The right approach, a therapist would probably tell you, is to move on.
To stop shuddering when “Dancing on My Own” comes on the jukebox; to forget about the drifting pop-up that landed in a Diamondbacks glove and ended the Phillies’ season; to face toward the future, when things other than blowing a 3-2 series lead in the NLCS will happen to the Phillies.
… but it’s just so much easier to stay mad.
It feels like we just finished sitting through the Astros’ parade, a far more tempered version of the Mad Max–style rampage we’d imagined the 2022 Phillies sparking. Yeah, somebody threw a beer at Ted Cruz, but even that wasn’t enough to keep you warm all winter. So here we are again, on the cusp of a holiday season with no World Series trophy on the shelf.
But the window is not closed for these Phillies who have put together a pair of deep postseason runs that at the very least maintained the potential of winning it all for longer than a team like, let’s just say, the Braves.
The off-season will contain plenty of conversations, debates, and in some cases, actual information about how the 2024 Phillies will take shape. Let’s take a look at what lies ahead.
Nov. 7-9: GM meetings in Scottsdale, Arizona
Scottsdale! The jewel of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The place has really picked up steam since changing its name from an Indigenous term meaning “rotting hay.” Not only is it a top contender to be America’s new playground, as visitors engage in leisurely activities like golfing and retiring, but it’s the where MLB’s general managers will flee the varying degrees of winter they face in their home states to glad-hand under the desert sun.
What to expect? They’ll review the rule changes incorporated into the sport this year and determine how that all went; they’ll get updates on the Oakland Athletics’ shameful move to Las Vegas led by cowardly billionaire John Fischer; and they’ll break down how to further enhance the minor leagues by, presumably, having even less of them.
If you’re thinking “That all sounds vaguely evil,” well, that’s what the business side of baseball typically does sound like. It’s a necessary evil, though. At least that’s what evil people say.
More in line with our interests, however, are all the deals that could take place. Last year, the market around Willson Contreras started heating up, Jorge Soler and Eric Hosmer chose to not opt out of their contracts, and the Marlins made it known that Pablo Lopez was available for any neat trade ideas. In some cases, the GM meetings serve as a prologue to the Winter Meetings as lines are drawn, hands are shaken, and conversations are started.
Where will the Phillies land in all this? Unlike last year, the Phillies don’t have a big, obvious move to make a la signing Trea Turner. They have in-house decisions and negotiations to navigate.
Dave Dombrowski recently told reporters that the Phillies’ top priority is to re-sign Aaron Nola, or to find a replacement for him. Apparently the franchise is interested in holding onto their No. 2 starter whose season was defined once more by inconsistency — but not so interested that they’d give him whatever he asks for.
There’s also the Rhys Hoskins decision, the finalization of which will determine the emotional livelihood of a section of Phillies fans. Dombrowski recently said Hoskins’ future with the team depends on where Bryce Harper sees himself moving forward — returning outfield or staying at first, where he volunteered to fill in this season. Given Harper’s influence on front office decisions in the past, it almost feels appropriate for him to hold Hoskins’ fate in his hands. That’s probably a dramatic overstatement, but it’s the off-season. Dramatic overstatements are baseball at the moment.
There’s also more bullpen arms to acquire — maybe a closer, or just whoever the Phillies find throwing rocks at the train tracks. They seem to love a hard thrower, location be damned. But whatever they plan to do this winter, they will at the very least begin doing it in the coming days in Scottsdale, America’s home for learning how to put together Japanese floral arrangements.
Nov. 13-16: BBWAA Award winners announced
We know the finalists for the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards: The Phillies have Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, and J.T. Realmuto up for the former, and Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker, Bryson Stott, and Realmuto again up for the latter.
But those are chosen by MLB managers and coaches. The Baseball Writers of American Association gets to pick the MVP, Manager of the Year, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year awards for each league. You’ll know the writers are the ones in charge because of all the… writing… they’ll publish on each of their picks. Prepare yourself.
And as soon as you’re done having a problem with all of those selections, BBWAA writers will start filling the internet with the pious reasoning behind their Hall of Fame ballots in January. Hooray!
Nov. 14: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offers
MLB’s official definition of a “qualifying offer”:
In the qualifying offer system, clubs wishing to receive compensatory draft picks for the loss of a free agent can make a one-year “qualifying offer,” worth the mean salary of MLB’s 125 highest-paid players, to their impending free agents prior to the onset of free agency if and only if:
1. That player has never received a qualifying offer previously in his career.
2. That player spent the entire season on that team’s roster (in-season acquisitions are ineligible).
If the Phillies were not to make a QO to a free agent like Aaron Nola, then they would not get a draft pick to compensate if Nola happens to sign with another team. This would be insane of them — or anyone — so it never happens.
This is when arbitration-eligible players get their offers as well. That means they’re eligible to have a third party arbitrator come in, listen to the player explain why he deserves what he thinks he deserves, listen to the team explain why he does not deserve that, and then determine who is right.
They always say this is a professional process that gets filed under “just business” and does nothing to harm the player’s relationship with the team. But it’s impossible to believe there have never been any players sensitive to the idea of hearing their employer list their faults to a third party, as though eavesdropping through an office door.
The Phillies’ arbitration-eligible players this year will be Alec Bohm, Jake Cave, Dylan Covey, Jeff Hoffman, Edmundo Sosa, Gregory Soto, Garrett Stubbs and Ranger Suárez. According to beat writer Todd Zolecki, the only two that seem likely to not be tendered a contract are Cave and Covey, “based on their spots on the 26-man roster,” but also because. Well.
The deadline to tender a contract to a player will be three days later on Nov. 17. Why they exclusively use the word “tender” in this scenario, I have no idea. Maybe it makes it sound softer and sweeter when they tell a guy he’s worth way less than he thinks he is.
Dec. 4-6: Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tennessee
The big show. The main event. The MLB Winter Meetings will be the hottest chicken in town when they come to Nashville this winter, though free agency this winter doesn’t have a lot going on beyond where Shohei Ohtani, the best baseball player on the planet, will land.
It will not be with the Angels.
The Winter Meetings are when the Phillies signed Trea Turner last year, and typically when executives make the deals that will impact the course of their team’s season, and potentially, their own personal legacy. Sometimes, that means frantic tweets and constant trade talk as teams make deals with phones ringing and papers flying. Sometimes, like in 2006, it means a lot of talk and little action beyond the Royals signing Gil Meche for $55 million.
Mmmm? Gil Meche, anyone?
All this talk of endless meetings, financial business, and people in polo shirts is really making that bitterness subside. Who knows what the Phillies will do in the weeks ahead, but in the remaining daylight of 2023, we at least know that Dave Dombrowski feels he has the financial backing from owner John Middleton to do whatever he needs to do.
Some teams are crying poor or moving to Las Vegas, so the Phillies, relatively speaking, are in a good spot to make their next deep playoff run. Hopefully it will end with less bitterness than this one. Or at least with Rhys Hoskins playing first.