Philadelphia Phillies' best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024 season

Feb 28, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper (3) looks
Feb 28, 2024; Clearwater, Florida, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper (3) looks / Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports
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Phillies' worst-case scenario for 2024

The big no-no in MLB is often a tendency to rest on one’s laurels. That’s the threat to the Phillies, who didn’t do much this offseason to actually improve their roster.

Their most headline-grabbing action was the re-signing of rotation anchor Aaron Nola for close to $190 million through 2027. Nola has been a force for the Phillies since coming up in 2015.

But he had a 4.46 ERA in 32 starts, which made 2023 his second season in the last three with an ERA+ below the league average of 100 … it was 96. And that prompts a legitimate question: Did the Phillies just tie themselves long-term to a diminishing asset?

Nola isn’t the only Phillies regular for whom such questions are warranted. Catcher J.T. Realmuto is a three-time All Star but he’s also 33 – an age where decline often sets in behind the plate -- and coming off the worst season of his career. Whit Merrifield was added for backup in both the infield and outfield, but he’s 35 and has only produced one OPS+ above 100 since 2020.

If you are a Phillies fan, you have one more concern. Historically, close to half the teams that reach postseason level in a given year fail to maintain that playoff spot in the subsequent year. Last year, for example, only six of the dozen 2022 postseason contenders played October ball.

Since the Dodgers, Braves, Orioles and Astros are viewed as virtual mortal locks to repeat their postseason showings, that leaves the remaining eight 2023 playoff clubs to scrap for possibly as few as two or three spots this coming season. Did the Phillies do enough to ensure that they are one of those two or three teams? Or, in essentially playing a pat hand this winter, will they be 2024 victims of the game’s natural churn?