Facing an offseason that likely will determine the course of their franchise for years to come, the Phillies don’t plan on being among the more active teams early on in free agency this winter.
The Athletic’s Jayson Stark reported Friday that the Phillies have “sent signals” that they don’t expect to a “major force” on the free agent market this offseason. Rather than spend big on top free agents like they did for Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler over the last two years, the Phillies are instead more likely to wait out the market for “bargain” signings later on.
Philadelphia is on the hunt for both a general manager and president of baseball operations. The team demoted previous GM Matt Klentak in October after the Phillies missed the playoffs for a ninth-straight season, which is now the longest active streak in the NL. Current president Andy MacPhail won’t be returning after the 2021 season and the team hopes to hire someone this offseason to replace him.
The Phillies plan to begin interviewing candidates by next week, according to Stark. The team is seeking an experienced candidate to replace MacPhail at the top of the organization, someone who brings a similar level of pedigree as manager Joe Girardi. The Phillies are taking a slower approach to finding that successor than the Los Angeles Angels and Miami Marlins have in hiring their new GMs. No names have been directly linked to either of the Phillies’ vacancies.
The news of Philadelphia’s conservative offseason plans come of little surprise. Philadelphia has been among the league’s biggest spenders of the last 24 months but without much success. With the coronavirus pandemic costing teams billions due to loss ticket and sales revenue, a majority of teams are expected to scale back spending — especially with no promises of full fan attendance in 2021.
However, the NL East is shaping up as one of the league’s most competitive divisions.
The Braves are fresh off three consecutive NL East titles after advancing to the NLCS for the first time in 19 years. Steve Cohen received a hero’s welcome this week as the new owner of the New York Mets, making promises of increased spending and World Series contention moving forward. The Nationals are still just over a year removed from winning a championship themselves, retaining a core that includes Juan Soto and Max Scherzer. Even the Marlins snapped their 17-year playoff drought in 2020 and there’s a lot of optimism to go around with a young rotation and new GM Kim Ng in tow.
While the Phillies' deep-pocket tactics haven’t worked out thus far, the Phillies still risk falling further behind in what’s shaping up to be a tight race for the 2021 NL East crown if they cut back on spending. The Braves and Marlins already don’t spend very much, boasting strong farm systems that should continue to churn out big-league talent. The Nationals could potentially join the Phillies in standing pat, but they’re also facing a slew of roster holes after several key contributors from their World Series team hit free agency.
First priority for the Phillies is finding new leadership for their baseball operations department. But after that, it may be a long winter for Philadelphia.