Mar 5, 2013, 2:00 PM EDT
As far as season previews go, this is not the most
optimistic outlook on the Phillies. Grantland’s Jonah Keri asks, “At what
point does Philadelphia see the writing on the wall and start building for
This is the dilemma the Phillies
face heading into the 2013 season. They’ve already turned over more than half
the lineup, handing starting roles to much younger players. But none of those
players are premium prospects. Moreover, the team’s trio of infield stars, the
ones who’ve been the face of Phillies baseball for nearly a decade, are still
around, fighting injuries and Father Time as they desperately try to keep the
Phillies relevant in a division that’s left them behind. Then you’ve got the
starting rotation’s three aces and the fire-breathing closer, all making big
bucks, all hugely attractive gets for many other teams were they to become
available. Four months from now, if Philly appears on its way to another
mediocre season, should the team cash in their biggest trade chips for younger
players who could help build a winning team for 2014 and beyond?
Maybe the bigger question is this:
If the Phillies do reach that point, could they go through with it — tearing
down the most dominant collection of players the team has seen in 30-plus
Wow. So the National League East has left the Phils behind?
A division they finished in third place a season ago despite missing two of
their most important players for the first half the year. A division they won
for the fifth consecutive time just one season earlier. Don’t get me wrong, the
Washington Nationals are the favorites, but is their beating the Phillies again that
much of a foregone conclusion? At the very least, most people expect them to be
in the thick of the wild card race anyway.
You can talk about their age and question their health all you want. This is still a team with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard in the starting lineup, backed by a rotation of Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, and Cliff Lee.
Keri has a point though. Sometime in the near future, the
Phillies are going to have to drift away from the core that brought a world
championship to Philadelphia in 2008, despite certain rankings being none too
high on the organization’s farm system.
Yeah, if the club tanks this season, they should become
sellers – just like they were last summer. But then again, it’s only March 5.
Assuming there is some hope for the Fightins in ‘13, there
is plenty of room for radical change over the next couple years without Ruben
Amaro Jr. going out of his way to dismantle the team. Only four players on this
year’s roster are signed to sizable contracts beyond 2014: Ryan Howard, Cole
Hamels, Cliff Lee, and Jonathan Papelbon. What the farm system can’t immediately
replace, the Phillies should be able to go shopping for.
The post is worth a read, even if the tone might be
slightly off key. Keith Law may not like the Phillies’ prospects,
but a bunch of young outfielders and relief pitchers are already competing for spots on
the big club right now, while the organization believes kids like LHP Jesse
Biddle, C Tommy Joseph, and 3B Cody Asche could be building blocks of the
Perhaps Keri’s outlook is simply far more distant future than I am capable of thinking right now, but the Phillies’ primary focus today should be on winning this
year. We can play fill-in-the-blanks later.
>> Blow Up the Phillies! [Grantland]
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