Like I said when the surgery first came to light, because of the timetable on Brandon Marsh’s return, because of the other outfielders the Phillies have available, and because it was always a question of just how interested they were (versus how much they’re mere leverage), I wasn’t TOO worried about the Philadelphia Phillies suddenly going hard after Cody Bellinger.
… but, the thing is, when you’re Obsessively Watching someone’s free agency, every little remotely conceivable turn kinda gives you some palpitations.
So I’m glad to hear that, at least in his public comments, Phillies President Dave Dombrowski definitely downplayed the idea that anything with Marsh’s surgery impacts their outfield free agency plans, for multiple reasons.
“Oh, we think (Marsh will) be ready to play for sure on Opening Day,” Dombrowski said, per MLB.com. “It’s not a new injury. It’s something that just bothered him when he was working out. They basically found a floating piece of cartilage. It’s old. It’s been in there. All of a sudden, it moved to a different place to a joint area that bothered him. It’s not something that happened this week, but it’s something he first experienced the pain this week ….
“We still think we’re the same way we were beforehand, when it comes to Opening Day. (Free-agent outfielders) want guarantees, and we’re just not able to give them those guarantees. … We talk to people all the time. The reality is that we don’t have guaranteed playing time that some people want. We just don’t have that. It’s not really even a dollar issue as it is playing time.”
A couple things.
First, of course this could all be bogus. The Phillies could just be trying to project whatever negotiations are happening, and avoid having the Marsh surgery used against them. But Dombrowski, historically, is one of the more candid baseball chiefs, so I tend to take him at his word: the Phillies aren’t necessarily looking at outfielders of the type that are going to get guaranteed playing time. And the Marsh injury didn’t change anything even if they were.
Second, though, is that if it’s not really a money issue, then surely the Phillies could push Johan Rojas into a reserve role (together with Cristian Pache), if it meant getting to add Bellinger to the outfield mix and the lineup? Dombrowski’s comment doesn’t FEEL like it’s referring to a guy like Bellinger. In other words, it’s a little hard for me to see Bellinger falling into a group of free agents that the Phillies are holding off because of playing time. So maybe, then, they just never were seriously involved on Bellinger in the first place? That has kinda been the theory, for what it’s worth, whenever their name comes up (i.e., that they’re just being used as big market leverage).
Again, I’m not going to foreclose the possibility that this is a lot of smoke, and the Phillies have always been involved, and if the price tag slips, they could swoop in. I think that’s very unlikely, though. Not only do the Phillies have the outfield covered reasonably well if they want, they also have a long-term first baseman now in Bryce Harper. So there’s no back-up value there in signing Bellinger to a five, six, seven-year deal. The Phillies also just have a lot of long-term money tied up on the positional side in general. That isn’t to say they wouldn’t sign another big contract for that group, but at some point, it certainly would be a whole lot of money to guys in their 30s on long-term deals. (Of course, the flip side to that is that, in a couple years, all of Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, and J.T. Realmuto’s contracts would’ve come off the books.)
Anyway, long story short: the Marsh surgery didn’t really FREAK me out in terms of it being the moment Scott Boras has waited for. It did make me wonder just a teeny bit, though, and I appreciated hearing Dombrowski’s general thoughts on the matter. I don’t think the Phillies suddenly got more interested this week; and I don’t think they were hugely involved before this week, either.