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Very little has changed for the Philadelphia Phillies. They think that’s a good thing.

February 19th, 2024

CLEARWATER, Florida — Spring training is typically a whirlwind of handshakes and introductions. The winter’s transaction carousel, having picked up players like seeds in the wind and dispatched them to new pastures, means new faces in new places. Names to learn. Chemistry to establish. Trust to build.

Such is not the case for the 2024 Philadelphia Phillies, who look comically similar to the 2023 Phillies.

The scene in the Phillies’ spring training clubhouse on a rainy Sunday morning could’ve been copied and pasted from any regular-season game last season. In the far corner, a circle of veteran position players including J.T. Realmuto, Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos shot the breeze. A few feet away, Bryce Harper scooped his breakfast out of a mason jar, his container of choice. Across the room, Jose Alvarado and Gregory Soto engaged in a heated game of ping-pong, while Liam Castellanos, Nick’s 11-year-old son, bounced around in an oversized sweatshirt.

“It’s definitely weird not having to introduce yourself to that many new guys,” Aaron Nola, who re-signed with the team in November, told Yahoo Sports.

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Up and down the roster are familiar faces, a remarkable amount of continuity.

For an organization whose recent winters have been marked by shiny, big-money additions, this offseason brought a different flavor. The biggest task on the front office’s to-do list was retaining Nola, which was accomplished before Thanksgiving, keeping the longest-tenured Phillie in red pinstripes for another seven seasons.

The most notable position player to depart this winter was fan favorite Rhys Hoskins, who missed all of 2023 due to a torn ACL. The most notable pitcher out the door, Craig Kimbrel, hadn’t exactly earned a statue outside the stadium by the end of his disastrous October showing.

“You can’t really keep going for every single year, right? You got to kind of rely on the guys that are in your clubhouse to get things done,” Harper said.

Besides Nola, the only MLB contracts given out this winter by President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski were to depth starter Spencer Turnbull, journeyman hurler Kolby Allard and veteran utility guy Whit Merrifield. The arrival of Merrifield, whose deal has yet to be confirmed by the team but who made his first appearance Monday, will likely feel like an earth-shattering roster shake-up.

“There’s not much [competition] in camp,” manager Rob Thomson told reporters last week. “And that’s a good problem to have.”

Last season, Phillies pitchers threw 1,438 innings (that figure doesn’t include the 4⅓ innings from Josh Harrison and fellow position player Kody Clemens). A whopping 1,233⅔ of those innings, or 85.3%, are still in the organization, as are 147 of the 162 starts made. Only the Astros, Blue Jays, Nationals and Marlins return a larger percentage of their games started.

The stability in the lineup is even more pronounced. Only three position players who suited up for the 2023 Phillies are no longer in the organization: veteran utility man Harrison (114 plate appearances), infield journeyman Drew Ellis (29 PA) and depth outfielder Dalton Guthrie (28 PA). The biggest roster story in camp this spring is whether the team thinks young center-field glove-smith Johan Rojas needs a few more months to develop his bat in Triple-A.

There’s a good chance the Phillies’ Opening Day starting lineup will be identical to the one from NLCS Game 7. The players, unsurprisingly, view the lack of turnover as an enormous positive and a show of faith from the front office.

“It’s crazy. I’ve never seen anything like this,” reliever Jeff Hoffman said. “Obviously, it shows belief in the guys we have in this room.”

That continuity also means that shared past experiences, namely the club’s recent postseason exits, carry a lot more weight.

“There’s a whole bunch of guys in there that are motivated,” Thomson said.

Nick Castellanos, Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies are running it back — and happy about it — in 2024. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

Nick Castellanos, Bryce Harper and the Philadelphia Phillies are running it back — and happy about it — in 2024. (Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

But the constancy was not entirely by choice. This roster is laden with expensive free agents on long deals, none of whom hit free agency after last season. One highly sought after free-agent addition, Yoshinobu Yamamoto — to whom the Phillies made a competitive offer, according to The Athletic’s Matt Gelb — got an even more enticing contract from the Dodgers.

Even if the Phillies had wanted to shake things up via trade — a Castellanos trade rumor briefly bubbled up in November — it would’ve proven difficult to find a match, given the girth of the contracts on the roster. And of course, the glacial pace of this year’s free-agent market means that an 11th-hour deal for someone such as Jordan Montgomery or Blake Snell remains a possibility.

Because while incredibly talented, this Phillies roster still has issues, holes, flaws. They crashed out of the NLCS in embarrassing and shocking fashion. A barrage of Diamondbacks sliders, chased and missed, sent the Phillies on an early vacation. The same aggressive approach that propelled them past Miami and Atlanta in the first two rounds of the postseason proved to be their downfall against Arizona.

This winter, the lineup that swung and missed its way out of the NLCS did not add a more contact-oriented bat. A bullpen that was probably one lock-down option short did not acquire a reliever. Dombrowski and Co. likely believe that any glaring holes can be patched up at the summer’s trade deadline, but this club is counting on more of the same. Survive the regular-season gauntlet unscathed, and cross your fingers for the roulette wheel of October.

These Phillies are content and excited about running things back with a roster that fell one game short of back-to-back National League titles. In their eyes, things weren’t broken, so they didn’t fix them.

This content was originally sourced and posted at Yahoo! Sports – News, Scores, Standings, Rumors, Fantasy Games »
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