Tag: Philly

Planning the Perfect Philadelphia Phillies Rebuild After July Sell-Off

OK, now the Philadelphia Phillies can get serious about rebuilding.

When they finally set their minds on doing so last winter, they were making a decision that was long overdue. Old, expensive players bogged down their roster, and their farm system was widely considered to be one of baseball’s worst. Clearly, it was going to take time to get the club’s rebuild on the right track.

Or not, as it turns out.

Over the winter, the Phillies bolstered their farm system by trading Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins and Marlon Byrd. During this year’s trade-deadline swap meet, they further bolstered their farm by dealing Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere.

So, that old, expensive roster? It’s not so old and expensive anymore. And that fledgling farm system? MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki notes that it’s looking pretty good:

Including the prospects the Phillies received in December…they have added 12 Minor League players to the organization in the past seven months, including 10 that rank among the Top 24 in their system and three in the Top 69 in baseball, according to MLBPipeline.com.

As general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said: “You’ve got to give quality to get quality. We think we did that.”

He’s not wrong, you know. And now that Amaro has what he needs to proceed, he could end the Phillies’ rebuild in short order.

But rather than wait to see how that pans out, let’s use our imagination and chart what would be the perfect rebuilding course going forward.

To do so, we’ll imagine when the Phillies’ best young talent will arrive in the majors. We’ll also imagine which players the Phillies could bring in from outside the organization. And we’ll assume there’s a sense of urgency at play, with a goal in mind to put a legit contender on the field by 2018.

Mind you, for brevity’s sake, we’ll have to paint with broad strokes. And in the interest of full disclosure, your humble narrator admits that he is not Nostradamus. Odds are, what the Phillies end up trotting out in 2018 will look decidedly different from what’s about to be dreamed up in this space.

But if you’re in the mood for a fantasy with at least a hint of plausibility, read on.


2015 Winter and 2016 Season

One thing the Phillies can look forward to this winter is a whole bunch of money coming off the books. In Cliff Lee and Chase Utley alone, $40 million is about to vanish from Philly’s payroll.

But though Philadelphia could use this as an excuse to go wild in free agency, it shouldn’t. With multiyear free-agent contracts, you can really only count on getting good value in the short term. The Phillies won’t be ready to take such risks just yet.

Instead, they should take a page out of the textbook for Rebuilding 101 and stockpile cheap veterans looking for an opportunity to turn their careers around, with the idea being to hope they can do just that before they’re flipped for young talent in midseason trades.

On this front, a top pursuit could be current Washington Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, who could be open to spending his age-30 season rebuilding his value at a hitter-friendly home like Citizens Bank Park. Elsewhere, players such as Matt Joyce, Steve Pearce, Bobby Parnell and Bud Norris could also be open to rebuilding their value in Philly.

As the 2016 campaign goes along, whether these players can attract the attention of other clubs during trade season will be one of the top storylines in Philadelphia. The honor of the top storyline, however, will belong to the club’s growing youth movement.

In 22-year-old third baseman Maikel Franco, 23-year-old center fielder Odubel Herrera, 22-year-old right-hander Aaron Nola and 24-year-old right-hander Ken Giles, the Phillies are poised to move into 2016 with four quality young building blocks. By the end of the year, they could add five more to the big league club.

Those would be all-around shortstop J.P. Crawford, multitalented left fielder Nick Williams, slugging catcher Jorge Alfaro, power right-hander Jake Thompson and ground-ball-magnet right-hander Zach EflinMLB.com pegs them as five of the Phillies’ top 10 prospects, and Crawford (No. 6), Thompson (No. 60), Williams (No. 64) and Alfaro (No. 69) are also considered to be four of the best prospects in all of baseball. And of those five names, four are virtual locks to debut in the majors before the end of 2016.

The one wild card is Alfaro, as he’ll be ready next season only if his defense catches up with his offense. What the Phillies could and should do, however, is shorten Alfaro‘s path to the majors by converting him into a right fielder. It’s a position that would take it easier on his surgically repaired left ankle and would be a better fit for his bat, his plus arm strength and his strong overall athleticism

If all goes well—and remember, you’re playing along here—the 2016 season will see the Phillies establish an impressive core of young players while also replenishing their farm system’s ranks by making more trades. Throw in a bottom-10 record that would ensure top-draft-pick protection, and the Phillies’ 2016 season will have been successful without being too successful.

After all, the real work would still only be getting started.


2016 Winter and 2017 Season

After waving goodbye to a chunk of payroll following the 2015 campaign, the Phillies are due to watch even more money come off the books after 2016 with Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz’s contracts likely ending (both have team options).

