The Phillies announced this morning that outfielder Brandon Marsh underwent arthroscopic surgery after feeling discomfort in his left knee. With a 3-4 week recovery timetable, he’s still expected to be ready for Opening Day. As a result, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski downplayed the chances of going outside the organization for outfield help.
“We still think we’re the same way we were beforehand, when it comes to Opening Day,” he told reporters this afternoon (link via Todd Zolecki of MLB.com). “[Free agent outfielders] want guarantees, and we’re just not able to give them those guarantees. … We talk to people all the time. The reality is that we don’t have guaranteed playing time that some people want. We just don’t have that. It’s not really even a dollar issue as it is playing time.”
Assuming Marsh’s recovery proceeds as expected, he’ll slot into left field on Opening Day. Defensive stalwart Johan Rojas is set to open the year in center field while Nick Castellanos mans the corner opposite Marsh. Cristian Pache and Jake Cave project as the top depth options.
Rojas has a limited MLB track record, having appeared in only 59 career games. Paired with Philadelphia’s willingness to spend and Dombrowski’s history of pursuing star talent, that has led to loose speculation about the Phils as a possible suitor for Cody Bellinger. The front office leader has said a few times he anticipates Rojas being the starting center fielder — a sentiment he repeated earlier this week — making a Bellinger pursuit unlikely. Zolecki reports that the Phils also don’t anticipate landing either of the top two starting pitchers still available, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery, barring a significant change in their respective markets.
Dombrowski also shot down the notion the Phillies are on the verge of trading for bullpen help. Unsubstantiated reports have linked them to Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen and Guardians star Emmanuel Clase in recent days. While Dombrowski didn’t address either player specifically, he said the Phils generally “do not have any ongoing conversations for bullpen guys” (via Zolecki).
While that doesn’t rule out the possibility of the Phils jumping into the mix at some point, the veteran executive pointed out that there’s not a ton of room in the season-opening bullpen. Each of José Alvarado, Matt Strahm, Gregory Soto, Jeff Hoffman and Seranthony Domínguez is locked into the relief corps. The Phils have effusively praised Orion Kerkering, a 22-year-old who debuted late last season after striking out nearly 38% of opponents in the minor leagues.
If all six of those pitchers are on the Opening Day roster, the Phils would likely have two bullpen spots remaining. Dombrowski indicated one of those would go to a long reliever — quite likely out-of-options righty Dylan Covey. That leaves one job up for grabs (assuming the Phillies aren’t committed to carrying Connor Brogdon, who is also out of options). That opens the possibility for another acquisition, yet it’s not surprising Dombrowski said they’d only acquire a pitcher they consider a meaningful upgrade over their in-house candidates.
“It only leaves one other spot, and if you go get a veteran guy, he needs to be an upgrade. Because the reality is the only one there that can be optioned in that group is Kerkering. And we may not want to be optioning him,” he said. Perhaps the opportunity for a clear upgrade comes available or a Spring Training injury changes the calculus, but it doesn’t seem the Phils anticipate an imminent bullpen pickup.