No matter $2 billion or $145 million, Phillies deserve slack
By Matt Rappa
The Philadelphia Phillies organization deserves some slack.
Words that often have been used to describe the COVID-19 pandemic include “unprecedented,” “once-in-a-lifetime,” and “crisis.” No matter if the Philadelphia Phillies lost $2 billion — as erroneously reported on Saturday — due to the coronavirus, or the more accurate $145 million loss figure as reported by Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press, the Phillies still took in a significantly less dollar amount in 2020.
They, just like the rest of us, are moving forward with no true sense of certainty as to what tomorrow will bring. This is why the Phillies are not hiding their desire to be careful with how they are approaching this offseason, spending-wise. In fact, they just might not even hire a permanent general manager or team president until after the 2021 season, once the pandemic hopefully is in the rearview mirror.
Recall that the Phillies have undergone a recent, multi-year stadium renovation project, that brought upgrades to both the outside and inside of Citizens Bank Park. Not to mention, they signed superstar outfielder Bryce Harper to a then MLB-record 13-year, $330 million contract.
The Phillies dived deep into their wallets for both, unaware as to what would soon affect the entire world. Now, as the organization debates whether to commit to signing J.T. Realmuto to a record deal for catchers like he seeks, it cannot afford the pandemic to take an unforeseen turn for the worse.
There is no telling as to what those repercussions would be. No one, not even the Phillies, truly know what the future holds.
Granted, each of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball are under similar conditions as the Phillies as far as lost revenues go during the 2020 season. There are teams out there, like the Atlanta Braves, that are still signing players as if a pandemic never existed. The Phillies are just taking a different, cautious approach. That, for now, should be deemed acceptable given the current circumstances.
Does it mean they should not attempt to bring back Realmuto, or make other necessary upgrades to improve a team that fell one win short of their first postseason berth in nearly a decade? No. There are workaround alternatives, such as deferred contracts, often used by the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.
Something should be said about the Phillies recently cutting more than 80 employees with more than 1,000 years of combined years of service. There is no doubt, that this move was devastating and deserves criticism as to why these employees could not be retained, even if they were offered buyout packages. This aspect of the offseason should not be given a pass.
We are all living a lifestyle that just 365 days ago could have never even been imagined to become a reality. We will get through this, however. The Phillies will, too. For now, they and their offseason approach deserves at least some slack.