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The current luxury tax system was based on the 2002 MLB collective bargaining agreement, since then that threshold has been crossed by nine teams. The Phillies, residing in one of baseball’s biggest markets, have never paid the luxury tax.

Currently mired in a decade-long playoff drought, lacking cheap major league talent or a top ranked farm system, the Phillies have few options but to spend their way back to the playoffs.

“Stupid money,” however, isn’t going to be what brings playoff baseball back to Philadelphia. Already bumping up against the dreaded tax the Phillies must be deft with their payroll.

The Phillies luxury tax payroll in 2021 was about $205 million, with the tax kicking in at $210 million. With the salaries of Andrew McCutchen, Archie Bradley, and Héctor Neris coming off the books, the Phillies have some space to work with.

Between Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola, Didi Gregorius, Jean Segura and Kyle Gibson, the Phillies already have $120.67 million on the books for 2022. Now they must decide to which arbitration eligible players they will tender contracts.

MLB Trade Rumors released their arbitration projections the morning for all clubs. The Phillies have nine players facing arbitration.

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Odúbel Herrera: Arbitration Estimate - $11.6 million

The Phillies highest arbitration estimated player is sure to be one of the their easier decisions. Between his on-field antics, off-the-field scandals, and sub-par performance in 2021, bringing Herrera back to the Phillies for an eight figure salary would be a PR nightmare, let alone a bad decision.

Since 2018, Herrera has slashed .253/.308/.409 with -10 defensive runs saved in center field. After his 2016 All-Star campaign, Herrera was handed a team-friendly deal worth $30.5 million to be the Phillies center fielder of the future. Now five years later, the Phillies will likely pay his $2.5 million buyout to ensure Herrera never wears a Phillies uniform again.

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Rhys Hoskins: Arbitration Estimate - $7.6 million

As certain as the Phillies are to buyout Herrera’s contract, the Phillies are just as certain to keep Hoskins in red pinstripes. In 2021, Hoskins slugged .530 with a 6.1% home run rate, both career highs since his breakout 2017 campaign. Unfortunately, Hoskins' season was cut short due to nagging groin injuries which ultimately required surgery, and kept him from helping down the stretch in August and September.

Hoskins value also comes from his worth in the clubhouse as a leader and one of the longest tenured Phillies. Should the Phillies wish to break their playoff drought in 2022, Hoskins must perform in the heart of the Phillies lineup.

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Zach Eflin: Arbitration Estimate - $6.0 million

Eflin will return to the Phillies in 2021. Much like Hoskins, his season was also cut short by injuries. Before he was shut down in mid-July, Eflin put together one of the better campaigns of his career. Had he qualified, Eflin’s 6.19 K/BB rate would have placed him third in the National League, behind only Corbin Burnes and Max Scherzer, and just ahead of teammate Aaron Nola. Eflin’s ERA of 4.17, while not his career best, is respectable, especially for a player the Phillies expect to be a back-end starter in 2022.

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José Alvarado: Arbitration Estimate - $1.9 million

Alvarado is a unique pitcher. At 6’2”, 245lbs, he is an imposing figure, capable of throwing 102 mph. While Alvarado may throw almost entirely fastballs, his command failed him in 2021. He posted a league high walk rate of 18.7%, specifically noticeable when he was made the closer in late-June. Nevertheless, Alvarado was still useful to the Phillies as his ability to handle left handed batters makes him singularly valuable. Alvarado held lefties to an OPS of just .469 in 2021. For such a low price, it would be strange for the Phillies to not bring Alvarado back in 2022.

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Ronald Torreyes: Arbitration Estimate - $1.6 million

Torreyes saw action in 111 games for the Phillies in 2021. His slash line was .242/.286/.346, but with two outs and RISP that ballooned to .297/.409/.486. Torreyes was vital to the Phillies last season, though it’s difficult to imagine that luck will continue.

Torreyes spent significant time all around the infield for the Phillies in 2021, from third base, to shortstop, to second base, though DRS states he neither saved nor lost the Phillies runs defensively. Torreyes was Joe Girardi’s swiss army knife in 2021, but when promising young players with similar skill sets like Nick Maton and Luke Williams will play for smaller salaries, it’s hard to see Torreyes returning in 2022.

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Andrew Knapp: Arbitration Estimate - $1.2 million

In 2016, Baseball America ranked Andrew Knapp as a top-100 prospect. Five years later, the 29 year-old catcher had the worst season of his career slashing .152/.215/.214. 

The Phillies are in a precarious position with Knapp, he handles their pitching staff well and has good relationships with longtime Phillies Nola and Eflin. Knapp’s value comes from his defense and ability to call pitches. However, Knapp has competition as prospect Rafael Marchan has shown he can compete at the major league level. Marchan is a defense first catcher who struggles at the plate and will play for a league minimum salary. While there’s no indication of who the Phillies prefer, it may be easier to let Marchan handle backup catching duties in 2022.

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Travis Jankowski: Arbitration Estimate - $900k

2021 got off to an auspicious start for Janksowski when he was picked off second in the bottom of the ninth of a one-run game. After that blunder, Jankowski was a model bench player for the Phillies. His career high .364 OBP made him a valuable pinch-hitter and his speed made him a valuable pinch-runner. Jankowski also filled in at center field after the parade of Adam Haseley, Mickey Moniak, Roman Quinn, and Scott Kingery failed to produce at the big league level. Like Torreyes, Jankowski is unlikely to repeat a career year and his position could likely be filled by a younger player from the Phillies farm system like Matt Vierling, Luke Williams or Mickey Moniak.

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Seranthony Domínguez: Arbitration Estimate - $800k

Domínguez returned to major league action during the Phillies final 2021 series in Miami. It had been over two years since he’d pitched at the major league level. After a damaged UCL forced an end to his 2019 campaign, Domínguez opted against Tommy John surgery, but ended up requiring it anyways over a year removed from his initial injury. 

Domínguez’s road back to the majors was arduous and included nearly two months of rehab in the minor leagues during 2021, but his upside is high. After all, it seemed as if the Phillies found their closer of the future in Domínguez during 2018 when he posted a 2.95 ERA over 58 innings. The Phillies would be making a mistake should they non-tender Domínguez this offseason.

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Roman Quinn: Arbitration Estimate - $700k

After a tremendously slow start to 2021 in which Quinn hit just .040 until April 23, he caught up quickly, hitting .296 with an OPS of .906 in his following 13 games before rupturing his Achilles on May 29 in Tampa Bay. Quinn has had a history of injury troubles throughout his career, but a second Achilles tear could be career threatening. Quinn had torn his Achilles initially during the 2013-14 offseason. 

Though on-field play and blazing speed should be enough to keep Quinn in a Phillies uniform, it’s a matter of whether or not the Phillies believe he can play at all in 2022 that will decide if he is tendered a contract this offseason.

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