The re-signing of Aaron Nola represents the Philadelphia Phillies' most noteworthy roster move this offseason. Philadelphia has been one of the clubs that has made blockbuster additions during previous offseasons since the signing of Bryce Harper in February 2019.
However, not every offseason will net a noteworthy change in their roster — not every team operates like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, or Boston Red Sox. All franchises do not have New York Mets' owner Steve Cohen's abundance of wealth at its disposal.
The Phillies made arguably the biggest offseason addition with the signing of Trea Turner during the 2022 Winter Meetings. Yoshinobu Yamamato would have been an intriguing addition to the Phillies rotation, but Philadelphia was never seen as a finalist to sign him. The phenom was more likely to end up with the Dodgers, Yankees, or Mets. He ended up signing a massive deal with Los Angeles before the new year.
Winning the division doesn't always equal playoff success
However, with the Atlanta Braves making tweaks to their roster through trades and free agency, are the Phillies in a position to unseat its main competitor to win the NL East in 2024? Winning the division is not anymore a certainty for playoff success.
Aside from the COVID-shortened 2020 season when they won a championship, the Dodgers have fallen short of a championship in nine of the last 11 years in which they have won the NL West. The Braves, like Los Angeles, have reigned supreme in their respective division for several years but have only won one World Series championship back in 2021. They have been defeated by the rival Phillies in back-to-back seasons during the postseason.
Back during the last great run by the Phillies from 2007-2011 that culminated in five consecutive playoff appearances and division titles, Philadelphia only won one championship in 2008. Don't forget that this was during the more recent playoff expansion that Major League Baseball implemented in 2022, which allows six teams rather than four to qualify for the postseason.
The Phillies were defeated by the San Francisco Giants in the National League Championship Series. In 2011, Philadelphia had its first season with 100 or more wins during the regular season since 1977 - a span of 34 years. However, their year ended abruptly in their National League Divisional Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis was the Wild Card team and went on to win the World Series proving that winning a division does not guarantee a lengthy playoff run.
The Phillies have had success during the playoffs in 2022 and 2023 as a wild-card team. Nevertheless, winning the division does provide benefits. Finishing first in the NL East for the first time in 13 years would provide them with more security in a guaranteed playoff spot. Philadelphia would have more opportunities to play in front of its fans at Citizens Bank Park if they entered the postseason as one of the top two seeds in the National League and went to the Fall Classic.
Do the Phillies need to add a notable free agent to increase their odds of winning the NL East in 2024?
While the Phillies re-signed a top free agent in Nola, do they need to add another to put themselves in a better position to win the NL East in 2024? No, not necessarily.
They will rely on a core that has been comprised over the last several seasons. The anticipation was the signing of Turner would be enough to win the division and a championship. However, the shortstop struggled for a good portion of his first year with Philadelphia. The club didn't get off to a great start last season, and the Braves did.
The Braves began 2023 at an extraordinary pace, unlike their competitors in the NL East. If the Phillies can get off to such a start or not struggle at the beginning of the year, they should be in a good position to win the division no matter if they sign one of the better free agents that remains available.
Philadelphia's roster is talented enough and needs to execute, specifically in big moments, to finish first in their division. They also need to do that to win a World Series. They didn't do that enough in Games 6 or 7 of the NLCS last year against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Philadelphia would benefit on paper from the addition of another starting pitcher, such as Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery, or closer Josh Hader. The NL East winner looks to be between the Phillies and Braves in 2024, barring an unexpectedly good season from the Miami Marlins, Washington Nationals, or Mets. As of now, Philly has one of the top rosters in the league and should be in the mix to win the NL East for the first time in over a decade.