Earlier today, MLB Trade Rumors published a small article about three “needs” the Phillies must address this winter. Their piece was basically what you would expect from a writer who doesn’t follow the team on a day-to-day basis.
I’m not saying here that I disagree with the three things chosen, but I do disagree that they are the three most important tasks for the team management to accomplish.
In order, the writer said that the Phillies need to:
1. Commit to a front office and managerial staff
2. Find pitching
3. Resolve the Howard situation
As you can see, these are indeed what some outsider would list as the most important this winter. The first is something that can be said of at least 3 teams at this point in the season (Phillies, Marlins, Angels), and there should be several others at the end of the season. That’s too generic to make it a Phillies-specific need. Not that it’s untrue, but it’s also no revelation.
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As far as point two, every team needs pitching. Every single team. There isn’t a team at any level of baseball, with the possible exception of maybe the New York Mets, that doesn’t need pitching this offseason. Again, too generic.
Lastly, most writers need to simply let go of the “get rid of Ryan Howard” storyline. He’s not going anywhere. If a team wanted to trade for him at this point, they would have.
Sure, ‘The Big Piece’ will come cheaper next season, but do other teams trust that he’ll be able to hold his current offensive value (which isn’t bad)? To say that removing his contract from the team is a “need” at this point is, quite frankly, lazy analysis.
What I’m now going to humbly submit are what I believe to be the three real most pressing needs the Phillies have this winter.
1. Acquire a power bat.
As of Sunday, the Phils have 106 home runs, only 28th in the game. Their ISO is at .132, which is 27th in baseball, and their slugging percentage (.385) is also 27th in MLB.
It’s obvious to anyone who has watched the team that it lacks any true power threats. Odubel Herrera has posted a solid slugging percentage this year, but all previous scouting reports make it doubtful he’ll be able to sustain it.
It’s true that power is a scarce commodity all across the game now, and that buying or trading for it will be expensive. However, the team needs to look at upgrading their power production as much as possible.
It could mean sacrificing other abilities at certain positions, but they need a true power threat to be able to build a balanced offense. The healthy return of Maikel Franco will be a boost, but he can’t do it alone.
2. Continue the youth movement.
Many of the free agents available this winter are on the wrong side of 30 years of age, making their addition to the team a break in the current philosophy the team has of building with youth.
Trading franchise icon Chase Utley so that Cesar Hernandez would have an everyday position was a clear indication that the managerial staff wants to get a solid look at what the younger players have to offer.
By continuing to give plate appearances to players such as Darnell Sweeney and Aaron Altherr, the Phillies can bring them along in the Majors, while not committing to those players who won’t help in the future.
It would make no sense to waste money and at-bats on more veteran players if the intention was to flip them for prospects during the 2016 season. This season right now, in 2015, is supposed to be the rock bottom.
There is no reason the Phils cannot provide those younger players a chance to succeed or fail. If they do well, great. If not, cast them aside and move on to the next guy.
3. Choose a strategy for the free agent market and stick to it.
I wrote about this idea earlier, with regards to the pitchers who should be up for grabs this coming offseason. It’s easy to say “add pitching“, but what kind of arm(s) do you want?
An expensive ace starting pitcher, or solid rotation depth by signing 2 or 3 arms from among the next tier of available pitchers? Either way, the team has to choose a strategy that they want to employ and make sure they stick to it.
Sam Hinkie had an idea for building a championship roster when he came to lead the 76ers. Hinkie is sticking to that plan, no matter what negative publicity it’s given him. Chip Kelly has a plan for building an Eagles Super Bowl team, even if it means jettisoning popular players from the roster. Ron Hextall has come in and plotted a course for building the Flyers back into a Stanley Cup champion as well.
It would be refreshing for this Phillies franchise to choose a path they believe will return them to being a consistent winner and World Series contender, and carry that plan out all the way to the end. They can start this winter with rebuilding a pitching staff that has been historically bad.
You, the reader, might have other areas that you would like to see addressed this winter, and that’s awesome. I feel that these are the most important things the Phillies need to address for next season and beyond. Here’s to hoping that whatever Lee MacPhail and company do leads to more wins in 2016.