Baseball is back. The owners and players have finally agreed to a new deal which ends the lockout and Spring Training began yesterday. In order to play a full 162 game schedule, there have been double-headers implemented in the schedule as well as the season being extended by a few days.
With the lockout ending, free agency is now open, and the Phillies are already behind the ball (shocker). So far, Carlos Rodon has joined the San Francisco Giants and old friend, Gabe Kapler. His deal is for two years worth $44m ($21.5 in 2022 and $22.5m in 2023 with an opt-out after 2022). The rival, LA Dodgers countered with bringing back future Hall-of-Famer Clayton Kershaw on a one-year, $17m contract. The Cubs have also brought in a free-agent shortstop, but not the one their fans wanted in Andrelton Simmons. The Simmons-Cubs deal is a one-year, $4m deal.
Also with transactions not being frozen anymore, trades can and will start to happen. There may not be as many trades as someone might typically expect during this offseason because of the lack of winter meetings for teams’ general managers.
Either way, roster moves are going to pick up in a hurry. Expect Freddie Freeman to sign with a team soon. Atlanta is still in the mix, but reports have listed the Dodgers or Yankees as the most likely destinations. Carlos Correa could sign after him. The Cubs brought in Simmons to presumably play short, but they could move him over to second and still make a run at Correa to be their shortstop.
On the outfield front, Nick Castellanos to the Miami Marlins might not be as likely as it was a few months ago. Castellanos and ex-Marlins’ CEO Derek Jeter were deep in negotiations when Marlins’ ownership interfered and then the lockout went into effect. The ownership and failed negotiations were a big reason why Jeter left the Marlins. Now with him seemingly a true free agent again, other teams could come calling. Some of those teams could be the Marlins, Phillies, Reds, Giants, Rockies, Red Sox, and more American League teams. A Kyle Schwarber signing could come together quickly as it is known he is looking for three or four years and $20m AAV. The Phillies were said to be in “red hot pursuit” of Schwarber before the lockout began, and those negotiations could pick back up sooner rather than later. Another fit here is Jorge Soler. Soler has enormous power and would give the Phillies a decent defender in left field. He could also DH if they wanted to go cheaper and put a young player like Matt Vierling in left. Soler’s suitors could include the Red Sox, Braves, Astros, Marlins, and Phillies. He will undoubtedly have more than that as Spring Training gets underway and teams realize what they have and what they need. Finally, everyone’s second favorite guy from Las Vegas, Kris Bryant, is also due to sign soon. Bryant’s market is busy which is surprising for a guy coming off two subpar seasons and for his age. Personally, I think the Phillies are better off letting him sign elsewhere, as he is looking for big money. He has done enough in the game to get what he’s looking for, and some team like the Mets or Mariners might be dumb enough to give it to him. Sure, he can play everywhere (not really, but sure), and sure he won Rookie of the Year and NL MVP in back-to-back seasons. The Phillies already made the mistake of paying for a player past his prime years and having big expectations in the Andrew McCutchen deal. They can’t give Kris Bryant $200+m for eight years and expect multiple all-star appearances. If Bryant comes to Philly on a big contract, be ready for more disappointment than production.
Some Phillies’ trade targets include White Sox’ reliever Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was lights out with the Cubs before having an abysmal stint with the White Sox. Kimbrel had been purely a closer throughout his career until the White Sox used him as an eighth inning set-up guy. It sounds ridiculous that that could be the root of his problems, but Kimbrel is going to end up as one of the most dominant closers in MLB history, so the track record speaks for itself. Another reliever the Phillies should look at on the free-agent side is former Dodger Kenley Jansen. Jansen has been one of the best closers in baseball and has ample playoff experience coming with the LA Dodgers. Jansen has a 2.37 career ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 701 appearances across 12 seasons. Along with those numbers, he has racked up 350 career saves to go along with a 2.13 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, and 19 saves in the postseason. Adding Jansen to the back end of a bullpen that has brought in Corey Knebel already and the 8th and 9th innings no longer look like problems. If the Phillies can get at least five innings from guys like Kyle Gibson consistently, there should be no problems closing out games.
The lockout is over, there will be baseball in South Philly this summer, and the stove is about to burn the house down. Baseball has always been known as a marathon, not a sprint. Right now, teams are in sprint mode like there’s only 100 meters left in the race. Buckle up, it’s a good time to be a baseball fan.