2:06 AM EDT, October 19, 2014
MLB Team Report - Philadelphia Phillies - INSIDE PITCH
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is hesitant to use the word but Jimmy Rollins is not.
"Rebuild is something we started this year," said Rollins, the veteran shortstop. "We played like a rebuilding team in all honestly."
The Phillies finished last in the National League East with a 73-89 record. It marked the first time they wound up in the cellar since 2000, when Terry Francona was their manager.
"Last place? It's the first time I've done it, I'll tell you that much," said Rollins, who made his major league debut late in that 2000 season with the Phillies. "It's not a place anyone wants to be. But it is the place we ended up. And that's all I can say about it."
Amaro has said the Phillies owe it to their fans to try to put a contending club on the field every year. However, after hitting bottom, everyone connected with the organization realizes something has to give.
The Phillies have gone three straight years without making the playoffs since their run of five straight division titles from 2007-11 and a World Series title in 2008. They have been 73-89 in consecutive seasons after going 81-81 in 2012.
"It's tough. It's not what you ever plan," left-hander Cole Hamels said. "I think now it's the hope that things will turn around next year."
A turnaround isn't likely to happen that quickly as the Phillies have $127.7 million committed to nine players for next season.
Most of those players are in decline and the Phillies likely wouldn't get much back in trades beyond salary relief. Among them are first baseman Ryan Howard ($60 million remaining), left-hander Cliff Lee ($37.5 million), catcher Carlos Ruiz ($17.5 million), closer Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million) and shortstop Jimmy Rollins ($11 million).
The Phillies also have a weak farm system, one of the reasons assistant general manager and amateur scouting director Marti Wolever was fired last week.
One way to kickstart a rebuilding project would be to trade Hamels, who is 30 years old and one of best pitchers in the game, his 9-9 record in 30 starts this season belying his 2.46 ERA. However, the Phillies rotation is so thin they don't seem inclined to deal Hamels.
The Phillies finished 23rd in the major leagues in runs scored with an average of 3.82 a game and 21st in runs allowed with a 4.24 average.
"I feel like we lost a lot of close (games) this year where if we had an extra run or two, we would have been victorious," second baseman Chase Utley said.
Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, in his first full year as manager after taking over for Charlie Manuel with 42 games left in the 2013 season, felt the same way.
"The offense is something to be addressed in the offseason," Sandberg said.
MLB Team Report - Philadelphia Phillies - NOTES, QUOTES
RECORD: 73-89, fifth place in National League East
TEAM MVP: Cole Hamels compiled a 9-9 record in 30 starts but the .500 winning percentage is very deceiving. The left-hander's 2.46 ERA ranked fifth in the National League. He was also eighth in both innings pitched (204 2/3) and strikeouts (198) despite missing three starts while beginning the season on the disabled list because of shoulder stiffness. In a season where the Phillies finished last in the National League East for the first time since 2000, Hamels was one of the few bright lights.
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: There are plenty of candidates but left fielder Domonic Brown regressed and the Phillies no longer believe he is a player they can build around. The 27-year-old hit just .235 with 10 home runs in 144 games after having a .272 batting average and 27 homers in 2013. Considered the top prospect in baseball four years ago, his future in Philadelphia is murky as he was shopped in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.
TOP PROSPECT: J.P. Crawford is likely three years away from helping the major league club but the Phillies love what they have seen of the left-handed-hitting shortstop since selecting him in the first round of last year's first-year player draft from Lakewood (Calif.) High School. He is an outstanding defender with good range and a strong arm. His hitting hasn't caught up to his glove work yet but he had a solid season this year, hitting a combined .285 with 11 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 123 games with Clearwater and Lakewood, the Phillies' two full-season Class A teams.
--OF Tony Gwynn Jr. refused an outright assignment to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and elected to become a free agent. Gwynn, 32, hit .152/.264/.190 with no homers and three RBIs in 105 at-bats for the Phillies this year.
--RHP Sean O'Sullivan, outrighted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Oct. 6, refused the assignment the next day and chose to become a free agent. O'Sullivan, 27, made three appearances (two starts) for Philadelphia this year, and he went 0-1 with a 6.39 ERA.
--1B Ryan Howard set an ignominious record this season as his 25 games of four strikeouts or more were the most in major league history. Though Howard did have 95 RBIs, he hit just .223 with 23 home runs in 153 games while striking out a National League-high 190 times. The Phillies would love to trade Howard but would likely find a taker only if they are willing to absorb much of the $60 million left on the last two years of his contract.
--RF Marlon Byrd finished right behind 1B Ryan Howard in strikeouts as his 185 were second in the NL. However, he hit .264 with 25 home runs in 154 games after being signed to a two-year, $16 million contract as a free agent last November. Though the 37-year-old Byrd has just one guaranteed year and $8 million left on his contract, he may not be so easy to trade. If he has 550 plate appearances next season, an $8 million vesting option for 2016 would be triggered. He would be 39 then.
