“We’re going into this expecting to spend money,” Phillies owner John Middleton once said about the Phillies roster back in the 2018 MLB offseason to USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale. “And maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.”
Flashback on Phillies Roster
That year, the Phillies spent $330 million, for 13 years, on superstar Bryce Harper. So far, I believe we can unanimously agree that the 2021 National League MVP has been worth every penny. But the offseason spending for the Fightin’ Phils did not end there though.
In 2019, it was Zach Wheeler. In 2020, it was resigning J.T. Realmuto. In 2021, it was Kyle Schwarber AND Nick Castellanos.
Now, four years later, the popular Philly sports term “stupid money” has once again resurfaced as the reigning National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies continue to live up to Middleton’s words.
Within the span of the past 48 hours to 72 hours, the Phillies have already spent a combined $387 million on three new key additions to their upgraded roster that is determined to make another run at the World Series title.
Will these key additions live up to their newest contracts? That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what two of the big newest Phillies players bring to the table for the upcoming 2022-23 season and beyond.
For starters, let’s address the $300 million elephant in the room. As soon as Jean Segura was declined his option for next season, it was obvious what the Phillies had in mind for what they wanted to do for this offseason. In a free agent market filled with some of the league’s best shortstops, including Carlos Correa, Dansby Swanson, and Xander Bogaerts, the Phils’ top priority was to sign one of them. In the end, they signed (what some might argue) the best one of them all in Turner.
It was no small commitment either for the Phillies roster, as not only are they paying Turner $300 million, but they are also committing to him for next 11 years with a full no trade clause. In other words, they are paying the 29-year-old shortstop up until he is 40 years old. Why would they do this, you might ask? Well, for the same reasons they paid Harper $330 million for 13 years, which was to lower the average annual value (AAV) of his contract. This, in essence, allows the Phillies to spend more money each offseason yearly.
Now, let’s talk about what Turner brings to the table as the Phillies’ newest shortstop. As a batter, Turner has a career .302 batting average and led the league in that category during the 2021 season (.328). In addition, he’s one of the league’s best base stealers with currently 230 career stolen bases throughout his eight-year career. That’s the seventh most stolen bases amongst active players. In other words, the Phillies roster acquired one of the top offensive players in all of baseball and a key player to the top of their batting order.
Defensively, however, don’t expect any gold gloves for Turner as this isn’t really his strong suit. Amongst qualified shortstops last season, according to ESPN, Turner ranks just 18th in fielding percentage (.969) and 13th in defensive wins above replacement (DWAR) at 1.0. Overall, Turner’s defensive abilities at shortstop are just average, but that’s not the main reason the Phillies are paying him that much money. Besides, with Bryson Stott on the roster, Phillies manager Rob Thomson can always decide to move Turner to second base, if needed.
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In the end, the Phillies made Turner their second highest paid player in franchise history simply because he’s arguably amongst the best offensive players in baseball, with the potential to be the league leader in both hits and stolen bases.
With the likes of Kyle Gibson, Noah Syndergaard, and Zach Eflin all out of the fold, the Phillies roster was in desperate need of a mid-rotation starting pitcher to alongside Zach Wheller, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suarez, and (hopefully) Andrew Painter. Enter Taijuan Walker, who’s coming off of a solid season with the Mets, with an ERA of 3.49 and a newly changed pitching arsenal that includes one of the league’s best splitters.
His reward for his successful season? A four-year, $72 million contract with an NL East rival. This contract has led to mixed reactions amongst fans. For some, there’s an argument to be made that this is a massive overpay for a mid-rotation starter that has had his fair share of injury issues throughout his career, including needing Tommy John surgery for a partial UCL tear in 2018. In addition, Walker has a tendency to get hot and cold throughout the season. For example, during his 2021 All-Star season, Walker had an ERA of 2.66 during the first half of the season, while having an ERA of 7.13 in the second half.
On the plus side though, Walker hasn’t had any major injury problems since his 2018 surgery. To add on to that, Walker had a far much more consistent season last year ever since he made changes to his pitching arsenal. According to MLB Statcast, these changes include relying on his fastball from over 60% of the time in 2019 to just below 30% last year. In addition, Walker utilized his splitter at a career-high 27.6% of the time last season, which is easily his best pitch in his game.
When you think about it, Walker is exactly the type of pitcher the Phillies want in their back-end rotation. For example, when you take a look at how they utilized pitchers like Syndergaard last year, they put less emphasis on his fastball and more on his sinker, which led to more success for Syndergaard. Same can be said for Jose Alvarado, who became a much better bullpen pitcher when he increased his utilization on his cutter and less on his sinker. Overall, Walker’s changed pitching style fits exactly how the Phillies want to utilize their pitchers, and that’s making sure that each of their pitchers’ arsenals are crafted to the best of their strengths.
At the end of the day, while Walker’s contract might be considered an overpay to some critics, Walker’s style of play fits exactly what the Phillies roster wants in their middle starting rotation and could be proven useful come playoff time as a potential bullpen guy with his nasty split finger pitch.
Let us know your thoughts on the Phillies roster in the comments below!
Edited by Stephen