Pat Gillick stated that the Phillies will not become contenders again until the 2017 or 2018 season. While that may be true, the rebuilding process could be sped up if the Phillies make the right moves, and acquire the right talent. So far this offseason, they have been making the right moves.
The first step to the Phillies’ rebuilding process was to part with some of their seasoned veterans. Jimmy Rollins was
the first to go, as the best shortstop, and one of the best players in Phillies’ history was dealt to the Dodgers in exchange for two young pitchers, right-hander Zach Efflin (10-7 3.80 ERA in 24 starts in single A) and left-hander Tom Windle (12-8 4.26 ERA in 25 starts in single A). Both of these pitchers are young; Efflin is 20 years old, and Windle is 22 years old.
Another veteran the Phillies parted with was Marlon Byrd. Byrd, who is coming off back-to-back solid offensive seasons, was traded to the Reds in exchange for 22-year-old right-hander Ben Lively. Lively went 13-7 with a 3.04 ERA in 26 starts in the minors last season.
In addition, Antonio Bastardo was dealt to the Pirates in exchange for left-handed pitcher Joely Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been Jeckyll and Hyde while in the Pirates’ minor league system. He was great in 2013, posting a 2.72 ERA in 26 starts. However, he struggled last season, posting a 4.84 ERA in 30 games (21 starts).
Starting to see a trend?
The Phillies have put an emphasis on acquiring young pitching talent so far this offseason. While it’s way too early to judge these players, none of them project to be top-of-the-line starters in the Majors. However, the Phillies need all the young talent they can get. Aaron Nola is currently the Phillies’ top pitching prospect. Nola was solid in 12 games in
the minors last season, posting a 2.93 ERA. He, along with Jesse Biddle and these newly acquired arms could very well shape the Phillies’ starting rotation in a couple of years.
In the mean time, the Phillies have some young position players that will hopefully develop into reliable every-day starters. Fans hope that prospects such as Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford will develop into stars, but players currently on the MLB roster such as Cody Asche, Dominic Brown, and and Cesar Hernandez will need to step up and produce consistently in order to prove that they will play into the Phillies’ future plans.
As for this season, the Phillies have made moves for starting pitchers Aaron Harang and Wandy Rodriguez. Obviously, these guys aren’t playing into the Phillies future plans and are just placeholders, but they could help the club’s rebuilding process if they pitch well. Rodriguez was signed to a minor league deal, but he will compete for a spot at the bottom of the Phillies’ rotation come spring training. If he earns a spot, and both him and Harang pitch well, they could be dealt to a contender for even more young talent in return.
The biggest key for the Phillies is obviously Cole Hamels. He is without a doubt the best player on the Phillies, and one of the best left-handed pitchers in MLB. He will absolutely have teams begging him to come pitch for them if he is pitching well by the trade deadline. If anything can speed up the Phillies’ rebuilding process, it’s getting the right players for Hamels. If the Phillies don’t get the right pieces back, the rebuilding process could be pushed back even further. Along with Hamels, Cliff Lee could prove to be very desirable for a contending team in need of a solid veteran pitcher with playoff experience. If Lee is pitching well, expect the Phillies to be looking to move the crafty lefty for the right return.
What are the chances that Ryan Howard returns to his 2006-2011 form? Not very great. However, baseball is a funny game. Perhaps Howard’s body and mind are healing at just the right time. Perhaps he can recapture just a fraction of what he used to be. If that happens to be the case, the Phillies would be in a great spot to trade him to a contending team in desperate need of a power bat in exchange for, you guessed it, even more young pieces.
Of course, we would all love the Phillies to be a contending team in 2015, but that is just not the case. If 2017 is the next time we can be optimistic about the Phillies’ playoff chances, then moves like these will have to be made in order to make that prediction a reality. So far, the Phillies are making the right moves to give the fans some hope for the future.