When the 2019 MLB season began, the Philadelphia Phillies were not a favorite to win the World Series. But with the acquisitions they made in the offseason, i.e., Bryce Harper, they were expected to be competitive within the NL East.
Maybe, if everyone progressed as much as management hoped they could, they might even make some noise in the playoffs. But that didn’t happen. Instead, several players underperformed, and the team struggled to a .500 record (81-81). They finished 16 back of the division-winning Atlanta Braves and five games back of the third-place New York Mets.
Yes, they were the fourth-place team in the division and failed to make the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year.
The Phillies have several holes that need fixing if they are at least going to climb out of the NL East cellar. They took care of a major one when they hired Joe Girardi to be the new manager. But they still have issues with their starting rotation, the bullpen needs help as does the infield, and they need someone other than Bryce Harper they can rely on in the outfield.
Then there are their issues with depth in case they get hit hard with injuries like last season.
With all they need to do, they have to start somewhere—and it looks like they are going with the starting rotation.
In today’s MLB, a team is not going to win too many games when its starting rotation has a cumulative ERA of 4.64 (No. 17 in the league) like the Phillies had last year. So, better pitching was must, and they believe they have taken a step in that direction by adding Zack Wheeler.
The team announced Wednesday that they had signed the former New York Mets starter to a five-year, $118 million contract. He’s no Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg, but he’s a very good pitcher and comes with a much lower price tag.
Last season, he went 11-8 with the Mets with a 3.96 ERA and 195 strikeouts in 31 starts. He was great in the second half of the season, going 5-2 in 12 starts with a 2.83 ERA.
What that also tells us is he wasn’t too good in the first half of the season– and he wasn’t. Through his first 19 starts, he had a 4.69 ERA.
So, the Phillies are banking on the Wheeler from the second half of the season, becoming the norm. If that ends up being the case, they might overtake the Mets next season. But the third best is as good as they can expect, right now.
Of the eight guys that started 10+ games last season, only one had a sub-4.0 ERA (Aaron Nola; 3.87). So, the Phillies have added a second quality pitcher for an average annual salary of $23+ million.
For a good starting pitcher, that is not bad.
But if they are going to more than just beat the Mets, they have a lot more work to do. They will need to add at least one more good starter (if not two). The bullpen needs a lot of work. It wouldn’t hurt to add some power to the lineup, too (or maybe they already did).
The offseason is barely underway. If the Phillies want to compete next season, they better get busy.
Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:21 PM