--RHP Jonathan Papelbon had the best of his three seasons since signing with the Phillies as a free agent but it was not without controversy. He converted 39 of 43 save opportunities and had a 2.04 ERA in 66 games. However, Papelbon said in July he would prefer to be traded then was suspended for seven games by Major League Baseball after he grabbed his crotch as he was booed by the home fans at Citizens Bank Park on Sept. 14 following a blown save against Miami.
--RHP Jake Diekman spent his first full season in the major leagues in 2014 and looks like a keeper after splitting the previous two seasons between Philadelphia and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Though Diekman's 5-5 record and 3.80 ERA were nondescript, he had 100 strikeouts in 71 innings and 73 relief appearances while allowing just four home runs.
--3B/1B Maikel Franco, considered one of the organization's top prospects, struggled in his first taste of the major league during a September call-up. He hit just .179 in 16 games with 12 strikeouts and only one walk in 58 plate appearances. Manager Ryne Sandberg likes Franco's defense but feels the 22-year-old needs more time in the minor leagues to work on his hitting. Franco batted .257 with 16 homers in 133 games for Triple-A Lehigh Valley this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "That's a question for those guys upstairs. I'm not really thinking about it." -- 1B Ryan Howard, on the possibility of being traded after spending his entire 11-year career with the Phillies.
MLB Team Report - Philadelphia Phillies - ROSTER REPORT
The Phillies would like to get younger and start a rebuilding phase but it is going to be difficult for that to happen right away because they have a number of older players who will be hard to trade because of large contracts. Topping that list is first baseman Ryan Howard, who has $60 million remaining on his contract, and includes left-hander Cliff Lee ($37.5 million), catcher Carlos Ruiz ($17.5 million), closer Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), shortstop Jimmy Rollins ($11 million) and second baseman Chase Utley ($10 million).
BIGGEST NEEDS: Left-hander Cole Hamels is a No. 1 starter and somebody to build a rotation around but rookie right-hander David Buchanan is the only other starter under club control for next season. Philadelphia also wants to add some thump to an offense that finished 23rd in the major leagues in runs scored and the most logical spots would be at third base and left field. Though third baseman Cody Asche is just 24 and right fielder Domonic Brown is 27, it appears neither is in the club's long-range plans.
FREE AGENTS: RHP Mike Adams, RHP A.J. Burnett, RHP Kyle Kendrick, C Wil Nieves, OF Grady Sizemore, RHP Jerome Williams
Burnett is the most interesting case as he can exercise a $15 million option to return next season but is also considering retirement after going 8-18 while pitching with a hernia that needs to be repaired surgically. The Phillies would like to sign either Kendrick or Williams to have some stability in the rotation. Williams seems a more realistic target as Kendrick should draw significant interest as a 30-year-old coming off a 199-inning season. Sizemore resurrected his career in a part-time role and there is mutual interest in a return. Nieves likely won't be back. The Phillies won't exercise Adams' $6 million club option for next season that does include a buyout.
ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE: LHP Antonio Bastardo, LF Domonic Brown, OF Tony Gwynn Jr., CF Ben Revere
Revere is the only one certain to return. The Phillies tried to deal Bastardo and Brown in advance of the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline and likely will step up those efforts prior to the Dec. 2 deadline for tendering contacts to unsigned players. Gwynn is a certainty to be non-tendered.
IN LIMBO: LHP Antonio Bastardo, LF Domonic Brown, RHP A.J. Burnett, LHP Cole Hamels, LHP Cliff Lee, RHP Jonathan Papelbon, C Carlos Ruiz, 1B Ryan Howard, SS Jimmy Rollins, RF Marlon Byrd
The Phillies are looking to shed salary and add prospects. Thus, any player making a significant amount of money -- with the exception of second baseman Chase Utley, who says he would not waive the no-trade clause in his contract -- could be had for the right price.
--RHP A.J. Burnett (hernia) said he will have surgery in October, though no specific date was announced. Burnett pitched with the hernia all season.
--CF Ben Revere (sore right ankle) will have screws that were placed in his ankle in 2013 surgically removed sometime in October. Revere said the screws caused him to play in pain at various points of the season, and doctors say surgery should alleviate the discomfort.
--SS Jimmy Rollins (strained left hamstring) missed the last three weeks of the season.
--LHP Mario Hollands (left elbow flexor strain) will not require surgery. He will rest his arm in hopes of being ready for the 2015 season.
--LHP Cliff Lee (left flexor pronator strain) will not require surgery. He might begin throwing in November, and he hopes to be ready for the start of next season.
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