Pre-season expectations are too high for Philadelphia Phillies

Bryce Harper

Status: All in

A bright start to 2018 had the Phillies feeling optimistic. The poor second half saw the season end with just 80 wins, but an ambitious, costly offseason has changed the feeling around the franchise. Many have the Phillies as one of the World Series favourites.

Offseason moves

Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million contract after one of the longest free agent sagas in MLB history. The Phillies were a favourite to sign Harper from the start of the winter, but it was still cause for celebration in Philadelphia when it was eventually confirmed.

Former highly rated prospect J.P. Crawford was sent to Seattle along with Carlos Santana’s bloated contract. Philadelphia received Juan Nicasio, James Pazos and Jean Segura in the deal. Segura will be the everyday shortstop alongside Maikel Franco and Cesar Hernandez in the infield. Santana’s departure allows Rhys Hoskins to move back to first.

Another once highly thought of prospect was traded as Jorge Alfaro joined the Marlins with Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart. J.T. Realmuto’s soap opera was not quite as dramatic as Harper’s, but baseball fans worldwide were glad it finally came to an end.

Veteran left-hander Jose Alvarez was brought in from the Angels. Luis Garcia was sent the other way.

Before the Harper excitement, Philadelphia signed Andrew McCutchen to a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth year. McCutchen played for the Giants and Yankees last season and remains a solid corner defender and above-average hitter.

An already formidable bullpen was bolstered by the experience of David Robertson on a two-year deal with a team option.

What to watch

Poor defence hurt the Phillies’ starters last season. The defence should be a bit better this year (they need it to be), but there’s still concern about the rotation. Jake Arrieta is a long way from the pitcher of a few years ago and is trending in the wrong direction. Philadelphia need Nick Pivetta, who has good underlying numbers, Zach Eflin and Vince Velasquez to step up.

The bullpen has the potential to be special. If we overlook reliever volatility for a minute, this bullpen has the makings of the best in baseball. The Phillies’ relief group could be as good as the Yankees or Astros. It’s a good job too, because Gabe Kapler is going to need plenty of outs from them.

Manny Machado ended up a Padre rather than a Phillie, leaving Franco as the everyday third baseman. Franco is okay, but it’s a position Philadelphia could be looking to upgrade soon. It was a bit surprising they didn’t move for Mike Moustakas. Franco’s ceiling is pretty much set at where he is right now – it would be a huge boost for the Phillies if he could unlock some of the potential that made him MLB Pipeline’s 26th ranked prospect in 2014.

Outlook

Missing the playoffs would be a disappointment for the Phillies. Trades and free agent signings mean it’s win-now time, despite the length of Harper’s deal.

The Mets and Nationals have better rotations and the line-up has holes even after the marquee additions of Segura, Realmuto, Harper and McCutchen.

The National League East should be very close. The Phillies are good, though it’s not unreasonable to suggest they’re the fourth-best team in the division. Post-Harper expectations might be a bit too high for this roster.

About Sam Cox 209 Articles
Sam is a widely published freelance writer, covering basketball, baseball and a range of other sports. He's still trying to decide if he prefers a rundown shot block or a smooth double play.

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