Phillies face make-or-break offseason with uncertainty
Most thought that when Bryce Harper joined the Phillies, postseason baseball would soon return; that was not the case.
The Bryce Harper signing was huge back in the 2018-19 MLB offseason. It revived the love for baseball within Phillies fans in the tri-state area. The Phils finally had a superstar again and looked like they were on their way back to the postseason, undoubtedly by the end of the 2020 season.
Now, October 2020, the end of this year’s baseball season, and the Phillies are sitting at home, for the ninth year in a row. A disappointing end, in which the Phillies had to win only one game against the Tampa Bay Rays to reach the postseason, resulted in a three-game sweep for the Rays, and the Phillies ultimately going 1-7 in their last 8 games.
A horrific bullpen, coupled with untimely losses, are the main reasons behind the Phillies 2020 collapse. September collapses are nothing new to fans, given that they occurred the past two Septembers as well. Only if the season ended the on last day in August, would the Phillies have playoff games for three straight seasons.
The scariest part about this offseason is the Phillies could be in an even worse position for 2021. General Manager Matt Klentak has had plenty of time to build an adequate farm system, but it ranks 23rd in baseball. Most fans want him gone, for appropriate reasons, yet, Bob Brookover of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the Phillies will likely retain Klentak.
J.T. Realmuto is an impending free agent, as is Didi Gregorius. Realmuto goes without saying, given that he is the best catcher in baseball, and he must be a Phillie in 2021. However, he will draw strong interest from nearly every team in the league, with the Yankees, Mets, and Nationals among those included.
As for Didi, he is probably the best shortstop on the market. For pending shortstop free agents, he ranked first in home runs (10), runs batted in (40), and hits (61). Athletics’ SS Marcus Semien will draw interest, as well as former All-Star Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons.
If the Phillies lose Gregorius, it is not the end of the world. Scott Kingery can get another chance to show what he is worth in 2020 at second base, while Jean Segura moves back to shortstop, and Alec Bohm plays third. However, if they lose Gregorius, they have to re-sign Realmuto to have a chance at making a playoff push next season.
Unfortunately, it looks bleaker and bleaker each day that Realmuto is in a Phillies uniform for the 2021 season. Matt Klentak recently said:
Honestly, that is just ridiculous. Of course, you want two productive years of J.T. which was expected. But a competent General Manager does not make that trade unless they are planning to lock the player up long-term. Harper makes it clear for Klentak:
Harper committed the prime of his career to Philadelphia. Klentak, who traded Sixto Sanchez, owes it to not only the fans but Harper, to retain Realmuto, at the very least.
Let’s not forget the bullpen, which is the league’s worst by a wide margin. If the Phillies can add a few dependable relief arms and re-sign both Gregorius and Realmuto, the Phillies should be in for a fun and exciting 2021 season.
However, it could be a nightmare of an offseason, where the Phillies lose both Realmuto and Gregorius, and fail to address internal issues (i.e., firing Klentak), leaving them a tough 2021 season ahead.
If Klentak does stick around, this has to be his last shot. It is a make-or-break offseason that can push the Phillies over the edge, with the re-signing of key hitters and addition of dependable bullpen arms, or take them deeper into their nine-year playoff drought.