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MLB: Does Schwarber move push Phillies into NL East contention?

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There’s no question that the NL East figures to be a tough division this year. In a division that includes the defending world champion Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets – who on paper look to be the best team in the NL East – the Phillies, Marlins and Nationals appear to be in an uphill battle to make the Major League Baseball playoffs this year.

Both the Marlins and Nationals look to be in for a tough year. They both have good pieces but they are no where close to the level that the Braves and Mets are at. The Phillies on the other hand are a wildcard.

There has been so much hype around the Phillies in the last couple of years, dating back to the offseason heading into 2019, a offseason where they signed Bryce Harper. Since leaving the division rival Nationals and singing with the Phillies, Harper has been everything the team could’ve hoped for and more since signing a massive contract worth $330 million over 13 years.

After very solid campaigns in 2019 and 2020, Harper took home the NL MVP award in 2021 after a masterful performance where he carried the team on his back to a finish of 82-80, their first winning record since 2012. Despite Harpers success, over his first three seasons in Philly, the Phillies haven’t managed to reach the postseason. This postseason drought dates back to the time of Roy Halladay, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard in 2011.

On Wednesday, the Phillies reached an agreement with Kyle Schwarber who split time between the Nationals and Red Sox a year ago. Coming off a miserable 2020 campaign where Schwarber hit just .188/.308/.393 there wasn’t many teams clamoring for Schwarber’s services last offseason. Schwarber bet on himself when he signed a one year deal with the Nationals worth just $10 million. Schwarber’s had a career resurgence with the Nationals under former Nationals and now Phillies hitting coach, Kevin Long. Schwarber has credited Long for turning his career around. Last year under Long, Schwarber hit 16 homeruns across 18 games including five multi-homerun games before being traded to the Red Sox. Schwarber and the Phillies settled on a 4 year deal worth $79 million, giving him roughly $20 million per year.

The Phillies most glaring hole entering the offseason was in left field. After losing Andrew McCutchen in free agency to the Brewers, the Phillies we’re looking for a big bat in the outfield and boy did they get it. The Phillies will likely use Schwarber as their leadoff hitter in 2022 but could also serve as a middle of the order bat should the Phillies find an upgrade in centerfield as well. The addition of Schwarber to the Phillies lineup could be massive. With a short porch in right field, he should thrive at Citizens Bank Park, especially pairing back up with Long.

Does it push the Phillies into the conversation for the NL East crown?

Well, the top baseball betting sites don’t think so. The Phillies stayed put at +600 to win the NL East, trailing behind the Braves (+135) and the Mets (+140).

It makes sense, Schwarber’s presence in the lineup will certainly make the Phillies a deeper team but they are not yet at the level of the Braves or Mets. The Phillies could surely surprise some people if things go right, but judging by recent year’s things don’t typically break the Phillies way very often. The Phillies lineup looks to be solid, there are some big sluggers in there between Harper, Schwarber and Rhys Hoskins who should drive in a lot of runs. After that, there are a lot of concerns.


The Phillies will likely go into opening day not knowing who their permanent centerfielder will be. It’s very likely we will see a platoon between Odubel Herrera and Matt Vierling to start the season. It wouldn’t shock anyone if Mickey Moniak and Adam Haseley also see some time in centerfield for the 2022 Phillies. Should one of these players break out, it could result in an odds shift but it’s a long shot.


They signed Corey Knebel, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Hand for a total of $22 million. Knebel figures to be the team’s closer and the rest of the bullpen seems like huge question marks. They lost Hector Neris in free agency to the Houston Astros. Neris wasn’t always the most consistent, but he is second in all time saves behind Jonathan Papelbon for the Phillies, the loss of Neris will be huge. $12 million between Familia and Hand is not necessarily the best bang for your buck but they are at the end of the day additions. We will need to see big innings out of players like Seranthony Dominguez who hasn’t pitched real innings in two years and Connor Brogdon who was shaky at times last year.

Starting rotation

Zack Wheeler was phenomenal last year, he came in second place in NL Cy Young voting but it doesn’t sound like Wheeler will be ready to start the season. After Wheeler, the Phillies have Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Kyle Gibson and Ranger Suarez. Nola had the worst year of his career last season pitching to a 4.63 ERA in 180.2 innings. Eflin and Suarez are question marks to be ready for opening day and Gibson wasn’t the same pitcher last year after coming over from the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline. After those five, the Phillies don’t have many other options in the minor leagues who can come up and give them competitive innings. The Phillies need all of their starting five to miss little to no time this year, and that is a very big ask.

The verdict

The Phillies are not just one or two moves away from being legitimate title contenders. Harper and Wheeler both had the best year’s of their careers a season ago, and the Phillies still only managed to reach 82 wins. Having an expanded playoff format surely helps the Phillies postseason chances, but they will need a lot of things to break their way if they want to make a run at the NL East title.

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