The Phillies are on the precipice of greatness. After breaking over a decade-long playoff drought with a trip to the World Series in 2022, they fell just one win short of making it back to the Fall Classic in 2023. They primed and ready for a resurgent return to form in 2024, with one of the deepest, most talented – and most expensive – rosters in all of baseball. They are also under the most pressure that the organization has faced in the 21st Century, perhaps in all 140 seasons of the franchises’ existence.
Why? Because the next three years might just be the most important three-year stretch in the history of the franchise. The Phillies’ success in the next three years could chart the course of the organization’s journey for the next ten and perhaps even twenty years.
Competitive windows don’t come around all that often for the Phillies. Any fan, from 1900 to 2023 could tell you that. They are the first American sports franchise to amass over 10,000 losses and they hold the world record for most ever losses by a single team in all of professional sports. But we don’t need to mire in the long-standing futility of the team to get a sense of a pattern. Ten years eclipsed between the Phillies’ World Series loss in 1983 and again in 1993. They didn’t reach the postseason in any of the years between those two losses. It took fourteen more years for the Phillies to reach the postseason once again in 2007, after losing the World Series in ‘93. After losing the NLDS in 2011, it took the team eleven more years to crack their postseason drought.
Right now, in 2023, the Phillies are in the best spot they’ve been in for a long time. And while they’ve make strides in their player development system, the future should be far lower on their list of concerns than the present. The Phillies have eight more years of Bryce Harper. They have ten more of Trea Turner, three more of Nick Castellanos, two more of Kyle Schwarber and just one of Zack Wheeler. They have seven more years with Aaron Nola. While the plan is likely to maintain a level of play through development and free agent signings to ensure that Harper and Turner will never have to live through the lowest of the lows, the team will face a crossroads in the near future. Their superstars will be aging and their prospects will likely be starting to flourish. That’s a problem for another day or more aptly, another year.
This isn’t a call for the Phillies to sell off their top prospects and mortgage their entire future for the chance to trade for Mike Trout or Corbin Burnes or any of the bigger names on the free agent/trade market. But it’s a call for the Phillies to lean a little more in that direction than some may feel comfortable with. Top prospect Andrew Painter is never going to be traded. And Mick Abel sure does look special.
But the rest of the lot? Should be up for grabs. And Yoshinobu Yamato – the 25-year-old Japanese pitching phenom that the Phillies have been courting – should be pursued as aggressively as possible, to the point of a potential overpay. The Phillies, through the sheer willpower of John Middleton’s checkbook, have found themselves in an extremely rare championship window. They seem as if they are just one piece away from winning it all. Another power bat, in Mike Trout or Juan Soto perhaps, or a top tier arm in Burnes or Yamamoto. A World Series ring could excuse the ensuing years of mediocrity. Because whether we like it or not, they are coming. So why not make the most of what they have right now?