If it seems like the team is done making major moves, that might be the case. But the Phillies believe they’re so close to winning a World Series that they won’t stop looking for opportunities to improve. Maybe something big will happen before spring training. Or maybe they just find value at the margins. But Phillies managing partner John Middleton said after Nola’s news conference Monday at Citizens Bank Park that he’s keeping an open mind.
“Dave (Dombrowski) comes up to me and says, ‘This is my opportunity. That’s what I think about this opportunity. This is the cost of opportunity. Then he says yes or no,” Middleton said. “Basically everything Dave recommended, we did. But I’ll also say, “Dave, would you like more money to do anything?” Sometimes he will say yes. Sometimes he will say no. Sometimes he’ll say, “I need to think about that.”
“There is a budget. There is more money to do things. And budgets can be changed.
It depends on the player, right?
“It’s an opportunity,” Middleton said. “Is it good?”
Dombrowski said Monday that he believed the list was largely established as a result of the Nola deal. The Phillies were interested enough in Japanese pitching star Yoshinobu Yamamoto to ask Bryce Harper to make a pitch to his side, which included a sizzling highlight reel. Sources said the Nola contract won’t stop Philadelphia from pursuing Yamamotoeven if the chances are long.
On the one hand, the Phillies would have to release salaries elsewhere to keep Yamamoto healthy.
Mike Trout has been a popular topic of conversation in Philadelphia recently, but the chances of the Phillies acquiring him in a trade might be lower than Yamamoto’s chances of coming to Philadelphia. Trout’s contract is too big and he has only played more than 86 games once in the last four seasons.
Free agent Josh Hader is also unlikely to join the team.
“We can just evaluate a lot of different things that we think can improve our club,” Dombrowski said. “We don’t really have a big position to fill, like we needed as a starting pitcher. We’re pretty deep in our enclosure. Of course, we can always be better. The position of our players on the field is essentially defined. On the pitch, we have a little question just because we have a young player (in Johan Rojas) who we are trying to create playing time. So we don’t really have a glaring need, but we will continue to look at how we can improve.
In his Detroit days, Dombrowski always seemed to add an important outside piece to the Tigers, even though they appeared in three American League Championship Series and one World Series in four years. Between 2011 and 2014, outside additions included Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, JD Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes.
When asked why he was comfortable trying to win the 2024 World Series with essentially the same group that lost the National League Championship Series to Arizona, Dombrowski responded: “First of all, we have a lot of renowned players now. We have a lot of stars. So it’s not necessarily a question of always having more stars. I could go around and start and say (Nick) Castellanos qualifies like this, (Trea) Turner qualifies, Harper, (Kyle) Schwarber, (JT) Realmuto, (Zack) Wheeler, Nola. And then some young people continue to grow.
“Secondly, we have a very good club. There are no gaping holes in places. Usually in those situations (in Detroit), there was a hole to fill. I think the third thing is that even though we have a lot of the same players, the situation is different.
“Now our infield looks different throughout the year,” Dombrowski said.
He said he hopes Rojas can play center field every day and that Cristopher Sánchez can pick up where he left off as the No. 5 starter. He said he thought the returning relievers could be better and that the Phillies had high hopes for rookie Orion Kerkering.
“Somehow, even though it’s the same names, it’s not the same team that was there all year,” Dombrowski said. “I can’t wait to get this group together.”