The Phillies, of course, are not trying to contend. As Grant points out, though, the Phillies are a big-market team and their only player set to make more than $1 million in 2017 is Matt Harrison. The Phillies drafted seventh in 2014 and selected pitcher Aaron Nola, who debuted in 2015. Last year, they drafted 10th and selected high school outfielder Cornelius Randolph, who had a promising debut in rookie ball. This year, they have the first overall pick for the second time in franchise history (they took Pat Burrell back in 1998). Maybe they're hoping to draft first again in 2017?
In Grant's scenario, the Phillies don't tank but instead spend. He gives them $113 million in average annual value to spend on salaries. "I'm not trying to prove a point about what the Phillies could've/should've/would've done," he writes. "It's just January, and I'm bored. Now let's build a lineup and rotation for the 2016 Phillies."
With that $113 million, the Phillies sign Ben Zobrist, Alexei Ramirez, Justin Upton, Jason Heyward and three starting pitchers -- John Lackey, Scott Kazmir and Wei-Yin Chen. Added to current Phillies like Nola, Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, does that give them a contending team? Probably not. Grant says their projected WAR after his imaginary spending binge would still be about 10 wins short of strong contenders. He writes:
But even if you could agree to get every free agent you wanted for the Phillies -- I'm thinking one huge, happy conference call with every free agent in baseball that settles everything in an hour or so -- they would still be a team that needed a lot of good fortune to make the postseason. Except in this scenario, they also would have barfed away their future financial flexibility.
So, no, the current course is still the right one. Hope for Franco and Nola to become stars. Hope for Herrera and [Jerad] Eickhoff to remain contributors. Wait patiently for the J.P. Crawford revolution. Develop as many interesting spare parts to trade away as possible. Continue making deals like the Ken Giles trade.
In general, however, it does point to the lack of talent on the current roster. And that the Phillies are long ways from contending.