A ton of money comes off Phillies' payroll as MLB free agency begins

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The five-day window preventing MLB free agents from signing with new teams ends Thursday, though there won't be the same sort of mad dash as in the NFL or NBA where top names come off the board in the first 48 hours.

MLB's offseason tends to move at a slower pace -- particularly in recent years. The Winter Meetings, a period that usually includes major moves and groundwork laid for others, take place December 4-7 in in San Diego. The general managers' meetings have been held this week in Las Vegas.

The Phillies had five days from the conclusion of the World Series to decide what to do with the options in the contracts of Jean Segura and Zach Eflin. They declined Segura's $17 million team option, making him a free agent. Eflin declined his portion of a $15 mutual option, making him a free agent.

Despite having four players under contracts worth at least $100 million, the Phils have a ton of money coming off of their payroll this offseason. They will free up an estimated $75 million from their season-ending payroll with Segura, Eflin, Didi Gregorius, Corey Knebel, Kyle Gibson, Noah Syndergaard, David Robertson, Brad Hand, Jeurys Familia, Johan Camargo and Odubel Herrera no longer under contract.

That number will be reduced by players due raises. Aaron Nola, who unsurprisingly had his club option picked up by the Phillies, is set to make $1 million more than he did in 2022. Rhys Hoskins and Jose Alvarado will earn more in their final year of arbitration eligibility. Hoskins' salary is projected to rise from $7.7 million to the vicinity of $11 million, while Alvarado is expected to make a bit less than double the $1.9 million he earned this past season.

Seranthony Dominguez' salary should rise from $725,000 to about $2.5 million as he continues the arbitration process. Ranger Suarez' contract number for 2023 shouldn't be too far behind as he enters his first arbitration year. Edmundo Sosa's salary should rise from $716,000 to the $1.25 million range.

The Phillies could work out long-term contracts with any of these players, but assuming they go through the arbitration process and each player ends up with a salary similar to the number above, this would be an estimated $9.8 million in raises. 

Pre-arbitration players like Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh, Bryson Stott, Garrett Stubbs, Matt Vierling, Nick Maton, Connor Brogdon, Andrew Bellatti and Bailey Falter would also be due smaller raises.

The Phillies' season-ending luxury tax payroll was $243 million, according to the Associated Press, resulting in a first-time tax of $2.6 million. Even after accounting for the aforementioned increases in salary, they should still begin the offseason with about $65 million of that number freed up.

The four tax thresholds in 2022 were $230 million, $250 million, $270 million and $290 million.

First-time offenders pay 20% on the amount above the first threshold, 32% above the second, 62.5% above the third and 80% above the fourth.

The Phillies' penalty in 2022 was relatively small in comparison to teams like the Dodgers and Mets because they exceeded the tax for the first time and surpassed only the first threshold of $230 million.

It seems likely the Phils will enter 2023 with an even larger payroll than they had in 2022. Ownership waited until it thought the team had a chance to contend to exceed the luxury tax for the first time, and in the first year of that increased spending, the Phillies came within two wins of winning the World Series. That should only embolden them to spend and fill holes the way they need to this offseason.

The Phillies have been connected heavily to superstar shortstop Trea Turner, the former Nationals teammate Bryce Harper has talked about openly. We discussed how realistic and how good a fit Turner would be on the latest Phillies Talk podcast.

Beyond Turner, there are top-notch free-agent options at shortstop in Xander Bogaerts, Carlos Correa and Dansby Swanson. The Phillies also need multiple starting pitchers and left-hander Carlos Rodon is another player who has been connected to them. Future Hall of Famers Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw are free agents. So are Jacob deGrom and Chris Bassitt.

The Phillies will also need to add at least a couple of bullpen arms to help offset the losses of Robertson and Eflin.

With aggressive ownership, a president of baseball operations in Dave Dombrowski who proactively fills holes and a roster that proved this year it can go toe-to-toe with any team, this has the makings of a fun offseason for the Phillies.

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