Will Phillies give division rivals a run for 2023 National League East title?
The Phillies look to build on their successful 2022 season.
After reaching the World Series and surprising the baseball world, the Philadelphia Phillies have continued their momentum with a strong offseason. But will their improved roster change their regular season struggles?
Even after winning 87 games — the most by the franchise since 2011 — Rob Thomson's team finished just third in the National League East. They were 14 games out of the first, trailing the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets, respectively. For every year in the past decade, the Phillies finished five or more games back from the division leader.
No Phillies team in recent history has been hyped as much as the 2023 squad. Acquisitions such as Trea Turner and Taijuan Walker have put Phillies fans in a frenzy. Still, the team could have early issues.
Bryce Harper is expected to be out until the All-Star break. Although he was injured for a considerable time in the previous season, he was still available as the designated hitter and was the heart of the offense. Even with Turner added to the lineup, the Phillies will miss firepower that Harper provides in the cleanup spot.
One of the most glaring problems with the current roster is the bullpen. Despite picking up Craig Kimbrel and Matt Strahm, the Phillies relievers could still disappoint. The Phillies have some good middle-inning arms — such as José Alvarado, Seranthony Domínguez, and Andrew Bellatti — but none are definite to get final outs of a game. We even saw Alvarado allow untimely home runs in the postseason.
Although the Phillies can be one of MLB's best teams, they compete in a fierce division. Bottom feeders like the Miami Marlins and Washington Nationals do not pose a threat, but the Mets and Braves are among the best. Mets owner Steve Cohen has gone all out in recent years, including acquiring future Hall of Fame starter Justin Verlander — who the Phillies faced in the World Series.
Meanwhile, the Braves are the reigning NL East champions after winning 101 games. Although the Phillies ended Atlanta's hopes of back-to-back World Series titles, it is hard to argue against their talent. The Braves added catcher Sean Murphy to a stacked lineup that includes Austin Riley, Matt Olson, and Ronald Acuña Jr. The Braves also have some terrific starting pitchers and arguably the best reliever tandem in the majors — Raisel Iglesias and A.J. Minter.
Division titles mean having a home-field advantage in the postseason. The Phillies did not have home-field against any of their 2022 postseason opponents, and if they had it against the Astros, the World Series could have resulted in a different outcome. It will be one of the many goals for the Phillies this year.
Three NL East teams may make the postseason again, but the Phillies will still seek their first division title since 2011. They face an uphill battle without Harper for the first half of the season. The Phillies should win more than the 87 games they did last year, but they still do not have as much depth or talent as their division rivals.