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Phillies set to have top-5 payroll in 2021

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J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper both have signed huge deals with the Phillies. (Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

The pressure is on for the Phillies to become a playoff team in 2021—and they are spending like it.

For the second consecutive season, the Phillies are set to have a top-five payroll against the luxury tax, per Spotrac.

Only four teams have higher luxury tax payrolls than the Phillies current number at $198.5 million: The Los Angeles Dodgers ($255.5 million), Boston Red Sox ($205.4 million), San Diego Padres ($201.2 million) and New York Yankees ($199 million).

For a portion of the offseason, it seemed likely that the Phillies would cut payroll in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were reports of trade talks involving Jean Segura, and it felt like bringing back both J.T. Realmuto and Didi Gregorius was an impossibility.

There was even a report that the team was listening to offers on Zack Wheeler as well – although managing partner John Middleton quickly shot the rumor down.

But the Phillies trajectory appeared to change when Dave Dombrowski was hired as president of baseball operations in December. Since then, they have given out a record-setting contract to Realmuto and re-signed Gregorius, along with the additions of Brad Miller, Archie Bradley, Matt Moore and Chase Anderson.

The Phillies currently sit $11.5 million below the luxury tax threshold, which they have never crossed since its inception in 1997.

There are clear opportunities for that $198.5 million figure to climb higher, though. Relief pitchers Brandon Kintzler, Hector Rondon and Tony Watson were all signed to minor-league deals that have multi-million dollar price tags if they make the major league roster out of spring training.

There is no question that the Phillies are trying to win in 2021. But they are in an extremely tough division, and a scenario in which they have a good season and still miss the playoffs is plausible.

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