Once they’re gone, the Phillies will be in a very strong position to advance their rebuild. They’ll have a solid core of young players in place, tons of payroll flexibility and a gigantic $2.5 billion TV contract with which to make the most of that flexibility.

Time to go to town in free agency? To the extent that a seemingly weak free-agent class will allow, yes.

A top priority should be signing an impact bat to go with the club’s gaggle of young position players. To this end, Philly should target the speed, power and defense of center fielder Carlos Gomez. It’ll take a lot of money to sign him, but that won’t be a problem. And as Business Insider can show, the relatively small amount of fair territory for Gomez to cover at CBP could be a deal-maker for both sides.

As a bonus, signing Gomez could be a way to kill two birds with one stone. The Phillies could use his acquisition as an excuse to move Herrera from center field back to second base, which could be quite the defensive upgrade. Whereas Herrera is nothing special in center field, Baseball America notes that he was named the best defensive second baseman in the Texas League in 2014.

After Gomez, the Phillies could move on an impact starter to flesh out their rotation. But since they should want nothing to do with the flimsy health and inconsistent production of Stephen Strasburg or Andrew Cashner, they should instead settle for upgrading their bullpen with one of the market’s elite closers. That list is set to include Aroldis Chapman, Greg Holland, Drew Storen and Kenley Jansen.

Of those options, Jansen would be a good choice for a multiyear contract. Whereas the others could see their success fade as their velocity does, Jansen’s Mariano Rivera-esque cutter is his ticket to age like, well, Mariano Rivera.

After adding Gomez and Jansen, the Phillies should next look to add a replacement catcher for Ruiz. Signing Jason Castro for his elite framing skills and ability to handle pitchers would be the easy option. But he’ll be on the wrong side of 30 and with an iffy injury history.

If the Phillies are going to think defense first for Ruiz’s replacement, they’d be better off targeting somebody younger in a trade. With this in mind, here’s a name: 23-year-old Christian Vazquez.

Though he only played in 55 games with the Boston Red Sox as a rookie in 2014, that was all Vazquez needed to establish himself as an other-worldly pitch-framer and running-game manager. Tommy John surgery has put his career on hold, but 2016 should see him re-establish himself as a valuable asset.

But he’s also likely to be an expendable asset, as Blake Swihart is widely considered Boston’s catcher of the future. If that future materializes more solidly in 2016 than it has in 2015, the Red Sox are likely to be open to shopping Vazquez. With what should still be a good farm system, the Phillies will have the pieces to deal if it comes to that.

With Gomez, Jansen and Vazquez joining the budding young core the Phillies established in 2016, the 2017 season would figure to be their first big step back toward relevance. 

And the following winter, it would be time to close the gap.


2017 Winter and 2018 Season

Though the Phillies will have spent big on free agents in the winter of 2016, they should still have plenty of payroll flexibility and revenue for another splurge after 2017.

This is good, because that winter’s free-agent class is shaping up to be a doozy that could help the Phillies fill their remaining needs.

One of those would be at first base, where the Phillies would still need an heir for Howard. Fortunately for them, their options on the open market are due to include Eric Hosmer, Brandon Belt and Lucas Duda. Between the three, Hosmer makes the most sense. Beyond his being the most likely of the three to actually hit free agency, he’s also the youngest (currently 25) and arguably the most well-rounded of the three.

Securing Hosmer would just leave the Phillies the need to round out their pitching staff, and the open market could help them there, too.

Among the starters poised to hit free agency after 2017 are Lance Lynn, Tyson Ross, Michael Pineda, Chris Tillman and Henderson Alvarez. Of those five, Ross would stand out due to his light workload history and how his heavy emphasis on ground balls and strikeouts would play at CBP.

After Ross, another welcome addition would be a power left-hander to pair with Jansen and Giles in the bullpen. As it happens, Jake McGee and his power fastball are set to hit the market that winter. He’d be a perfect option to round out the back end of the Phillies bullpen.

With Hosmer, Ross and McGee aboard, the Phillies would need just one more thing: a tried-and-true ace to join Ross, Nola, Thompson and Eflin in their rotation. And since we’re imagining the Phillies’ “perfect” rebuild, let’s talk about Sonny Gray.

Oakland A’s assistant general manager David Forst recently said (h/t Joe Stiglich of CSN Bay Area) that Gray is the closest thing the A’s have to an “untouchable” player. But that could change once he starts getting expensive, and that’s going to happen very soon. Gray will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after 2016 and for a second time after 2017.

