Less than one month into his tenure as the Philadelphia Phillies general manager, Matt Klentak has been forced to answer one of the toughest questions anyone can ask: When will the Phillies be competitive again?
With the organization coming off a major league-worst 99-loss season, Klentak, who was hired in October definitely has his work cut out for him, but in 2015 all was not lost for the Phillies. The Phillies actually did play decent ball in the second half, registering a 34-37 record.
The 2015 club showed the emergence of a young nucleus including right-hander Aaron Nola and center fielder Odubel Herrera. After trading away two of the Phillies most familiar faces in Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins since the last offseason, there are only two players that remain from the 2008 World Series Champion team—Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz both of whom have extremely pricy contracts that make them untradable.
The Phillies have rebuilt their farm system and have a number of prospects who are capable of making an impact in 2016. Prospects J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams and Jake Thompson could all see major-league action next year. This type of pipeline of young hitters is what made the Phillies World Series contenders in the first place. Howard, Rollins, Utley, Ruiz, and Cole Hamels all came up through the minor league system. The Phillies never actually won a title after beginning to chase all the best pitchers in the league.
As far as the offseason market, don’t expect the Phillies to sign big names such as Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir, but guys like Jeremy Hellickson, whom they acquired in November trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Up to this point, the Phillies have only signed right-handed reliever David Hernandez. The team does need to improve rotation depth, as 14 different players took the mound for a start in 2015.
The Phillies traded closer Ken Gilies to the Astros for right-hander Vincent Velasquez, left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and Mark Appel, a former top pick who could turn into something special if he puts it all together.. The Phillies are looking to acquire players that are looking to rebuild there careers that they can move at the trade deadline.
The Phillies will look to infielder Maikel Franco a top NL rookie until breaking his left wrist after being hit by a pitch to bring the brunt of the offense. A mid-May call-up, Franco put his skills immediately on display and will be key for the Phils’ in 2016.
In my mind, the Phillies are still a year or two away from getting back to contention form, but with plenty of young talent in the minors, you could see October baseball in Philadelphia sooner rather than later. The Phillies may have their rebuild timed perfectly. They have young hitters and young pitchers arriving at the same time — one of the more difficult things to accomplish when rebuilding. The New York Mets, on the flip side, have all the young pitching in the world, but no hitting.
There may be a few more painful years ahead in Philadelphia, but this team will shock most casual observers when the light eventually goes on. A .500 season may not even be out of the question for 2016. The Phillies swallowed their pride and trusted the rebuild. It will soon be time to begin reaping the rewards.