What's next for Phillies after the huge Trea Turner splash?


The Phillies got their heaviest lift out of the way first this offseason, making the much anticipated addition of Trea Turner on the first day of the Winter Meetings in San Diego.

It’s a great start to free agency for the Phils but holes still remain, specifically on the pitching staff. And they didn’t go out and sign a second $300 million player and fifth $100 million player to win 87 games or finish in third place again. It’s a move a team makes when it believes it has a chance to win a division and make another deep playoff run.

The Phillies’ payroll, from a luxury tax perspective, is somewhere around $16 million below the first threshold of $233 million. Some websites currently show the Phils with even more room beneath the tax but that isn’t factoring in raises due to arbitration-eligible players or other luxury tax costs such as player benefits or the cost of 40-man roster players not on the active roster.

Luxury tax figures are not calculated by MLB until the end of the season anyway and teams add and subtract payroll throughout the year, so where the number stands today is immaterial. It’s more so used to put the Phils’ payroll in perspective, but the tax threshold obviously is not a hard cap. The Phillies exceeded it for the first time in franchise history in 2022 and will almost certainly do so again in 2023.

So, what’s next? The Phillies need multiple starting pitchers and back-end relievers. The rotation, assuming health for their incumbents, currently consists of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez and Bailey Falter. Nola and Wheeler rank first and fourth in the majors in innings pitched over the last five seasons and both are coming off of long postseasons, which should also factor into the need for pitching depth.

The Phillies are leaving a spot open in the rotation for a young pitcher, which could be Falter or Cristopher Sanchez early, and eventually, top prospect Andrew Painter. But they know, with such a high payroll and even higher expectations, it would be unwise to bank on multiple young starters or to rely on any one of them to pitch 170 innings in 2023.

Carlos Rodon is atop the free-agent starting pitching market but is unlikely to end up with the Phillies after the splash for Turner. That’s not the worst thing in the world. Rodon is said to be seeking around $30 million annually on a long-term deal, a hefty price tag for a pitcher who’s reached 30 starts or 170 innings once (2022) in eight big-league seasons.

It’s more likely the Phils shop for mid-rotation starters. That tier is led by Chris Bassitt, who has a 3.13 ERA the last three seasons and would be ideal on a three-year deal, but he would cost the Phillies a high draft pick. He rejected a qualifying offer extended by his former team, the Mets, which means any other team that signs him will lose a pick. The Phillies already forfeited a pick by signing Turner.

Same goes for Nate Eovaldi, who rejected a qualifying offer from the Red Sox. The Phils' preference would be to avoid losing another pick.

Beyond Bassitt and Eovaldi, the best mid-rotation free agent options left are Jameson Taillon, Andrew Heaney, Sean Manaea and Taijuan Walker. Jose Quintana is out there after a strong season but projects as more of a No. 5 moving forward. None of the pitchers in that group were extended a qualifying offer by their former club.

The Phillies have interest in Taillon, according to MLB.com. The 31-year-old right-hander went 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 32 starts with the Yankees last season, walking just 32 batters in 177⅓ innings. He somehow allowed just 10 home runs in 16 starts at Yankee Stadium.

Heaney has received three-year offers and wants a fourth year, according to the New York Post. Given the prices for pitchers of his ilk, the dollar figure on such a deal would likely be in the vicinity of $56 million -- $14 million per year. You can understand teams' hesitance to commit that many years or that much money to Heaney, who has had one above-average full season (2018) and one very good partial season for the 2022 Dodgers when he pitched to a 3.10 with 110 K's in 72⅔ innings.

Manaea was steady and reliable in 2021 and pitched well for the first half of 2022 before falling apart late in the season and being mostly left out of the Padres' playoff rotation plans. Still, there's a lot to like about him as a six-inning, three-run kind of guy in a game with fewer of those than ever.

All of these pitchers -- Bassitt, Eovaldi, Taillon, Heaney, Walker -- figure to agree to deals with annual average values in the $14-16 million range. Zach Eflin's three-year, $39 million deal with the Rays was something of a template. Kyle Gibson's one-year, $10 million contract with the Orioles will also help set the market for one-year deals. While those two are off the board, Noah Syndergaard remains unsigned and is also worthy of consideration, though probably not as the main move.

Subscribe to Phillies Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | Watch on YouTube

Contact Us