After operating well under the luxury-tax threshold during a surprisingly competitive 2018 season, the Philadelphia Phillies could reportedly be set to spend big this offseason.
The Phillies are expected to make a strong push to sign star position players Bryce Harper or Manny Machado on the free-agent market, along with the top starting pitcher in free agency, left-hander Patrick Corbin, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Harper and Corbin are both in line to receive qualifying offers from their incumbent clubs, which would tie them to draft-pick compensation. Machado's exempt from being tendered a qualifying offer because he was traded during the most recent season.
Despite finishing 80-82 in 2018, the Phillies were in the playoff picture throughout the campaign, and they were tied for first place in the NL East as late as Aug. 12. The Atlanta Braves wound up winning the division with a 90-72 record - the fewest number of wins among first-place teams.
The Phillies also entered the season with a payroll just above $95 million, according to Cot's Contracts - the lowest of any team in their division.
The 26-year-old Harper took a step back in 2018, but still posted impressive numbers. He recorded a .393 on-base percentage - largely due to seeing fewer than 40 percent of pitches in the strike zone - while still hitting 34 home runs despite a .249 average and a .496 slugging percentage.
Machado, 26, is coming off his best season at the plate, as he posted a .297/.367/.538 slash line with 37 home runs and 14 stolen bases while moving from third base to shortstop. Meanwhile, the Phillies ranked 27th in combined wRC+ at the shortstop position in 2018, as the team relied on rookies Scott Kingery and J.P Crawford, as well as Pedro Florimon and midseason acquisition Asdrubal Cabrera.
Corbin, 29, pitched exactly 200 innings in 2018. Over 33 starts, the left-hander authored a 3.15 ERA and 2.47 FIP while striking out more than 30 percent of batters he faced. It was the second time Corbin's reached the 200-inning mark in his career, after doing so in 2013 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing the 2014 campaign.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the luxury tax is divided into three separate thresholds. For 2019, the base threshold is $206 million with the two higher tiers set at $226 million and $246 million.