CLEARWATER, Fla. — The Phillies began calling and texting teams and agents as soon as the lockdown ended Thursday.
Since then, they haven’t stopped calling and texting each other.
“Everyone has been extremely busy,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said at BayCare Ballpark on Sunday. “We’ve had conversations, I would say, with every baseball club. We’ve talked to every agent we could. We’ve expressed interest. We’ve made progress on some things. It’s been productive, but we we still have work to do.
Dombrowski and Phillies manager Joe Girardi spoke to reporters on Sunday, a day before the Phillies hold their first official spring training practice after the 99-day lockdown. Here are some highlights:
Who’s in the outfield?
The Phillies need a left fielder and a center fielder, but that doesn’t mean they’ll have full-time players in both positions. While there are plenty of quality corner fielders available, including including free agents Kris Bryant, Nick Castellanos, Michael Conforto and Kyle Schwarber, there is significantly less depth in center field. That explains why Dombrowski brought up the possibility of a one-man squad, then immediately mentioned Matt Vierling, Philadelphia’s No. 24 prospect, as a strong candidate in that role. Vierling a lot, and some recent swing changes have impressed.
“So with [Bryce] Harper is right, and then you have Vierling, you might not be looking for two full-time guys,” Dombrowski said.
Who is the other half of this potential squad? Sources said the Phillies are trying to bring back Odúbel Herrera, who NBC Sports Philadelphia first spoke about on Monday morning. The Phillies believe Herrera can play better than he “made in 2021 his first major league action since May ’19.
Updates from Wheeler, Eflin and Suárez
National League Cy Young Award finalist Zack Wheeler is late. He said he expected to throw a mound on Monday for the first time since the end of last season. Wheeler started pitching in December, but felt pain in his right shoulder, so he stopped pitching for a few weeks. The Phillies said Wheeler may not be ready to make his first turn in the rotation in April, although Wheeler is optimistic he will.
Ranger Suárez has visa issues in Venezuela, so he won’t be at camp on Monday. Dombrowski said he hopes Suárez will be in Clearwater before the end of the week, but that’s not a certainty. will be ready to start the season in the rotation.
Zach Eflin underwent surgery in September to repair a torn right patellar tendon. He threw a mound, and the Phillies said they thought he would be ready to open the season with the team. It’s an encouraging development, as at the time of the surgery, the Phillies said Eflin’s recovery could stretch into May.
Perhaps for these reasons, Dombrowski seemed like extra starting pitch depth was not a priority, at least compared to other needs. He emphasized internal depth like Bailey Falter, Nick Nelson and Cristopher Sanchez.
How much to spend?
The new collective bargaining agreement added $20 million to the luxury tax threshold, giving the Phillies around $40 million and more before they hit that mark. Last season, they approached the $210 million mark. dollars but did not cross it.
“As it concerns [the luxury tax]I would say we have absolutely fantastic property,” Dombrowski said. “They want to win, they are very supportive. I’m taking the fifth on what our budget will be because I’ve never found that to be very helpful in disclosing to other people. I don’t want to swing my hand on what we’re going to do or not do. But I would say that I don’t feel limited at all.”
Who is available to trade?
The Athletic mentioned that the Phillies could try to trade for third baseman Matt Chapman from A. The Phillies have Alec Bohm at No. 3, but a controllable young player like Bohm is the type of player Oakland likes to acquire. want, like Mick Abel, Bryson Stott, Andrew Painter, Johan Rojas and Logan O’Hoppe.
“We definitely need to improve, but…there are players I wouldn’t want to trade,” Dombrowski said. “I can’t anticipate, and you get a young All-Star for somebody. But overall, yeah, maybe there are people I wouldn’t want to trade.”
Didi vs. Stott
There will be a competition at shortstop between Didi Gregorius and Stott, who is the Phillies’ No. 2 prospect. Gregorius thinks he has the advantage. First, he has a track record. Second, he is in the second year of a two-year contract. , $28 million contract. He will have every chance to bounce back after a difficult 2021.
“I think Didi will rise to this challenge and he will fight,” Girardi said. “Didi is a strong-minded person who really believes in himself. in Yankee Stadium after Derek Jeter. I mean, that’s a pretty hard thing to do.
Girardi is entering the final season of his contract. He has a 2023 club option, but Dombrowski has not exercised it.
“It doesn’t make my job harder,” Girardi said. “I’m going to do the same job no matter what. I’ve never been extended in a season before, so it’s something I’m used to. You play it. Just like players, managers have to perform. It’s a production-based business, so you have to perform well.
“We’re always trying to strengthen our bullpen,” Dombrowski said.