Today Pat Gillick made public what a lot of us have been saying and thinking for over a year now, the Phillies next window opens in 2017 and, if you want to hedge, 2018. This is mixed news, the negative being that 2017 feels like an eon away, the positive is that the Phillies have admitted that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. We don’t know how much this is the org as a whole,we don’t know how much this is Gillick stepping up, and we might never know. But this revelation does fit into the timeline that has become increasingly clear.
Why 2017 Makes Sense:
In 2017 the Phillies will owe Cliff Lee, Jimmy Rollins, Jonathan Papelbon, and A.J. Burnett nothing, they will owe Howard a $10M buyout, they may owe Utley anywhere from 5M-15M depending on his health, they will owe Carlos Ruiz either 4.5M or a 500k buyout. All in all the only player under contract making big money in 2017 is Cole Hamels at 22.5M. Given the TV money both locally and nationally, that is a lot of money for the Phillies to spend without even going near the luxury tax.
Free Agency has gotten weaker every year. It doesn’t look like the Phillies will wade in this year outside of a run at Tomas, but 2017 gives them two cracks at a market that might turn around soon. Either way with free agency down it is near impossible for the Phillies to rebuild it all in one offseason.
Prospects who have made their debut or are on pace to during the 2015-2016 seasons: Maikel Franco, Aaron Nola, Jesse Biddle, J.P. Crawford, Roman Quinn, Kelly Dugan, Aaron Altherr, Ethan Martin, Cameron Perkins, Adam Morgan, Severino Gonzalez. There isn’t a ton of star power there outside Crawford and maybe Nola, but that is a lot of cheap labor arriving. It will be key for the rebuilding Phillies to have cost certainty on the roster. With the 2015 draft heavy with impact college pitchers, don’t be surprised if another player arrives on this timeline.
On top of those arriving in the majors, the two year timeline puts the depth in the low minors into that AA/AAA sweet spot where it is at its peak trade value. There is no way the farm and FA is going to fill all of the Phillies’ holes, they are going to wade into the trade market. When they do, they are going to need the pieces to make deals to fill the whole on the club.
What is Going to Happen in the Middle:
I think we are going to have to come to grips with a Cole Hamels trade. I am not sure I like it, but they should hold out for a team to come to their price, and that price should be ridiculously high. They should also sign Tomas as long as the contract doesn’t get too out of control. They are going to play young guys through struggle.
The last point is that they are going to pay and play old players on short deals. They have money to spend and they are going to spend it. As long as they aren’t blocking prospects there is no reason not to do it. I expect another year of Utley and Rollins. I do think they look to dump Byrd, Howard, and Papelbon and fill those positions internally. It is going to be a slow shedding process.
The Phillies have now made the course clear, and as I have said on Twitter many times in the past few months, it won’t be smooth over the next few years, but we are on the upswing now in the rebuilding cycle.