The Philadelphia Phillies have some solid young arms in their starting rotation already, and more coming from their minor leagues. But which will remain for the long-term?
Usually, I’m not a fan of projecting future rosters of teams. Even trying to think about where a team will be in September is foolhardy, since so much can happen between now and then (injury, trade, designation for assignment, etc.)
You would only be about 50% likely to get such projections exactly right. When they are right, you can look like Nostradamus. When they don’t, well, you look more like Nostradamus’ pet bird.
Now, while I do understand the purpose behind the following declaration, especially coming off a masterful performance by the rookie Eflin against Pittsburgh on Friday night, I still find that tweets like this make me cringe:
It was easy to state that the current rotation of Vincent Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Zach Eflin would remain intact for the forseeable future, with Jake Thompson eventually substituting out for Jeremy Hellickson, perhaps as early as next weekend.
Those absolutely are arms worth getting excited about, especially as we enter the doldrums of August with a team beginning to drop from the periphery of contention for a wild card spot.
It’s what we as fans think about and write when we get wrapped up in a future that is bright, brighter in fact than perhaps any of the four other major pro sports franchise’ in the city.
But such speculation also forgets two vital things:
1. Pitching is hard
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Counting on these specific five arms to stay healthy and effective is a large leap of faith. History is littered with arms that were top prospects who were supposed to lead their team to a World Series victory.
The Mets in the mid-1990’s had “Generation K” – highly rated prospect pitchers Bill Pulsipher, Bobby Wilson and Jason Isringhausen – in their minor league system before the injury bug reared its ugly head.
For the Phillies to bank on all of these arms to stay healthy and effective would be an exercise in faith the likes of which are rarely seen.
Nola is having an up and down season, and he was the presumptive “ace” heading into this year. He could straighten out. He probably will.
But we can’t just declare them the rotation for 2017 and beyond. We’ve got to see what they do over the course of the next several months, even the next couple of seasons, before any type of certainty is considered.
2. The Phillies have money. Lots and lots of money
I haven’t even discussed where the team will find itself financially over the next few off-seasons. It is basic knowledge around baseball circles that the Phillies have tons of money to spend and the willingness to spend it on the right player.
While this coming offseason doesn’t have many free agent arms worth getting excited about, it’s the following 2017-18 offseason that the fans should be salivating over.
Here are just a few names worth mentioning that could be available, depending on whether their current teams are able to sign them to a long-term contract, to the highest bidder:
These are just the aces. There are other pitchers in a second tier that the Phillies can get if they so choose.
Being able to flex their financial muscle for the first time, it’s more than likely that they have already begun lining up their ducks to go after one of these free agents to lead the staff once the team is just about ready to (hopefully) contend again.
I haven’t even mention the available bats that will also be available in that same off-season. Caution: don’t be near any pointy furniture when reading that list, as you may faint from reading the names and dreaming of what might be. I’ll spare you the possible injury for now.
I understand that the above Jon Johnson tweet is doing nothing more than drumming up enthusiasm for the future of the Phillies franchise.
In this town and current sports climate, it’s surely something that we as fans need, a positive vision. Just make sure you understand that the rotation will probably look quite different from that listed above when the Phillies actually are ready to contend again.