PHILADELPHIA — Goodbye, glory days. Hello, future.
The Philadelphia Phillies bid farewell to Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard in 2016, signaling the end of the most successful run in franchise history. They also welcomed several talented young players, giving fans hope for 2017 and beyond.
It's been a slow rebuilding process for the Phillies, but there's reason for optimism following a 71-91 finish.
"I know we're definitely going to upgrade somehow, whether it's from within or go out and get somebody via trade or even a free agent, depending on who's available and if it makes sense," manager Pete Mackanin said. "We're going to fulfill our needs. We have to get better next year. We have to show improvement. And hopefully the moves we do make result in more wins."
Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson showed potential to be mainstays in the starting rotation, if healthy. Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cameron Rupp had solid offensive seasons, though all of them won't be part of the nucleus going forward.
The departure of Ruiz — traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August — and Howard's exit — the team plans to pay him a $10 million buyout — leaves the Phillies with no players from their 2008 World Series championship team.
After winning five straight NL East titles and two pennants between 2007-11, the Phillies have missed the postseason five consecutive years.
A slew of prospects coupled with a few emerging stars is expected to help Philadelphia end its playoff drought before the decade ends.
Here's a look at the past season and upcoming offseason:
Offensive positives: 2B Hernandez (.294 AVG, .371 OBP, 17 steals) and SS Galvis (20 homers, 67 RBIs) will be the double-play combination to start next season. Galvis' power and excellent defense — eight errors — made up for his poor average (.241) and on-base percentage (.274). 1B Tommy Joseph had 21 HRs in only 315 at-bats. 3B Franco tied Howard for team-best with 25 HRs, batted .255 and drove in 88 runs. CF Herrera (.286, 15 HR, 25 SB) was an All-Star, though he struggled in second half. C Rupp was a pleasant surprise at the plate: .252, 16 HR, 54 RBIs. The offense will have a new hitting coach next season. Steve Henderson was fired Monday.
Pitching positives: Eickhoff (11-14, 3.65 ERA) was consistent the entire season. Velasquez (8-6, 4.12), Nola (6-9, 4.78), Eflin (3-5, 5.54) and Thompson (3-6, 5.70) had flashes of excellence. Alec Asher (2-1, 2.28) had a strong September. Relievers Hector Neris (2.58, 2 saves) and Edubray Ramos (3.82) should be late-inning options next season. Jeanmar Gomez had 37 saves but struggled mightily down the stretch.
The prospects: OF Roman Quinn and C Jorge Alfaro made their big-league debuts in the final month. SS J.P. Crawford, OF Nick Williams and C Andrew Knapp could arrive in Philadelphia at some point next season. OF Dylan Cozens had 40 HRs and 1B Rhys Hoskins hit 38 at Double-A Reading.
Biggest needs: Disciplined hitters with a professional plate approach who take pitches, work the count and grind out at-bats. "I would like to get a good solid proven hitter somewhere on the field," Mackanin said. "Where that is right now will be determined by who is available and what kind of a deal, if any, they could make."
Decision time: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (12-10, 3.71) will be a free agent and is expected to command a big salary. The Phillies probably won't offer him a multiyear contract but should consider making a qualifying offer — a one-year deal worth about $17 million. If so, they would receive a compensatory pick if he signs elsewhere.