The Philadelphia Phillies surprised the baseball world by defeating the favored St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves in the postseason. They lost to the Houston Astros in the World Series, which was a tremendous accomplishment for a youthful team. The Phillies were very well-rounded last season, but the front office did not rest on its laurels, adding star shortstop Trea Turner in free agency.
Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto and Kyle Schwarber were all sensational during that inspiring 2022 postseason run, but Philadelphia knew that nucleus would not be enough to contend for the next couple of seasons. Adding Turner and starting pitcher Taijuan Walker on long, expensive contracts could go a long way toward the Phillies becoming a perennial power.
Other critical additions for Philadelphia were relief pitchers Matthew Strahm and Craig Kimbrel. Some of the crucial losses were Zach Eflin and Jean Segura, who played a significant role last year. Even with those departures, the Phillies still look formidable enough to compete in the NFL East—especially if they finish free agency with one last-minute signing.
Phillies’ last-minute free agent target: Michael Wacha
The starting rotation lost Noah Syndergaard and Kyle Gibson, but added Walker as the third man behind Aaron Nola and Zach Wheeler. During the regular season, the Phillies lack of quality depth in the rotation often came back to bite them.
But that ended up being a luxury come playoff time, as the tandem of Nola and Wheeler gave Philadelphia the chance to win nearly every time they took the mound. They would sometimes pitch on short rest, but it did not matter. Though Walker is an elite third man, the Phillies’ staff beyond him is a question mark.
Thus, they must prioritize adding veteran starting pitcher Michael Wacha in the late stages of free agency.
Wacha had a rough stretch from 2019-2021, struggling immensely with his stuff. Moving across various cities for any professional is challenging, contributing to his downfall. Entering the 2023 season, Wacha is still just 31 years of age, with a lot left to prove. Gone are the days when he was a top-tier pitcher with the St. Louis Cardinals, but any contender could still utilize him as a fourth or fifth starter.
Wacha is a one-time All-Star and a former NLCS MVP, honors that came during his first season in the big leagues. He bounced back toward that stellar form in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox, producing an 11-2 record in 127 innings pitched. Wacha added 104 strikeouts with a 3.32 ERA, highlighted by one complete game shutout against the Los Angeles Angels—his first such outing in five seasons.
The Red Sox had a horrific year, and Wacha’s all-around brilliance was one of the silver linings of their campaign. The organization’s status is a bit shaky with the moves they have been making, so Boston will not re-sign him for next season.
This situation opens up a massive opportunity for the Phillies, and Michael Wacha might be that steady presence they will need when the postseason comes along in October.