Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror and the annual winter meetings are next week. We're moving into prime territory for a flurry of moves in free agency -- at least let's hope so, since it's been pretty slow thus far.
In this space, it's time to have a little fun in looking beyond the obvious contenders at who should be flexing their financial clout this offseason. What do I mean about "beyond the obvious?" Well, everyone knows the Yankees, Dodgers and Mets types should be spending. The Blue Jays and Braves types should be spending what they can in order to remain strong contenders as well.
So who's left? Let's talk about so-called "fringe" contenders that should be active.
1. Philadelphia Phillies
Wait, what? The Phillies just won the National League pennant! How could you possibly say they are "fringe" contenders.
Well, as was made abundantly clear to me from many fans on social media (mostly Braves fans, for whatever reason), the Phillies were a "THIRD-PLACE TEAM" last season (gasp!). They were 87-75 and had the worst record among all playoff teams and it was an expanded field. They finished 14 games out of first place. They only won the third NL wild card by one game over a team that appears to be tearing down this offseason. Bryce Harper is out until at least mid-June and maybe later, too.
So, yes, the defending NL champs look like fringe playoff contenders for 2023. That playoff run also should have both positioned them financially and motivated them to go hard this offseason.
I think they will, too. It shouldn't be just one big name, such as Trea Turner or Xander Bogaerts to take over at shortstop, as they can fill out some pitching depth, too. A decent fill-in for Harper until he's back? Yes, that should be on the list as well.
This is no time to be shy. The Phillies are nearly $60 million under the luxury tax threshold and if it comes to it, they can easily afford to pay the tax for the second straight year now with that glorious World Series run paying financial dividends in 2023.
This was probably cheating a bit. I firmly believe it's intellectually honest to call the Phillies "fringe" contenders, but after a World Series run, of course they should be aggressive. Since I said "beyond the obvious" in the introduction, you could argue the Phillies are obviously an aggressive buyer this offseason. That's fine. I just wanted to point out that they are indeed simply a fringe contender and that they should be going hard to add.
2. San Francisco Giants
After a shocking 107-win season ended with a heartbreaking NLDS loss to the Dodgers in 2021, the Giants followed it up with a thoroughly mediocre 81-win season in 2022. The roster looks a bit stale and even boring, right?
It is not bad, though. Given the penchant club president Farhan Zaidi has shown to find talent and, with the help of his scouting department and coaching staff, get the most out of those players, it doesn't seem like they need to pull off the ol' teardown-and-rebuild.
If ownership is worried about the luxury tax, the Giants are nearly $100 million away from it for 2023. There are only two salaried players for a touch over $20 million for 2024. No one is salaried for 2025 or beyond.