The longer the Major League Baseball season is delayed, the closer the next class of free agents comes to hitting the open market. Included in that group are five key members of the anticipated 2020 Philadelphia Phillies roster.
Should the season ultimately be lost completely it would be a major blow to these players. Each was hoping to use a strong 2020 campaign to help earn them another big contract for the 2021 season and possibly beyond.
Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta turns 35-years-old in spring training of 2021. He is coming off back-to-back down years with the Phillies for which he earned $55 million. Arrieta’s ERA has risen and his strikeout totals have dropped in four consecutive seasons
Shortstop Didi Gregorius will turn 31 just as spring training gets underway in 2021. He lost half of the 2019 season to injury and surgery. He earned just over $25 million over his final three seasons with the New York Yankees and is signed to a one-year, $14 million deal this year with the Phillies.
Outfielder Jay Bruce will turn 34 years of age just as the 2021 regular season would be scheduled to get underway. He hasn’t been a full-time starter in either of the last two years during which Bruce hit to just .223 and .216 batting averages. He is wrapping up a three-year, $39 million deal in 2020 which was signed with the Seattle Mariners.
Relief pitcher David Robertson celebrates his birthday just days after Bruce, and will be turning 36 years of age next April. The Phillies have received just 6.2 innings over seven games from the veteran right-hander due to Tommy John surgery required when he was injured during the first month of his first season in red pinstripes.
The final and most important pending Phillies free agent is catcher J.T. Realmuto. He is working on a one-year, $10 million contract awarded during his final pass through the arbitration process back in February. Realmuto is due to turn 30 in spring training of next year and is seeking a record-setting deal for the catcher position. The best all-around backstop in the game, his ask on dollars and years in that deal is going to be met by some team.
Also due to enter free agency are relievers Jose Alvarez, who is due to make $2.95 million in 2020, and Tommy Hunter, due to earn $875,000 this year. All of these players will have their ultimate 2020 salaries reduced to some prorated amount based on games played this year. They will make at least what they did in 2019 based on an agreement between MLB and the MLBPA.
Saying goodbye to all of them would cut over $71 million total dollars from the Phillies payroll when comparing this season to next. The club may have interest in bringing some of them back under new deals that would certainly be far less expensive than their current contracts.
There are some big names from other team due to hit free agency this coming off-season, any of whom might interest the Phillies. They include outfielders Mookie Betts, George Springer, and possibly even Giancarlo Stanton, who can opt-out of his Yankees deal. Staring pitchers Corey Kluber, Robbie Ray, Trevor Bauer, James Paxton, and Marcus Stroman are among the potential group of free agents.
The most immediate and pressing issue for the Phillies remains the Realmuto situation. He is the one player in this entire group who the club not only wants to bring back, but needs to bring back if they wish to continue moving forward towards contention over the next three years or so. That is true no matter who else they might pursue.