Phillies not living up to huge Opening Day payroll expectations on the field

The Phillies aren't living up to expectations created by their high payroll early in the regular season.

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

The Philadelphia Phillies entered the 2024 regular season with one of the highest payrolls in Major League Baseball. Expectations from the fan base and the media arise with that as a result. The club needs to avoid another slow start to their season if they want to have a good chance at winning the NL East this year.

Phillies unable to get off to a good start against the Braves

The Atlanta Braves proved in the three-game series that they will be a formidable opponent for the Phillies this year. If Philly wants to win its first division title since 2011, they will have their work cut out based on how this series unfolded. Until another team does so, Atlanta has proven in the last several regular seasons that they are the top team to win the NL East.

Despite having the second-highest payroll of a 26-man Opening Day roster at $221 million, the Phillies lost the first series of their season. They lost the first two contests each by a large margin. The Braves were in total control throughout the opening game of the series on March 29 as they cruised to a 9-3 victory over the Phils. Philadelphia’s lineup had 15 strikeouts during the loss compared to four and nine, respectively, in the next two contests.

Zack Wheeler stymied Atlanta’s lineup through the first six innings of the first game. Philly’s bullpen could not prevent their opponent from executing offensively. The Phillies offense could not match the Braves lineup during this contest.

Yunior Marte, Gregory Soto, and Jeff Hoffman were the three relievers who performed the best versus Atlanta. After not doing well in their respective appearances on Opening Day, Matt Strahm and José Alvarado each had better outings during the final contest of the series on March 31.

Phillies’ top three salary earners got off to slow starts in the first series of the season

Bryce Harper went 0-for-6 with one run and three strikeouts in two games. Trea Turner struggled as he went 2-for-11 with one run, one RBI, and four strikeouts in three contests. These two players have the two highest salaries on the Phillies payroll this season.

Aaron Nola, who signed a seven-year, $172 million contract during the offseason, did not perform well in his first start of the season on March 30. He allowed 12 hits and seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. The right-hander has the third-highest salary on the Phillies in 2024.

During the previous two seasons, the Phillies have beaten the Braves when it matters the most — in the postseason. However, Philly needs to start winning series early and often to keep pace with Atlanta if they want to win the NL East for the first time in 13 years.