The Luxuries of the Luxury Tax World

Back in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021, the Phillies were hamstrung by a big money problem- despite being a top ten payroll team, they were cash poor when it came to baseball’s trade deadline. You see, they had an atrocious minor league system with no talent to trade for really good players. They also were unwilling to go over the luxury tax threshold to buy the players they wanted and needed to compete for the playoffs. In just about every year they fell somewhere between “falling short” and “falling apart” over the final two months. This was true across managers, seasons, and front office regimes.

Are the 2022 Phillies really much different? I don’t think so. They’ve had a couple of demonstrably better drafts of late to replenish the system, and they aren’t capped on money. Wait, the second part is big- since the Phillies were already over the luxury tax, they weren’t as concerned about taking on more money to get better players. The result is they got the best reliever on the market. The result is that they traded a good prospect to get a 24 year old starting center fielder they can control for more than a half decade. The result is they got a third or fourth starter with post-season experience and the opportunity to continue getting better as he pitches deeper into the season after some major injuries. The result is an elite defensive infielder that they can control for years to come, that dramatically improves their team defense. The Phillies didn’t go crazy like the Padres at the deadline, adding every piece they could ever want, but they also didn’t behave like a poverty team that doesn’t believe they can make the playoffs, let alone compete in them. In short, once the money wasn’t an issue, and the minor league system actually had some nice players, they Phillies acted like they were real buyers.

The results of this deadline are already pretty clear. The Phillies opened up space for younger players to audition for future roles. They traded for good players, and didn’t give away premium talent to do so, because they were willing to absorb more money from the other team to get the deal done. Where they needed to trade a prospect for the player they wanted, they had one. The Phillies finally had a deadline where they traded from a position of strength, and didn’t lose out on the targets they wanted because they were out of money or talent to trade. The result looks like they could break an 11 year playoff drought. Or at least we can actually hope to be a little more than lucky this October.

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