The Phillies payroll is roughly where it was last year – at least as long as they entertain rostering Brandon Kintzler and Tony Watson on opening day. A lot remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a possibility that the pair of veteran relievers makes the team. In that case, they would both make $3MM, pushing their luxury tax payroll close to $208MM, writes the Athletic’s Matt Gelb. Wanting to leave a touch of breathing room under the tax for an in-season acquisition, the Phillies are likely done adding Major League players. Whether the Phillies should trifle over surpassing the luxury tax by a million or two is certainly worth the question, but it’s not a level of spending they’ve breached in the past.
If they are using that line as a soft cap, there won’t be much flexibility even for a mid-season acquisition. Clearing close to $6MM by not putting Kintzler and Watson on the roster might be appealing for that cause, but considering the disaster that was their 2020 bullpen, they may prefer having those veteran hands at the ready. Kintzler was the Marlins closer last year with a 2.24 ERA over 24 1/3 innings. Watson logged a 2.50 ERA across 18 innings for the Giants. Both have been steady Eddies for the past decade out of the bullpen.
Watson, for his part, fits a particular need for the Phillies. Southpaw Ranger Suárez is behind in his preparation by a couple of weeks because of visa issues, notes Gelb. Suárez would be one of the lefties competing for a spot in the bullpen. If Suárez isn’t ready for opening day, Watson would be in competition with JoJo Romero for deputy southpaw behind nominal sheriff José Alvarado. The 24-year-old Romero had a 7.59 ERA in 12 appearances last year. There are plenty of reason to be bullish on Romero, however. He had a 3.66 FIP and minuscule 4.3 percent walk rate, suggesting better times may be ahead for the crowd-pleasing southpaw. Still, Watson is by far the most experienced arm with a 2.80 ERA/3.61 FIP in 591 career innings.