By Sam Bush
The Phillies open the 2020 regular season on March 26 in Miami, and their home opener is a week later, April 2 against the Brewers at CBP.
So let’s take a look at the Fightins:
2019 finish: 81-81, 4th in NL East
Manager: Joe Girardi (first season)
Top baseball ops executive: Matt Klentak, vice president and general manager (fifth season)
Highest-paid player: OF Bryce Harper ($27.5 million in 2020)
Top returning position player: C J.T. Realmuto (5.7 WAR in 2019, fangraphs.com)
Top returning starting pitcher: RHP Aaron Nola (3.4 WAR in 2019)
Top returning reliever: RHP Hector Neris (1.0 WAR in 2019)
RHP Zack Wheeler (above, free agent), SS Didi Gregorius (free agent), 2B Cesar Hernandez (free agent), RHP Robert Stock (waivers), OF Matt Szczur (minors), 2B Josh Harrison (minors), 1B Neil Walker (minors), RHP Drew Storen (minors), RHP Bud Norris (minors), LHP Francisco Liriano (minors), C Christian Bethancourt (minors), 2B Logan Forsythe (minors), RHP Anthony Swarzak (minors).
3B Maikel Franco (free agent), OF Corey Dickerson (free agent), 1B Logan Morrison (free agent), 2B Brad Miller (free agent), RHP Nick Vincent (free agent), LHP Drew Smyly (free agent), 3B Sean Rodriguez (free agent), RHP Juan Nicasio (free agent), RHP Jared Hughes (free agent), LHP Jason Vargas (free agent), RHP Pat Neshek (free agent), OF Jose Pirela (released).
Baseball America top-100 prospect(s):
RHP Spencer Howard (27), 3B Alec Bohm (28).
OF Bryce Harper set a career-high with 114 RBIs and surged in the second half (.941 OPS) in the first leg of his 13-year, $330 million pact with Philly. The new-look Phillies also added C J.T. Realmuto, INF Jean Segura and OF Andrew McCutchen in 2019 but still finished fourth in the NL East and outside the playoffs. Meantime, the team Harper left, the Washington Nationals, went on to win the World Series.
Those shortcomings, given their payroll, justified removing Gabe Kapler after two mediocre seasons. His replacement, Joe Girardi, is managing for the first time since 2017. He was 910-710 with a World Series title in 10 seasons on the top step with the Yankees.
The Phillies finished 11th in the NL in starting pitching ERA (4.64), dragging down a team that had hoped to hit its way into the postseason for the first time since 2011. Their big acquisition this offseason should help. RHP Zack Wheeler won 23 games over the last two years (3.65 ERA). He’ll slot in between RHP Aaron Nola (3.87 ERA) and RHP Jake Arrieta (4.64 ERA).