Ricky Bottalico hosted the Philly Hot Stove Show with Connor Thomas on 97.5 The Fanatic. They discussed the MLB Winter Meetings, the possibility of extensions for Bryce Harper and Zack Wheeler, and potential targets for Dave Dombrowski and the Philadelphia Phillies.

Jayson Stark of The Athletic and Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer also joined the show. Both writers made the trip to Nashville for the annual baseball meetings.

Previewing 2024 Phillies

Dombrowski and the Phillies entered the offseason looking like a prime candidate to get involved in conversations for the biggest names on the market. Things haven’t materialized that way.

The Phillies re-signed Aaron Nola to a long-term contract in November. All indications suggest they won’t add many more major contributors.

Ricky and Connor discussed the Phillies in the landscape of Major League Baseball this winter. The New York Yankees made the big splash of the offseason to this point by acquiring Juan Soto in a blockbuster deal. The winner of the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes will soon steal the headlines from the Bronx Bombers. However, the rest of the league has been relatively quiet. 

Ricky Bottalico broke down the returning members of the Phillies bullpen. Jose Alvarado and Seranthony Dominguez will return as key pieces at the back end. Orion Kerkering and Gregory Soo will also look to slide into the spot left vacant by Craig Kimbrel. The veteran closer signed with the Baltimore Orioles.

Stark, Lauber Share Reports

The two guests gave the latest updates on the “hot stove” offseason. Stark and Lauber gave excellent recaps of their experience around Dave Dombrowski and the rest of the Phillies staff at the MLB Winter Meetings.

What did they have to say about the latest on Zack Wheeler, Bryce Harper, and a team hungry to avenge their devastating NLCS loss? Will there be any future additions?

  • Bryce Harper Extension

    John Middleton stepped in to assure the signing of Bryce Harper in free agency in 2019. A 13-year, $330 million contract seemed lucrative at the time. However, it’s ironically turned ouut to be a bargain considering Harper’s reasonable average annual value (AAV) relative to MLB players who don’t provide the same production.

    Could an extension be on the horizon after just five seasons? Stark knows that Middleton won’t hand over an extension while Harper has no leverage.

    “I don’t see what the leverage is here, and I don’t expect Dave Dombrowski or John Middleton to say, ‘You know what, we love Bryce, so we’ll just tack on more years and more dollars because we’re so charitable like that.’ I honestly don’t see it going that way.” -Jayson Stark

    He thinks it’s more likely that Dombrowski and Middleton will tell Harper they want him to stay with the Phillies for life. Ricky Bottalico warned that a “lifetime contract” could turn out unfavorably like it did for star players like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.

    Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Zack Wheeler Extension

    Extending Wheeler is the “number one priority” remaining for the Phillies this offseason. The right-hander loves Philadelphia on and off the field, and he wants to be part of the team that finally gets over the hump to win the World Series.

    The 33-year-old has one year left on the five-year, $118 million contract he signed with the Phillies before the 2020 season.

    “Why would he want to take a situation that works so perfectly for him where money really won’t be an issue… and just go out there into the free agent market just to say he did?” -Stark

    However, there is no reason to execute the deal now. Stark pointed out that a deal signed right now would affect the luxury tax numbers for 2024. It’s more likely that the Phillies negotiate with Wheeler during Spring Training.

    Expect an announcement around Opening Day on March 28, 2024. The contract would then count against the 2025 luxury tax.

    Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Kike Hernandez

    The Phillies haven’t been linked to many available free agents or trade targets. However, Scott Lauber mentioned Kike Hernandez as a potential fit. 

    “I would be surprised if it’s a proven, everyday centerfield type. I would be less surprised if it’s more of a utility type guy whose capable of playing centerfield.” -Scott Lauber

    The 32-year-old would provide lineup flexibility with his experience at different positions. He has spent most of his 10-year major league career in two stints with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Hernandez would provide a more suitable option off the bench than any pinch hitter they had on the roster during the 2023 MLB Playoffs.

    Kike Hernandez, Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Dave Dombrowski "Breezed His Way Through" MLB Winter Meetings

    The Phillies have advanced deep in the playoffs in two consecutive years. They have one of the biggest budgets in the majors, and their window of World Series contention is wide open. 

    Stark surprisingly reported that Dombrowski engaged in “the fewest conversations with other teams that he has ever had” during his long career as an MLB executive.

    “Since he’s been this Dave Dombrowski, he gets to the Winter Meetings, and he’s a man with a plan… This guy was a totally different guy. Everybody I talked to that met with him – other teams, agents, guys on his own staff – they thought the same thing. He arrived. He had done the Nola deal. He knew that the kinds of moves he needs to make now were not going to be available, and he just kind of breezed his way through the Winter Meetings.” -Jayson Stark

    Why does he want to keep the majority of the roster intact? Couldn’t they get too comfortable after a disappointing playoff exit? Dombrowski thinks the team is hungry after the NLCS loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. 

    “It’s not a worry with this particular group, just the makeup of the group… He thinks you only worry about that if your team has won the World Series.” -Stark

    Ricky is skeptical of the strategy, and so are many Phillies fans. They certainly didn’t expect to hear that a general manager with a reputation for being aggressive with his budgets “breezed through” the MLB Winter Meetings.

    Dave Dombrowski, who enters the 2023 MLB Offseason with the Philadelphia Phillies, and the MLB Winter Meetings will be a major determining factor

  • 97.5 The Fanatic

    Download the 97.5 The Fanatic app to hear The Philly Hot Stove Show with Ricky Bottalico. Ricky and host Connor Thomas will discuss the latest baseball offseason news, including what’s going on with the Phillies. The next episode will air in January.

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