The Phillies have had two straight years in which they inhabited first place for much of the season, then collapsed late and missed the postseason.
That resulted in the dismissal of new-school manager Gabe Kapler and the hiring of old-school guy Joe Girardi. Whatever happens in Philadelphia this year, it will certainly be different, because Girardi will absolutely, positively have a different approach than Kapler, who has moved on to become manager of the San Francisco Giants.
Mostly, the Phillies return a team that can hit. What they needed was some established pitching and they got it with the free-agent signing of Zack Wheeler, the oft-injured longtime Met who finally put things together at the perfect time for him. He was rewarded with a five-year, $118 million contract.
Between Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta, the Phillies have a pretty good top four of their rotation, though Arrieta made only 24 starts in 2019 due to a bone spur in his elbow that required season-ending surgery. Looks like the Cubs made the right choice in signing Yu Darvish instead of keeping Arrieta after 2017.
Former Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius will take over that position for the Phillies, who otherwise return many hitting stars like Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins. Despite all that offensive punch, the Phillies were exactly league-average in runs with 774. Their No. 1 pick in 2017, Adam Haseley, had a solid 67-game debut in 2019 (1.7 bWAR) and will take over center field full-time in 2020. Andrew McCutchen missed most of 2019 after a serious knee injury and they’ll need him to return to form. Seems like “Cutch” has been around forever, but he’s still just 33.
The Phillies bullpen has been up and down over the last couple of years. That’s all they really need to become a true contender. We’ll see if Seranthony Dominguez and/or Hector Neris will step up and be the closer/setup man a contender needs.
KEY ADDITIONS: Zack Wheeler, Didi Gregorius, Josh Harrison, Francisco Liriano, Bud Norris, Drew Storen, Neil Walker, Logan Forsythe, Anthony Swarzak, Matt Szczur
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Corey Dickerson, Logan Morrison, Juan Nicasio, Jerad Eickhoff, Jared Hughes, Pat Neshek, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez
The Cubs will face the Phillies April 24-25-26 at Wrigley Field and June 8-9-10 in Philadelphia.