The 2023 free agency window opens today across Major League Baseball and over the coming weeks and months the game’s Hot Stove season will find dozens of players signing with new clubs. In addition, there are sure to be some fascinating trades in which even more players switch teams.

Having reached the postseason for the first time in over a decade, the Philadelphia Phillies are expected to be prime players in the market. Club president Dave Dombrowski has been given a payroll budget for next season from owner John Middleton which undoubtedly provides the resources that will allow the club to make significant upgrades.

I, by all means, have freedom to do things,” said Dombrowski per Andy McCullough of The Athletic. “We went over (the Competitive Balance Tax threshold) this year. So I would just say, I don’t think we’re looking to cut our salaries back. But I’m not going to make a really specific declaration on that.

The Phillies currently have just six players under contract for the 2023 campaign (salaries in millions): Bryce Harper ($27.5), Zack Wheeler ($24.5), J.T. Realmuto ($23.9), Nick Castellanos ($20), Kyle Schwarber ($20), and Aaron Nola ($16).

There are another seven arbitration-eligible players, at least five of whom will be offered contracts by the ball club. Rhys Hoskins, Jose Alvarado, Seranthony Dominguez, Ranger Suarez, and Edmundo Sosa should command roughly $21 million combined for next year.

Altogether, there would appear to be approximately $159 million that will be committed to those 11 players. Most of the others with whom fans are familiar, players such as Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott, will make the Major League minimum salary of $720k unless the team opts to sign them to a long-term extension or decides to pay them a bit more, which seems unlikely.

The MLB Competitive Balance Tax threshold for the 2023 season will be $233 million and that is also likely Dombrowski’s initial budget amount. Ownership could then be expected to go over that amount either later in the off-season or next summer, depending on any opportunities that might present themselves.

Considering all of the various contractual expenses which count towards the CBT as tracked by Spotrac, the Phillies would appear to have roughly $60 million to spend on free agents and/or salaries taken on in trade.

On Wednesday, November 9, 2022, I appeared on the Phillies Talk podcast with host Rich Baxter. In that conversation, I stated that adding a veteran starting pitcher on a one- or two-year deal and adding an impact middle infielder should be the team’s two top priorities.

There are many starting pitching options that fit the bill in free agency this year and more will be added as some are offered and then turn down a formal Qualifying Offer from their current team. I’ll address these pitching possibilities in a separate piece to come during the next week or so.

As for that middle infielder, the Phillies are in prime position to go after one of four premier shortstops who are now available via free agency. Those four are Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson, and Carlos Correa.

The Phillies created the opening in their middle infield by choosing not to exercise their $17 million option on Jean Segura. That money and a bit more will now go towards one of those shortstops, with incumbent shortstop Stott expected to slide over into Segura’s former home at second base.

Even before that Segura decision, rumors were rampant that the Phillies would aggressively pursue one of these free agent options. The leader all along in that conversation has been Turner, and that speculation has only grown more focused and intense in the last few days.

Turner is a 29-year-old from Florida who was the San Diego Padres first round choice in the 2014 MLB Draft at 13th overall out of North Carolina State University. The Padres sent him to the Washington Nationals the following June to complete a huge three-way deal also involving the Tampa Bay Rays.

Runner-up to Corey Seager for the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2016, Turner went on to become a two-time NL All-Star in Washington. He was a key player as starting shortstop with the Nats 2019 World Series champions. In 2021, Turner finished fifth in NL MVP voting.

Reporting from the MLB General Manager’s Meetings in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Jayson Stark of The Athletic stated “You hear a lot of Trea Turner talk. I am all in on signing Trea Turner, and I’ll tell you guys: there’s some interesting rumblings that he wants to be [in Philly]. So I would watch that.”

Turner would bring a combination of power and speed to the top of the Phillies lineup, similar to the type of offensive game once provided by Jimmy Rollins. He is a career .302 hitter who has slammed at least 19 homers, stolen at least 27 bases, and scored at least 96 runs in each of the last four full seasons.

Turning 30 next June, it is hard to speculate as to what kind of contract Turner might be looking for in free agency. He signed a one-year deal for $21 million to play with the Los Angeles Dodgers this past season but is expected to seek a multi-year pact this time around.

Back in June, Joel Reuter at Bleacher Report speculated that Turner would command an eight-year deal worth $264 million, which would come out to an annual $33 million value. There have been others speculating similar annual dollar values over periods ranging from seven to nine years.

The Phillies can handle that type of money contractually. But would they go that long on a player who is likely to lose some of that pop and stolen base effectiveness as he ages through his 30’s?

Turner is reportedly close friends with Phillies superstar Bryce Harper, with whom he played in Washington over four years from 2015-18. Jon Morosi keyed on this relationship in his own reporting from the GM Meetings earlier this morning.

As we saw with the Realmuto contract negotiation, Harper has the ear of ownership. As the most important player on a win-now team, if he wants Turner here, that only increases the likelihood that the his former teammate will become his future teammate.

Frankly, any of the four big free agent shortstops would help improve the Phillies lineup, adding an impactful top-of-the-order type presence. Turner has been worth 29.4 WAR over his seven full seasons. That compares to 39.5 for Correa over eight years, 34.6 for Bogaerts over nine, and 13.4 for Swanson across his six full seasons.

My feeling is that Trea Turner would be the best fit for the Phillies when considering his actual value as a ballplayer and factoring in a likely smooth transition into what is a great current clubhouse chemistry mix. He would appear, at this point, to be the perfect match.


MORE OF MY 2022 BASEBALL PIECES

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