to settle in after a struggle for his first half-season-plus in Philly.
Expect the Phillies to still do a little tweaking this winter.
If they trip and fall again next year, though, do expect some more significant changes before 2025.