Phillies managing partner John Middleton spoke to reporters about baseball matters for the first time since former general manager Matt Klentak was reassigned after the 2020 season.
Middleton spoke on a number of topics, including Dave Dombrowski’s speech on ownership when signing Nick Castellanos and the public perception surrounding his tenure as the face of Phillies ownership.
One of the most interesting topics that came up during Middleton’s conversation with the media is whether or not the front office has been ordered to stay under the first luxury tax threshold. Matt Gelb from Athleticism signaled that would be the case for the 2022 season. Plans changed when Dombrowski sold Middleton, the Buck family and minority owners for going over the tax to sign a difference-making bat to Castellanos.
Middleton insisted there was never a mandate to stay under.
“I’ve heard people say, ‘Well, there’s a directive,'” Middleton told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “Really? Who did I do? … Did I write it down? Was it a verbal directive? Who was I talking to? When did I say it? There was no truth in all of this. But you know what, sometimes you just have to be patient and wait for the right moment and then do what you always said you were going to do all along.
According to Associated press‘ annual payroll reports, the Phillies have finished about $600,000 under the luxury tax in each of the past two seasons. Unless the first half of the season is a total disaster and the team chooses to lose significant pay via trade, the Phillies will join the Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers , the Giants, Padres and (presumably) Mets as teams that have paid the tax at least once since the current system was implemented in 2002.
All along, the Phillies’ plan was to go over the tax when the right call presented itself. There’s no doubt the strategy — along with a lack of production outside the farm system — has hurt the Phillies in previous years.
In 2020, Tommy Hunter was the only reliever the team signed to a major league contract in the previous offseason. In an attempt to stay under the tax, the front office sought out weapons with a floor and no upside to cut costs. This led to the Phillies making trades at the deadline for Brandon Workman, Heath Hembree and David Phelps, three arms who regressed significantly after arriving in Philadelphia and did little to address bullpen issues. of the team. The Phillies were left with a pen that posted the second-highest ERA in MLB history and no playoffs, despite receiving a “win and you’re in” script on the final day of the year.
Middleton can’t look back on the failures of the past three or four years, but by topping the luxury tax, the Phillies managing partner has proven to fans that he’s ready to do what it takes to win, that the price be damned.
Castellanos knows it. In his first public comments since reportedly agreeing to a five-year deal with the Phillies, Castellanos praised Phillies ownership – and sent a message to the rebuilding Reds and former owner Bob Castellini.
“At the end of the day, baseball comes down to ownership,” Castellanos said. John Clark of NBC Sports Philadelphia at the airport. “The owner wants to invest and cares about winning or not. That says a lot about who he is. So Philadelphia should be thrilled that this guy is behind the Phillies.
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