By then, he could be due for too big a raise for Oakland’s pocketbooks, forcing the A’s to do their usual thing by dangling Gray on the trade market. Due to past trades and high draft picks in 2016 and 2017, the Phillies should still have enough young talent to strike a deal and bring Gray to Philadelphia.

If so, the Phillies would head into 2018 with the following roster:

After brushing up against it in 2017, the Phillies could easily take a roster like that and bring about a decisive end to their rebuild. And with it, the beginning of a new Phillies dynasty would arrive.

Or so we can imagine, anyway.

As easy as it is to picture everything falling neatly into place for them, odds are the Phillies will have to contend with numerous bumps in the road over the next couple of years. These will make putting an end to their rebuild that much tougher.

For now, though, there’s comfort to be taken in the list of possibilities for the Phillies. With their rebuild finally on the right track, it’s a long list.


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of Philadelphia Phillies’ Top 10 Prospects

Although the Philadelphia Phillies are in the midst of their longest winning streak in over a year, they are still one of the worst teams in baseball at 28-36. They sit dead last in the NL East, and despite being just a half-game behind the fourth-place New York Mets, they have shown no promise of contending this year.

As pessimistic as that sounds, it’s the unfortunate truth. With that said, perhaps the most exciting part of the Phillies is not who’s playing for them now but who’s inclined to don a Phillies uniform in the future.

Now that the 2014 MLB draft is in the rear-view mirror, the focus can return to whom the Phillies have in their system at this present time. While the Phillies have not yet signed all of their draft picks—they have until July 15 to do so—all but two of their first 10 draft picks, including first-rounder Aaron Nola, have signed as of the publishing of this article.

Even though the best part about discussing prospects is their upside, all prospects have their downside as well, which isn’t always considered. In order to accurately gauge a prospect, one must take both sides of the spectrum into account.

Here are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the Phillies’ top-10 prospects.


All prospects on this list have yet to make their MLB debuts. All prospect commentary courtesy of the 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook and/or MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo.

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Philadelphia Phillies Prospects Who Never Lived Up to the Hype

The Philadelphia Phillies have not been the most successful franchise. They were the first team in MLB history to reach 10,000 losses, their all-time record is below .500 and as one of the oldest teams in baseball, they only have two World Series titles to their name.

On top of that, the Phillies don’t have too many homegrown All-Stars throughout their history. The recent run of success has been a large exception—in fact, of the team’s five players with retired numbers (six including Jackie Robinson), two of them were acquired in trades: Jim Bunning and Steve Carlton.

Consequently, the Phillies have had plenty of prospect busts. While it would be impossible to name them all, some stick out like sore thumbs.

Here are five of the many Phillies prospects who never lived up to the hype.

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Early Grades for All of Philadelphia Phillies’ Offseason Acquisitions

While not nearly as flashy as past offseasons, the Philadelphia Phillies made a plethora of moves this past offseason. And as they finish up the first sixth of the season with an even 13-13 record, the Phillies are at the point where their offseason acquisitions can be graded with a relatively decent sample size.

All acquisitions will be graded on an A+ to F scale. Hitters will primarily be graded on batting average, on-base percentage and slugging, while pitchers will be graded on ERA, FIP (now found on Baseball-Reference.com) and WHIP.

Other stats, such as home runs and RBI for hitters and wins/losses and strikeouts for pitchers, will be included, but will factor less into the player’s grade.

Carlos Ruiz will be excluded since this slideshow does not include players who were re-signed by the Phillies.

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Breakout Performances from Phillies’ First Two Weeks of Spring Training

It’s already been a long spring for the Philadelphia Phillies, and it may be the start of an unbearably long season. While spring training usually isn’t a full indication of the regular season to come, all games are taken into account by some measure.

At this point in time, the Phillies’ spring training record is 4-10. They’re the worst team in the Grapefruit League, the worst National League team in spring training and the second-worst team in baseball this spring. Only the 3-9 Texas Rangers are worse. Simply put, spring has been a disaster for the Phillies thus far.

The offense has not looked sharp. The rotation continues to thin out due to injuries. And while bullpen pitching has been surprisingly decent, the relievers have had their moments of surrendering hits and runs.

However, there have been a few bright spots worth mentioning. Here are the breakout performances from the Phillies’ first two weeks of spring training games.

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Odds for Each Phillies Player on the Roster Bubble Making the Final 25-Man Cut

It’s been a big week for the Philadelphia Phillies. More specifically, it’s been a big last couple of days for the Phillies.

