The Phillies entered the winter widely tabbed as the most obvious aggressor on the free-agent market. It has been known for years, after all, that the organization was stripping its payroll and building its prospect base in hopes of launching back into a powerhouse.
Perhaps, then, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Philadelphia owner John Middleton was so willing to acknowledge the obvious. But he did so, with unusual candor, in an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. As Middleton put it:
“We’re going into this expecting to spend money. And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it. We just prefer not to be completely stupid.”
Whether those surprisingly forthcoming words portend a true spending bonanza isn’t quite clear. But they surely suggest that the Phillies aren’t afraid of a bidding war and are open — willing, even — to go a bit outside their comfort zone to win one, at least for the right player.
This long-anticipated free-agent class may not quite have arrived with the expected hype, but it’s still laden with opportunities. And the Phils have both the need and the means to chase the market’s biggest names: Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, of course, but also perhaps quality players such as Patrick Corbin, Craig Kimbrel, and Yasmani Grandal.
Click here for a detailed analysis of the Phillies’ payroll availability.
As Middleton rightly assesses, the Phillies clearly have “lots of ways to go to improve” a roster that has some valuable assets but relatively little in the way of established stars. That only makes things more interesting. Big-name acquisitions would likely also be followed by trades of current Philadelphia players, increasing the intrigue and ramping up the overall market entropy.
Clearly, it’s a high-stakes winter for a ballclub that sees an opportunity to make major strides. With Middleton expressing excitement at the prospect of unleashing the organization’s financial might, there’s every reason to believe that the Phillies will function as a market driver.