The Phillies have faced an important question if the right-hand signing of Zack Wheeler in a five-year, $ 118 million deal is true (and there is no reason to believe that many reliable journalists are wrong).
And this big, huge, huge deal raises an important question: Good move, but what will happen next?
This is a Phillies team that has won many titles in the last calendar year or so – hello Bryce, Cutch, J.T., Jean and David! – but has not won enough games (not over .500 since 2011) and is still, by far the most objective measure, the third-best team in the NL East, behind key national champions and reigning champions. Braves Division.
This, folks, was not a Phillies team just a channel starting with a world title.
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Heck, right now, the MLB.com depth chart lists Scott Kingery as a freshman on second and third bases, recording Jay Bruce – entering his 33rd season, coming in with an official .235 in 51 games for the H Phillies last year – as a left-field freshman, he has points in rotation full of kids who gave FIPs 4.85, 4.89 and 5.21 last year (Zach Elfin, Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez, respectively) and brings back a lot of bullpen weapons from the team that finished 12th out of 15 NL teams with a 4.91 FIP.
Well yes. What else, Philly?
There’s no reason to think that the front desk is over, of course. It has just begun in December and Wheeler’s signing is a big step in the right direction. There is still room for budget on the plates, not just the low-hanging fruit. The free agent market received a small influx of talent when 56 players were not offered, as the teams opted to pursue other options rather than enter the arbitration process. There are, of course, at least two possible lower-cost upgrades to this team for the Phillies to consider if this is the path.
Oh, and owner John Middleton is motivated.
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“We heard, we didn’t make these moves to win 83 wins,” Middleton said. “This is not where we are going here.”
Middleton, of course, said that last year, speaking to a group of reporters after Bryce Harper’s introduction last spring into the Phillies’ Clearwater field. The Phillies have not yet reached 83 wins in 2019 and it is safe to assume that Middleton’s wish has not faded after another disappointing season.
“Honestly,” Middleton said last spring, “all I care about is getting this trophy.”
Wheeler is not the last piece of this equation, but he is moving toward that goal.