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Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Colomé, Shane Greene and Mark Melancon are among the top free-agent relief pitchers still available on the market. They could look to sign one of those three if they’re prioritizing stability at the back-end but it looks like they could be more interested in taking a flier on a lesser-known free agent. Blake Parker and José Álvarez, two of the more reliable bullpen options for the Phillies the past two seasons, are still on the market. Parker is the likelier of the two to get a minor-league deal.
Some options remain on the starting pitching market. Trevor Bauer is surely out of their price range, but the market is flooded with veteran arms who could eat innings in the back of the rotation. Rick Porcello is probably the best pitcher remaining out of the bunch.
“We’re in a position where I think pitching still remains a priority but as you continue to move on, you also fine tune your club in other ways,” Dombrowski said. “We’ve had a gaping hole at catcher but that’s changed.”
“So as you continue to eliminate and try to approach some of these holes, well then you start talking about other things. How does your bench look, for example? Can you do something there? Because every club can get better. I don’t care how good of a club you are. You can always get better.”
When asked about ownership’s outlook on finances, Dombrowski credited John Middleton and the Buck family for providing the resources needed to “put the best club possible that we can on the field.” The Phillies’ luxury tax payroll, which includes the Gregorius and Moore signings, is just over $195 million, according to FanGraphs. Half of Realmuto’s $20 million salary in 2021 is deferred, according to multiple reports, as well as an unknown portion of Gregorius’ contract. The deferrals give them some leeway to pursue more depth but don’t expect them to come close to exceeding the $210 million luxury tax.
“You also look at the finances you’ve spent in other places,” Dombrowski said. “That’s become more clear for us but I would still say pitching continues to be something that’s focused both not only with guys on your big-league roster but non-roster invitees that we like and that we think can help us, particularly in the bullpen. And we also continue to look at our bench.”
If you recall, the Phillies spent the early portion of the offseason snagging a few players on minor-league deals with invites to spring training. Bullpen arms include Michael Ynoa, Neftalí Féliz, David Paulino, Bryan Mitchell and Aneurys Zabala while Ivan Nova could be an option in the rotation. All will get a look in spring training and while the odds to win a 40-man roster spot are against them, any one of them could pitch their way onto the roster.
The Phillies president of baseball operations also noted that the team could look to improve the bench. They’re in need of an impact bat that could split time with Andrew McCutchen in left field, especially if the DH does not return to the National League. The Phillies could go the non-roster invitee route to fill out their bench like they did last season but as they learned last year, it’s not always the most sound strategy.
Kevin Pillar, Brad Miller and notorious Phillie killer Ryan Braun could all be appealing options if they fall within the Phillies’ price range. C.J. Chatham and infield prospect Nick Maton, who was added to the 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 draft, could win a roster spot with a strong camp.
To make space for Realmuto, Gregorius and Moore, the Phillies traded pitcher Cole Irvin, infielder Kyle Holder and designated Ian Hamilton for assignment. Another roster spot will open up at the start of camp when Seranthony Domínguez is placed on the 60-day IL. They have a couple of likely trade candidates in pitcher Johan Quezada and David Hale but otherwise, open roster spots will be hard to come by.
Dombrowski and the front office have room to make one or two final acquisitions to round out the 2021 roster. Who exactly is that acquisition remains to be seen but after weeks of minimal activity on the market, the Phillies’ roster finally seems to be taking shape.