After news emerged on February 12 that homegrown ace and 2013 Opening Day starter Cole Hamels would not be ready for the opener in 2014, the Phillies’ rotation immediately lost depth. Behind Hamels and Cliff Lee, the rotation stood as a bit of an enigma, with the final two spots not even cemented as of yet.

Consequently, hours later, the Phillies and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. went out and signed right-handed starter A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16 million contract with an option for 2015. And a day later, on February 13, minor league signee Chad Gaudin was released after allegedly failing his physical, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

With that all in mind, some of the Phillies’ spring training battles have changed. Now that the first four rotation spots are firmly in place, three starters will vie for the fifth starter’s job. A couple of other players also will have a stab at making the major league squad, although they may not be in the starting rotation.

Having said that, here are the odds each Phillies player on the bubble has of making the 25-man roster.



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Scouting Reports, 2014 Projections for Phillies’ Pitchers and Catchers

The Philadelphia Phillies‘ offseason is mercifully coming to a close. After a winter that saw a few too many bad contracts signed, fans would like to see what this supposedly-revamped team is capable of doing.

With pitchers and catchers set to report to spring training by February 12—just 13 days from now—some familiar and new faces will head down to Clearwater to show the team what they’ve got. Some of these players will make the team, while others will head to the minors for the start of the season or be cut from the organization altogether.

Keeping that in mind, here are scouting reports and 2014 projections for the Phillies’ pitchers and catchers.

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Selecting the Philadelphia Phillies’ All-Time Free-Agent Bust Team

When owners of Major League Baseball teams give their general managers millions of dollars to spend on the free agent market, it’s kind of like giving money to a kid who wants candy. You tell them not to spend it all in one place, but know they’re going to do it anyway. 

And that’s because the free agent market is a fickle mistress. Like any good gamble, one pull of the handle could send you home with your pockets weighed to the floor or broke like a joke. 

The Philadelphia Phillies must know the feeling. The free agent market has changed since its inception. Teams no longer pay for past production. They pay for what a prospective free agent could do for them in the future. Nowadays, it’s easy to go broke. 

But one fundamental aspect of the free agent market that has never changed is that it is incredibly easy for you to spend millions of dollars on a single player and not be guaranteed that he is going to produce at the highest level. Is that the way the cookie crumbles? 

Some free agents are just “busts”—and for the sake of this slideshow—we will define a “bust” as a player who came to the city of Philadelphia with a certain level of expectations and did not perform up par. That’s it. There are no qualifiers other than that, but obviously, certain players are “busts” at different levels, so keep that in mind. 

We will pick a free agent “bust” at every position that you would normally build a 25-man roster with and hope that history doesn’t repeat itself. 

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Grading Ruben Amaro Jr.’s 25 Biggest Offseason Moves as Phillies GM

No one is ever going to accuse a general manager of a Major League Baseball team of having an easy job, namely because when someone needs to shoulder the blame (or reap the benefits), it falls on the guy who is responsible for putting the team together. 

As with any position with an ounce of power and responsibility, when things go well, you’re a great general manager. When things go wrong, it’s all your fault. 

Ruben Amaro Jr. is a man who has experienced both ends of the spectrum as the GM of the Philadelphia Phillies. He took over following a World Series title in 2008 and missed the postseason in one of the team’s most highly anticipated seasons in 2012. 

Now, with an aging core and few prospects ready to step up as reinforcements, Amaro has his work cut out for him this offseason. With several holes to fill and limited resources, he’ll need to be both smart and savvy. 

Is he up to the task? One way to find out is to take a look back at his offseason history. Amaro has a long history of offseason moves with the Phillies and now, it’s time to slap a grade on them. 

Each move will be graded on the following attributes: Performance and contract. 

That’s it. Did Amaro get the perfect amount of bang for his buck? Let’s take a look.

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Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy Halladay and New Names for the 4 Aces

Roy Halladay was dealing once again, throwing eight innings of two-hit, shutout ball on the road versus the Washington Nationals. Well over the 100-pitch mark, he was laboring in the ninth.  The Nats had narrowed the deficit to 3-1 and had runners on first and third with just one out.

Skipper Charlie Manuel walked to the mound, and almost any other pitcher in Major League Baseball would get a pat-on-the-back and an ovation—if they made it to the ninth in the first place.  Per Paul Hagen of the Philadelphia Daily News (quoting Manuel), the conversation between manager and ace pitcher went like this:

Manuel: “Well, Roy, here I am.”

