Since Dave Dombrowski was named the Phillies’ president of baseball operations, the club has acquired Jose Alvarado from the Rays and signed former D-backs closer Archie Bradley. (Philadelphia also picked up lefty Sam Coonrod in a deal with the Giants.) At today’s press conference to introduce Bradley, Dombrowski made clear that his club is still open to further augmenting the bullpen (YouTube link).
“I think we’ve improved ourselves, but we can continue to work on improving ourselves, too,” said Dombrowski. “I think we’re open-minded to future additions as we continue to talk in this free-agent market. We’ll continue to work on it, but I do think we have significantly improved ourselves.” Neither Dombrowski nor manager Joe Girardi dubbed Bradley the team’s closer just yet, and Bradley himself enthusiastically said he’s open to pitching in any role.
Dombrowski wouldn’t delve into specifics regarding the team’s budget, but acknowledged that he has a “pulse” of where owner John Middleton is comfortable drawing the payroll line. The Phils still have room to make a few moves, per Dombrowski, who also suggested that further rotation depth would be “ideal.” Some of that depth could come in the form of non-roster invitees to Spring Training, he added.
Of course, the key factor in determining the Phillies’ budget for the upcoming season is whether the club is able to reel J.T. Realmuto back into the fold. The Phillies reportedly put forth a new five-year offer worth more than $100MM total in the past few days, and while Dombrowski unsurprisingly declined to comment on negotiations, he confirmed that the team is still hoping to keep the two-time All-Star behind the plate.
At the moment, the Phillies’ projected payroll clocks in at roughly $152MM, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, with their luxury-tax obligations at a slightly heftier $157MM. That’s a ways shy of last year, when the Phils were in line to carry about a $187MM payroll prior to the prorated season — a mark that would’ve been a franchise record. That said, after a season without any gate revenue, it’s not clear how aggressively Middleton and the rest of the club’s ownership group are willing to spend.
Were the Phillies to head into the 2021 season with the current group of relievers, the newly acquired trio of Bradley, Alvarado and Coonrod would be complemented by holdover Hector Neris, swingman David Hale and likely some youngsters from the group of Connor Brogdon, Ranger Suarez, Cole Irvin and Ian Hamilton. (Brogdon, specifically, was mentioned during today’s press conference.) Certainly, there’s room for more veteran help to be brought in — be it on a guaranteed deal or, as Dombrowski alluded to when discussing the rotation, on a non-roster pact.
More broadly, Dombrowski rejected the manner in which some have characterized the 2021 season as a transitional year for his club. The Phillies simply have “too many good players … to be thinking about transitioning,” said Dombrowski, adding that the team’s focus is solely on competing for a playoff berth. The veteran front office exec acknowledged that the Phils won’t be perceived as the favorites but mentioned on multiple occasions that there are still about four weeks until camp opens, while also pointing to the increased frequency of free agents signing after Spring Training begins.