Yamamoto snub could help Phillies land a generational hitter next offseason

The coveted free agent pitcher never wanted to play in Philadelphia and didn't even want to visit the city, but that could help the Phillies next offseason.
San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox
San Diego Padres v Chicago White Sox / Quinn Harris/GettyImages
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The Philadelphia Phillies had the type of offseason that could best be described as equal parts maddening and occasionally enticing, as the slow churn through the free agent rumor mill seemed to carry them in a number of different directions and outcomes.

With spring training now in primary focus, Phillies fans may have to accept the re-signing of Aaron Nola and the recent one-year-deal with super-utilityman Whit Merrifield as the only noteworthy moves the team will make as they start to prepare for the upcoming 2024 season. While we know the team made a valiant attempt to ink free agent Japanese pitching phenom Yoshinobu Yamamoto, he apparently didn't reciprocate the interest.

Yamamoto didn't want to visit Philadelphia, let alone play here

In a recent interview with Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Phillies owner John Middleton detailed the courtship (subscription required) of Yamamoto in great detail. While Middleton and the baseball operations department were reportedly willing to offer the most money to obtain Yamamoto's services, they knew very quickly that the Dodgers and Yankees were his preferred destination.

“We were going to sign Yamamoto for a lot, a lot of money, and we never thought twice about it in terms of a budget impact," said Middleton per Lauber "We thought about it in terms of a competitive impact."

Losing out on a talent like Yamamoto is tough, especially when the Phillies were willing to add another significant contract to a roster that already boasts one of the highest payrolls in baseball. But there's something to be said about the willingness to push well beyond the current luxury tax thresholds. If it proves anything, the Phillies are willing to do it — but only for the right player.

According to Lauber, Yamamoto declined to even visit Philadelphia while on a trip to the East Coast. That tells you all you need to know about how seriously he considered the Phillies as a destination. But could this snub allow the Phillies to bring one of the premier hitters to Philadelphia next winter?

Does saving money on Yamamoto open the door for the Phillies to sign Juan Soto next offseason?

Looking forward to next offseason, one name looms large on the horizon of future free agents: Juan Soto. The 25 year-old superstar outfielder will certainly reset the market for what teams are willing to pay for a primary position player. We won't even begin to start with terms like years and annual salary, because whatever number is thrown out there will likely be laughable at this time next season.

Soto will be 26 when he enters free agency at the conclusion of the 2024 season. That's a rare situation for a player just reaching his prime, which brings to mind the 2019 Bryce Harper and Manny Machado sweepstakes. We all know how that ended. Two elite talents who got paid to be the faces of their respective franchises for a long time. Juan Soto's free agency will be no different.

Even the New York Yankees, who acquired Soto this offseason in a trade with the San Diego Padres, have very little faith that extending Soto before he hits free agency is something that is even possible. It's pretty telling that a big market team like the Yankees with unlimited financial resources has doubts that they can talk the young superstar out of betting on himself.

“We recognized when we went into this situation that the odds are that it’s a one-year situation before free agency,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman explained to MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. “Certainly, that can change, I guess, but the odds are certainly against that. He’s [Soto] this close to free agency. I don’t see too many things stopping him from hitting free agency."

While Cashman's fatalism toward re-signing Soto could certainly be taken as contrived, only a handful of teams have the financial clout to make the kind of commitment that Soto and his agent Scott Boras will likely be seeking. If you thought this offseason was a joyless, slow-moving slog, just wait until this time next year.

The Phillies are one of those big market teams that has the money at the ready to sign Soto. With reports that the Phillies actually outbid the Los Angeles Dodgers' $325 million winning offer to Yamamoto fresh in our memories, who's to say that the money they saved this offseason on high-priced free agent talent won't be shifted to the pursuit of a generational hitter like Soto following the 2024 season?

Signing Soto will bring up some interesting storylines for the Phillies. Imagine the horror of a Washington Nationals fan forced to watch three of the greatest players in their franchise history all reunited and playing for a hated division rival? You just know Bryce Harper and Trea Turner will be involved in any recruiting campaign.

We won't speculate on how, but a future deal with Soto would require the Phillies to trade Nick Castellanos to free up the position of rightfield and open up a roster spot.

The Phillies still have pressing concerns with the team as it's currently constructed, and the possibility exists that they could still make some impact moves before the start of the regular season or at the Trade Deadline. There's still a lot of time before it's even a possibility, but getting snubbed by Yamamoto might end up being a factor in the Phillies landing next offseason's biggest prize.

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