Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies did not have the loud and bombastic offseason for which president Dave Dombrowski is known. Looking back on the last couple of years, they didn’t need to.

It was a relatively short to-do list. Aaron Nola had a short free agency and signed a long-term, team-friendly contract. Zack Wheeler signed his own extension later on. Other than that, the Phillies likely spent the offseason seething and waiting for spring training to start. Losing a hard-fought seven-game NLCS to the Arizona Diamondbacks should serve as plenty of motivation.

Let’s be clear: The Phillies and Braves are both making the playoffs in 2024. Both teams’ lineups are stacked top to bottom. Philadelphia’s pitching is better than Atlanta’s by a wide margin, so much that Philly powered through them in the NLDS. The trust and leadership on this Phillies team is its own special type of intangible, separated from the rest of the group.

At this rate, it’s just a matter of if they’ll finally win the NL East or be baseball’s most stacked Wild Card team.

Greatest Addition: Whit Merrifield. When the lineup doesn’t have any clear needs, go out and get the best depth bat on the market. Merrifield is entering his ninth MLB season and fresh off of his third All-Star season. He spent last year with the Blue Jays and hit .272 with 11 home runs, 67 RBI, and 26 stolen bases. He saw time at second base and all three outfield positions.

As of now, Merrifield figures to be a super-utility player for the Phillies, a la the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu and Oswaldo Cabrera. He can play all around the infield too and can even pitch in a blowout loss. He’ll see regular playing time regardless of team health.

Greatest Loss: Craig Kimbrel. You never want to be upset about losing a veteran closer, but Kimbrel is different. He was a dominant ninth-inning arm for the Braves before turning journeyman and finding his way onto (by now) eight teams. Kimbrel had a 3.26 ERA and 23 saves in 71 games, making his ninth All-Star team before he ran out of gas in the NLCS.

Kimbrel signed a one-year deal with the Orioles in free agency and, in the big picture, isn’t a devastating loss. But he’s still Craig Kimbrel. He has 417 saves and is still pitching at a high level at age 35. Multiple teams aside, he is a Hall of Fame closer.

Greatest Strength: The Harper Effect. Few players have as great an impact on their team as Bryce Harper does for the Phillies. His highly publicized 13-year, $330 million deal with no opt-outs signed back in 2018 raised some eyebrows, but has since paid off in spades. Not only has Bryce Harper played some of his best baseball for the Phillies, taking home his second MVP trophy in 2021. Leading them to the World Series in 2022 helps too.

Except it’s not just Bryce Harper at this point. His leadership has trickled down to the rest of the locker room and even into the front office. He has eight years left on the initial contract, and yet is already negotiating an extension. The Phillies winning a World Series soon doesn’t seem so much like a possibility more, but an inevitability.

Greatest Weakness: Bullpen. Losing Kimbrel could come back to sting the Phillies harder than they realize. As of now, there is no clear answer as to who the team’s closer is. Gregory Soto? Seranthony Dominguez? Maybe Jose Alvarado?

This might not be an issue for the Phillies, whose relievers finished seventh with a 3.58 ERA. The rotation is strong and the bats can do enough to build a lead in a hurry. But if manager Rob Thomson’s plan is to do closer-by-committee, Dombrowski may need to shop for bullpen help in July.

Prediction: Is this the Philadelphia Phillies’ year? Third time’s the charm, right? The only teams that seem a threat to the Phillies for the NL Pennant are the division rival Braves or the Shohei Ohtani-led Los Angeles Dodgers. And in both cases, the Phillies’ pitching is better. The lineup can take care of itself.

Thus, if the Phillies aren’t firmly in the World Series picture most of the season, something has gone terribly wrong in the City of Brotherly Love.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.