2019 Philadelphia Phillies Predictions and Odds to Win the World Series
When I do these MLB previews each spring, I tend to start at the top with the teams favored to win that year's World Series because, let's face it, there's a lot more betting interest in those clubs than, say, the perennially sucky San Diego Padres.
However, I moved the Padres up this year once they signed Manny Machado, and the only other true contender (not saying that San Diego is one) I haven't previewed yet is the Philadelphia Phillies. The delay was the expectation that Bryce Harper would sign there, and it's finally done.
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Had the Phils not signed Harper or Machado, the fan base would have revolted after ownership said publicly it was ready to be a bit "stupid" about spending a ton of money this offseason. While Harper got an MLB-record $330 million guaranteed, it's actually a bargain for the Phillies because it's spread over 13 years and Harper has no opt-out clause. Frankly, I don't understand why Scott Boras and Harper accepted this as it's worth "only" a little more than $25 million per season. Machado just got $30 million per year and an opt-out. Colorado's Nolan Arenado topped Machado with $32.5 million per and his own opt-out. Harper turned down $30 million per season with the Nationals.
Needless to say, the Phillies' ticket office was quite busy after the Harper news, reportedly setting a one-day record for tickets sold. This is only going to stoke a terrific rivalry with Harper's former Nationals team.
Philadelphia opens the season March 28 vs. Atlanta, but circle April 2: Harper's first trip back to D.C. It won't be pleasant.
Phillies Projected Lineup
Harper is a fine player, and if he plays like his 2015 version for even half of the 13 years, then this deal is a steal. He's also the most marketable player in baseball right now, so that doesn't hurt. One wonders, however, if this now takes the Phillies out of the potential running in the Mike Trout free-agent sweepstakes following the 2020 season - if the Angels let him get there. Trout is from the Philly area and returns there each offseason.
While most thought Harper might land with the Dodgers or Giants because he's from Las Vegas and wanted to be close to home and have spring training in Arizona, perhaps he took this deal because he rakes at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Harper has a .564 slugging percentage there, the highest of any player with at least 200 plate appearances at the park. Harper has 14 career home runs at Citizens Bank Park, the most at any road park in his career. Citizens Bank Park is tied with Milwaukee's Miller Park as the most home-run friendly NL stadium for left-handed batters in the past three seasons.
The Phillies have overhauled their lineup from last season, also trading for arguably the best catcher in baseball, the Marlins' J.T. Realmuto, dealing for excellent Mariners shortstop Jean Segura and signing former Giants outfielder and one-time NL MVP (like Harper) Andrew McCutchen.
Because the Harper signing is so fresh and he hasn't played any Grapefruit League games yet, it's hard to know what Manager Gabe Kapler is thinking for a lineup. Looking around a bit, this is close to a consensus: 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS Segura, OF Harper, 1B Rhys Hoskins (his .562 slugging at Citizens Bank Park ranks second to Harper among players with at least 200 plate appearances there), C Realmuto, OF McCutchen, OF Odubel Herrera and 3B Maikel Franco.
That's a freaking strong lineup with only Hernandez, Hoskins, Herrera and Franco as returning every-day players.
Phillies 2019 Projected Rotation & Closer
Flush with TV cash, the Phillies also took care of business this offseason with their young ace, signing Aaron Nola to a below-market four-year, $45 million extension. The 25-year-old right-hander set career bests last year when he was a first-time All-Star, going 17-6 with a 2.37 ERA. He would have been eligible for free agency after the 2021 season. Three years ago, someone as young and good as Nola likely doesn't sign this deal and lose a year of free agency. But the market has clearly changed.
Jake Arrieta, who actually will make more in base salary than Harper in 2019, was the team's big addition last season and the former Cubs Cy Young winner was OK, going 10-11 with a 3.96 ERA. He did have offseason knee surgery but it was considered just a clean-up procedure. Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez fill out the back end. All had ERAs north of 4.30 last year.
The new closer is free-agent addition David Robertson, formerly of the Yankees, although he could split duties with Seranthony Dominguez. Robertson went 8-3 with a 3.23 ERA in 69 appearances last season with the Yankees as a set-up guy. He saved 110 games with the Yanks and White Sox from 2014-16.
Phillies Futures Odds
Needless to say, these all shifted once Harper signs. The Phillies have an "over/under" win total of 89.5, with the over a -140 favorite. The Phils are -130 to make the playoffs and +100 to miss. They are +200 favorites to win the NL East, +460 for the pennant (behind only Dodgers) and +950 for World Series.
Phillies 2019 Predictions
The NL East will be the most intriguing division this year with the Phillies, still very good Nationals (their preview early next week), reigning division champion Braves and improved Mets. I'm going over this win total (even though FanGraphs projects 86), but I still like the Nats to take the East. Phillies are a Wild-Card team, but I'm not going overboard with a pennant, etc., as I'm not sold on that rotation.
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