Halladay: “I’ve got ’em. I’ve got ’em.”

Manuel: “OK, you’ve got ’em, then.”

As manager-pitcher conversations have always been protected by some form of doctor-client (Doc-client, in this case?) privilege, we’ll have to take Charlie at his word. And yes, I prefer to think that this is all that the no-nonsense Halladay uttered.

Doc goes back to the hill, and yields an infield hit, which cuts the lead to one and places runners on first and second—still with one down. Adding to his legend, what does Halladay do?

He strikes out one-time Phillies-hero Matt Stairs looking, and then rings up surefire Hall-of-Famer Ivan Rodriguez with yet another Backwards K.

The game-ending strikeout means three things:

1. The Phillies win again, and now sit at an impressive 8-3.

2.  Halladay runs his record to 2-0, with a low, low ERA of 1.23.

3.  “I’ve got ’em. I’ve got ’em.” becomes an instant Philly sports quotes


Where Will This Quote Rank in Phillies Sports Lore?

Only time will tell as to whether Doc’s quote will be remembered years down the road, but his terse, ultra-confident statement and the way he backed it up with two called strikeouts may well end up being the stuff of local legend.

Indeed, it may one day take its place next to Ryan Howard’s “Get me to the plate, boys”, which the big man lived up to with a two-out, two run, game-tying double in the bottom of the ninth. Of course, both the line and the line drive were delivered in Game Four of the NLDS in Colorado.

So, RH-2, if you will, may not quite make it to the level of RH-1’s quote, but it sure beats other recent quotes with more pejorative connotations, such as “They’re fair-weather fans” or the iconic “We’re a small market franchise.”

Adding to the Nickname for Our Starting Rotation

In September, 2010, and in this very space, I was brainstorming nicknames for the Phillies three-headed monster, and ended up proposing H20. The nickname went a little viral, even if only some of that virus accompanied that piece.

When Cliff Lee, shocking-Lee and joyful-Lee returned to South Philly, I was among those who proposed (and advocated) R2C2 for the rotation of Halladay, Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.

Some other nicknames have joined the discussion, including variants of Mound Rushmore, the Fab Four (or Phab Phour) and the Four Aces.  For my money, none are as catchy as H20, but I’m not going to advocate getting rid of Cliff Lee.

Still, the Four Aces (I’ve never been a “phan” of overusing the Ph) is a good name, but it seems about time that we define the aces a little more.

Admittedly, I’m not a bridge player, and don’t care for watching poker on TV, playing it with friends or doing so online. But in most people’s minds, the Ace of Spades carries the most weight, so let’s go to it.

Roy Halladay:  The Ace of Spades

Many, including yours truly, have referred to Doc as the Ace of Aces, and he certainly is—among the Phillies, and among all great pitchers in MLB.

Hence, Halladay takes his rightful place as the Ace of Spades: dark, serious and just a little menacing

Cliff Lee: The Ace of Hearts

Lee won the hearts of Phillies fans in a few short months in 2009, forever earning the town’s love with his two wins versus the Yankees in the 2009 World Series, punctuated by his behind-the-back stab and his ho-hum, yawning catch of a weak pop-up.

Philly’s heart was broken when its newest sports hero was traded to Seattle last year, but they loved him even more when he spurned the Yankees’ mega-dollar deal to pitch for the Phillies and their ultra-sensitive fans.

The man from Arkansas is clearly the King of Hearts

Roy Oswalt: The Ace of Clubs

For many years, Oswalt was the lone ace for the Houston Astros, but he has pitched quite well since coming here.

Oswalt is a man of few words, but (a la Big Roy Halladay) lets his play do the talking for him. Given his big stick mentality and the fact that he starred for another ballclub, Little Roy looks just fine as the King of Clubs.

Cole Hamels:  The Ace of Diamonds

A diamond is a high-priced commodity, which can be quite brilliant, or somewhat flawed.

Hamels, sometimes known as Hollywood, has just a little of that blue-blooded, snooty appearance, which belies how fierce of a competitor he is.

And despite a somewhat flawed 2009 season, Hamels has mostly shined brilliantly in his tenure here.

The Ace of Diamonds is a good fit for Cole.  King Cole? Nah…

As for Joe Blanton, an excellent No. 5 starter despite two straight rough outings, I’m thinking it over. King of Clubs doesn’t quite do it for me.


For more information on Matt Goldberg’s new books, as well as writing, speaking and interview requests, please e-mail: matt@tipofthegoldberg.com or contact him via his Bleacher Report homepage.

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