With the Christmas season upon us, Dave Dombrowski has been deeply invested in holiday shopping. For the lineup, he wrapped Trea Turner and his 11-year $300 million contract up nicely to start the offseason. The Phillies’ President of Baseball Operations proceeded to gift the starting rotation a little bit of depth, signing Taijuan Walker to a 4-year $72 million. The bullpen, in need of another lefty to take some pressure off Jose Alvarado, found Matt Strahm in a gift bag with a 2-year $15 million price tag. After a trip to the World Series, the Phillies ownership group led by John Middleton clearly are giving Dombrowski full autonomy to use their financial resources to finish the job. 

With an estimated competitive balance payroll just north of $242 million, the Phillies have about $10.5 million before hitting the second threshold of $253 million. Over the Luxury Tax for a second consecutive year, the Phillies will pay a 30 percent tax on all overages plus a 12 percent surcharge if they exceed the second threshold. While it’s important to understand the penalties for surpassing the tax, it’s not our money––it’s John Middleton’s. And he wants his trophy back. Besides, when this year’s magical run generated $78 million in economic growth, a measly tax will be a drop in the bucket. So…what’s next for a group that has won back the hearts of Philadelphia sports fans?

For starters, the lineup is pretty much locked down for this window of contention with enough young, controllable pieces to fill out the bench. The rotation is set with a strong top four and a solid mix of four-to-five pitching prospects that will fill out the rest of the available innings. The bullpen, though, could use another piece or two to relieve some stress from Seranthony Dominguez, Alvarado, and Strahm. Let’s take a look at some relievers that could interest Dombrowski and co. 

1. Liam Hendriks, RHP, White Sox

Liam Hendriks is the big name to keep an eye on. He’s currently under contract with the White Sox where he is owed $14 million in 2023 and has a $15 million club option for 2024. The closer has been one of the best relievers in baseball over the last four years, an all-star in three of them. Last year, he saved 37 games for the White Sox and posted a 2.81 ERA with 85 strikeouts in just 57.2 innings. His passion is a perfect fit for Philly and would give the ‘pen a lockdown closer, allowing Dominguez and Alvarado to pitch high-leverage situations. He’d likely cost some prospect capital, but would be well worth the cost. 

2. Gregory Soto, LHP, Tigers

An all-star the last two seasons with the Tigers, Gregory Soto would provide another left-handed force out of the bullpen to go along with Alvarado and Strahm. He has an elite fastball with a solid slider-changeup mix that helped him pitch to a 3.28 ERA last year with 30 saves. Like Hendriks, Soto is also under contract and would need to be acquired via trade. Just 27-years-old, the lefty has three years left of control before hitting free agency, giving the Tigers the upper hand in negotiations. As a result, the price tag would likely start with Mick Abel and/or Johan Rojas once the trade market picks up. 

3. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Free Agent

Teammates with Soto last season, Andrew Chafin would be another phenomenal lefty addition to a bullpen already led by Alvarado and Strahm. Arguably the best left-handed free agent reliever, it is somewhat surprising he has yet to be signed by a team this winter. Nevertheless, the 32-year-old has extraordinary statistical metrics, finishing in the 89th percentile in chase rate and the 86th percentile in xBA and xSLG this past year. Likely to command a multi-year contract at about $10 million per year, Chafin could give the Phillies the best left-handed trio out of the ‘pen in the majors.

4. Alex Reyes, RHP, Free Agent

A former consensus top pitching prospect, Alex Reyes’ career has been derailed by injuries. Still just 28-years-old, Reyes found a home in the bullpen where he saved 29 games in 2021, but did not pitch in 2022 due to a shoulder injury. The righty also has had command issues throughout his career, but so did Alvarado and he became one of the Phillies most reliable relievers after a trip to Triple-A in June. Who’s to say the Phillies pitching development can’t help Reyes meet his potential? The reliever still has electric stuff and, if healthy, could be one of the best relievers in baseball. Not to mention, after being non-tendered by the Cardinals early in the offseason, he would not cost much on a one-year prove-it deal. Signing Reyes is an obvious low-risk, high-reward move. 

There are other options on the market as well, with Aroldis Chapman and Craig Kimbrel leading the available free agents, but one of the four listed above could put the Phillies over the hump. For a team on the doorstep, one more move could be enough to finish the job. Now, it’s a waiting game to see when the reliever market will get moving. Maybe Dombrowski will be the jump start.

Photo: Chris O’Meara/AP

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