There is light at the end of the tunnel for the Phillies.
Tuesday night in Baltimore was downright embarrassing for the Phillies. The team lost 19-3. Jeff Francoeur, an outfielder, was left on the mound to throw 48 pitches because the bullpen phone was off the hook and the Phillies’ bullpen couldn’t be reached. Pitching coach Bob McClure came out to the mound to visit Francoeur, which turned into McClure receiving a tongue lashing from Chase Utley.
When the Phillies started their sell-off this past winter, performances like this should have been expected. Despite the fact that more performances like Tuesday night’s are more likely than not, the Phillies are on the right path as a franchise.
This past winter organizational change began for the Phillies. Longtime president and CEO David Montgomery was elevated to chairman and is no longer a voice in baseball decisions. In his place, Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick took over as team president and is overseeing the baseball operations department.
Ownership has entrusted this crucial transitional phase to Pat Gillick, a man who constructed the 2008 World Series Champions. Gillick has stated he does not intend to serve as president for long and may already be searching for his replacement. CSN’s Jim Salisbury has reported that the Phillies have serious interest in bringing in former Twins, Cubs and Orioles executive Andy MacPhail as the team’s next president.
While Gillick will oversee the Phillies’ most important move this summer — trading Cole Hamels — Andy MacPhail will be brought in to make crucial decisions about the futures of Ruben Amaro Jr. and Ryne Sandberg. At the moment the long-term future of both does not look promising.
Sandberg has struggled managing the Phillies this year. He hasn’t been given much to work with, but he has consistently made poor decisions. He has allowed the franchise’s best trade chip, Cole Hamels, to throw more than 110 pitches four times in 14 starts. Hamels leads baseball in pitches thrown. Sandberg’s bullpen usage has been atrocious.
He routinely allows relievers to throw 40-plus pitches in a relief outing, something that should rarely happen. In addition, it seems he has lost the clubhouse. Twice this week players have gotten into heated conversations with coaches on camera. It would be shocking if Sandberg is back next year.
Ruben Amaro Jr. is in the precarious situation of being in the final year of his contract. At this point, if the team hires a new president, it would make more sense for the president to hire a new general manager, who would in turn hire a new coaching staff. However, things are still fluid. Amaro is the point man for trading Cole Hamels.
As it stands, the market seems like a sellers market. Depending on what Amaro can get for Hamels and the internal improvement of the prospects currently in the system, Amaro could conceivably keep his job with a strong performance the rest of the year.
The most important and encouraging sign of progress for the Phillies is the growth of the team’s farm system. At the end of the 2012 season, the farm system was barren. The Phillies had used everything they had, money and prospects, in pursuit of another championship with their core group of players. Two and a half years later, the farm system is far better. JP Crawford may be the number one prospect in baseball by the end of the season. Roman Quinn looks like a future everyday center fielder.
Jesse Biddle and Zach Eflin are showing potential of being major league rotation options. Aaron Nola’s ceiling may be higher than the number three starter many people thought he would be. Maikel Franco is putting up impressive numbers in his first prolonged taste at the major league level.
Additionally, the Phillies have just added highly regarded draft picks Cornelius Randolph and Scott Kingery to the organization. The Phillies will also be active signing international players starting on Jul. 2. The team is rumored to have a deal with top international prospect Jailyn Ortiz. The team will also have the first overall pick in the 2016 draft and if they don’t sign any impact players this off-season will probably be the heavy favorites for the first overall pick in the 2017 MLB draft. Young talent is and will be coming into the Phillies organization in the near future.
Also important to the long-term future for the Phillies is that the team’s new television deal begins in 2016. The Phillies signed a $2.5 billion TV deal with a 25% equity stake in CSNPhilly. This influx of money, along with the expiration of several veteran players contract’s in the near future, should give the Phillies serious spending power.
The Phillies have also begun to use analytics, something that was not true just a couple of years ago. While it is unknown what level of influence the analytics department has on the franchise, scouting director Johnny Almarez has been quoted saying he relied upon analytics throughout the draft. The Phillies’ analytics department is headed by two well-regarded individuals in Scott Freedman and Lewie Pollis. Both are more than qualified to give sound analysis to Ruben Amaro Jr. and Pat Gillick.
Progress is occurring and will continue to occur in the Phillies organization. While the Major League team will continue be terrible this year and next, there is hope for the future and change on the horizon. For Phillies fans, the rest of this year is better spent closely following the Cole Hamels trade market and the minor league system. A strong return for Cole Hamels and continued improvement of the minor league system are the keys to returning to contention in 2017.
Edited by Emily Berman.
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