“Stupid money” has been the phrase of the offseason. Here’s why the Phillies should keep spending smart money.
Entering this offseason, the Philadelphia Phillies were ready to dig deep into their pockets and spend some “stupid money.” Headlined by superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, this year’s highly anticipated free agency class had the Phillies in an irrational state of mind. It was rumored that they’d make a serious run at both Machado and Harper, putting all of their eggs in one basket.
While the “stupid money” phrase thrown out by Phillies owner John Middleton captured headlines all across the sports world, Philadelphia has done everything but spend their money “a little bit stupid.”
Philly has written $73 million in checks out to former Yankees, outfielder Andrew McCutchen and reliever David Robertson. They also took on the four-year/$57 million contract of Jean Segura in a trade with Seattle Mariners, while dumping the $40 million remaining on Carlos Santana’s contract in the same trade.
This isn’t stupid money; these are actually smart moves (giving them a pass on overpaying for Cutch). There are plenty of other free agents still available that wouldn’t cost the Phillies $600 million in contracts but would have tremendous impact and provide significant value to their everyday lineup.
In 2018, Manny Machado had his best offensive season, hitting .297 with 37 homers, 107 RBI, a .905 OPS and 141 WRC+. There’s a free agent utility player who is a year removed from a season in which he hit .303 with a .907 OPS and 144 WRC+, and he’d cost just about half Machado’s likely price, or even less. That player is Marwin Gonzalez.
If you’re going to pay Bryce Harper $350 million, you’re paying him in the hope that the 2015 version of himself is still there somewhere. Think about it; it’s Harper, but it’s Harper and a $350 million gamble in a contract to a guy who just hit .249 with a .889 OPS and 169 strikeouts in 2018. If the Phillies are in the business of taking risks on guys who were at their best in 2015, then they should bypass Harper and be all over free agent outfielder A.J. Pollock.
In 2015, Pollock hit .315 with 26 homers, 70 RBI, a .865 OPS, 131 WRC+ and 39 stolen bases. Why not take a slight and more affordable risk on this guy as opposed to emptying the bank, and fattening your payroll on a player who has been unbelievably inconsistent since his MVP season?
Suggesting that A.J. Pollock or Marwin Gonzalez are on the same raw talent level as a Harper or Machado would be ridiculous. If Harper and Machado tell the Phillies they want to play in Philadelphia, Middleton has no choice but to sign not one, but both.
Recent reports indicate neither of the two superstars is particularly fond of the idea of playing in the City of Brotherly Love, suggesting that the Phils would have to grossly overpay for one of the two players.
But why overpay? This isn’t the only star-studded free agency class, as one can reasonably expect the likes of Nolan Arenado, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts will all opt for and highlight free agency in the near future.
The Phillies have great young talent in their rotation and lineup headlined by Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, and Rhys Hoskins. With the additions they’ve already made, they can compete in a suspect NL East. Would it give the Phillies fanbase a boost if they walk away with either Machado or Harper? Of course, however, making cost-effective moves and adding valuable pieces to an up-and-coming team may be the smartest route. Because when the real big fish from Vineland, NJ, who adores the city of Philadelphia, comes knocking and they can’t give him his money…
Well, then they’ll feel really stupid.
James O’Connell is a contributing writer for Bronx to Bushville.