MAADDI: After total rebuild, Phillies finally have hope for future
PHILADELPHIA — The manager quit. The general manager got fired. The president is retiring.
From the front office to the clubhouse, it was a complete rebuilding year for the Philadelphia Phillies. They finished with the worst record (63-99) in the majors but showed promise.
Third baseman Maikel Franco, center fielder Odubel Herrera, starting pitchers Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff and closer Ken Giles should be part of the nucleus. Second baseman Cesar Hernandez, shortstop Freddy Galvis, outfielder Aaron Altherr and starter Adam Morgan also could be core players.
And, there are several prospects in the minors who give the organization reason to be excited about 2016 and beyond.
The situation was bleak when Ryne Sandberg walked away in late June after 22 months as manager. Pete Mackanin took over on an interim basis and got the job full-time after the team improved in the second half.
Finding a new general manager is the first offseason priority for Andy MacPhail, who was hired in June to replace outgoing president Pat Gillick.
Ruben Amaro Jr. was let go in late August, but not before the GM engineered trades that could set Philadelphia up for success. A couple of the young players he acquired from Texas for ace Cole Hamels already impressed in the majors. Amaro also traded Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon.
Here's a look at the past season and upcoming offseason:
KEY HITS: Franco should anchor the middle of the lineup for years. He batted .280 with 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 301 at-bats. Herrera, a winter-meeting draft pickup, hit .297 with 30 doubles. Galvis (.263) and Hernandez (.272) are a solid double-play combination, though they'll be pushed by some prospects. Nola (6-2, 3.59 in 13 starts) and Eickhoff (3-3, 2.65 in eight starts) are key parts of the rotation and Morgan (5-7, 4.48) belongs there next season. Giles is an outstanding closer. Mackanin's personality and positive attitude are a great fit with the younger players.
COSTLY ERRORS: Sandberg, a Hall of Fame player, didn't relate well to modern players and lacked communication skills. Amaro couldn't unload catcher Carlos Ruiz and first baseman Ryan Howard's contracts. They're the last two players remaining from the 2008 world championship team and will cost the Phillies another $44 million. Howard makes $25 million in 2016 with a $10 million buyout for 2017. Ruiz makes $8.5 million in 2016 with a $500,000 buyout for 2017. Outfielder Domonic Brown again failed to live up to his 2013 All-Star season. Veteran pitchers Aaron Harang (6-15), Jerome Williams (4-12) and Chad Billingsley (2-3) were not very good.
WINTER SHOPPING LIST: Their biggest need is a couple veteran starters to surround the young guys in the rotation. It's unlikely the Phillies would pursue top-tier aces like David Price, Johnny Cueto and Zack Greinke (if he opts out). But they could make a push for guys like Marco Estrada, Ian Kennedy, Mike Leake or J.A. Happ. The Phillies have the money to afford high-priced free agents, but they're probably a year away from going after them.
WHAT TO DO: The new GM will try hard to trade Howard and Ruiz, even if it means paying a majority of their salaries. Veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur is worth re-signing after having a solid season and providing leadership in the clubhouse.
UP AND COMERS: Franco, Herrera, Hernandez, Galvis, Nola, Eickhoff, Morgan, Giles and Altherr along with minor-league shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielder Nick Williams and pitchers Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin.