The blueprint to rebuild the Phillies

Hello, its me. Since we last chatted, a lot has happened. The draft has come and gone, Andy McPhail has arrived, and the Phillies have lost a ton of baseball games. Today is the Futures Game, which means we’ll see JP Crawford (for a while) and Aaron Nola (probably not at all) and we’ll dream about what could be in the future. In the spirit of thinking about the future, I’m going to provide the blueprint for rebuilding the Phillies. I had originally intended to put this into a Powerpoint presentation which would have been part of my application for the Phillies GM job, but I just don’t think I can leave my current job. So, my loss is the Phillies gain, as I’m giving away the blueprint for free. You’re welcome, Andy. Details below the fold

One of the first things I wrote when I emerged from my 2+ year hiatus was about rebuilding the Phillies. I’m going to touch on some similar concepts, because what I wrote then is still applicable now. At least some of it. I am going to try and sketch things out and be as succinct as possible. I think we need to understand that rebuilding the Phillies is more than just fixing the 25 man roster or the 40 man roster. It involves rebuilding the entire infrastructure of the organization. It isn’t an easy task, but it is a doable task.

Before going through each of the individual areas, there are a few things we need to establish:

  1. The Phillies are a large market team. For the duration of the halycon years (07-11) they ran out very high payrolls, near the top of all teams in baseball. Those resources are still there. A new, lucrative TV deal is in place, and the ownership group is seemingly willing to spend money. This separates the Phillies from other teams that need to rebuild on a tight budget, which normally involves dumping big salaries and resisting the free agency market. The Phillies do not fit this mold
  2. You can turn a team around quickly. Quickly is relative, but there does not need to be a 6-7 year plan for rebuilding a large market team, at least at the big league level.
  3. As the Giants have shown, you don’t need to build a team full of superstars to win it all. The Giants have won 3 of the last 5 World Series with a small core of stars and a large group of solid players and overachievers. You could argue none of their WS winning teams were as strong as the 2011 Phillies 25 man roster, for instance. But it didn’t matter. Build a solid team, and anything can happen

Now, lets get to the plan.

Step 1 – Overhaul the Player Development department

This one isn’t as sexy as signing big free agents or making a splash in Cuba, but it may just be the most important part of the plan. If you look around at the teams that have consistently won over the last 4-5 years, you’ll see teams filled with guys who were mid-late round picks who turned into quality major leaguers. The Giants current roster is filled with guys like this. The Cardinals have also done this, finding guys with big arms outside the first few rounds and turning them into quality major league arms, especially in the bullpen. The Phillies haven’t had the same kind of success, especially in recent years. Drafting talent is one thing, but every guy you draft is going to require refinement and polish, and the Phillies haven’t gotten the most out of what they’ve drafted. If you look at their two best prospects (Crawford and Nola) both were considered polished when drafted, Crawford drew praise for his approach even as a high schooler, and Nola was considered the most polished pitcher in the 2014 draft, and as polished a college starter since maybe Mike Leake. There wasn’t much to do there. But what they haven’t done recently is find that 4th or 5th rounder who they can turn into an above average big league regular.

In the draft, you’re going to get 1 shot (your first round pick) at a guy with loud tools and present polish. As you get into the 2nd/3rd/4th round, you are drafting guys that require more polish, and as you move to the 5th round and beyond, you are drafting raw tools or college guys with limited upside. It is the job of your player development staff to take these raw gems and polish them up. The Phillies, for years, took a flier on tools and raw upside, with the thought that they could take those guys and turn them into stars. And it hasn’t worked. There is no way to say that Anthony Hewitt would have turned into a star had the Phillies had a better player development group in place, but you’d have to admit the chances would have been higher.

So how do you fix this? Well, you hire a guy with a proven track record in the player development field and then you let him build his staff. You create a plan for the organization regarding player development, and you teach that same plan from AAA down through instructional league. Whether that be how to work counts, how to throw strike 1, or anything else, you start from AAA and you teach the same thing all the way down the line. You also constantly evaluate the guys in your PD group and determine if they are doing what you are trying to implement, and if you can upgrade or bring in a better alternative. You supplement your core team with roving instructors who can supplement the general plan with specified, 1 on 1 plans for your elite prospects. Player development is the foundation you build your house (major league club) on. With the changes around the game and teams being more willing to retain their best guys through their FA years, you need to build a big part of your roster from within, and having the best, most qualified player development group is the necessary starting point. The Phillies need to do a complete overhaul here.

Step 2 – Improve and expand the use of advanced metrics

It appears this one is at least moving forward, and the Phillies have finally joined the rest of MLB in the 21st century. However, it isn’t just about developing some new proprietary metric that measures player value. One area where the Phillies could probably become a leader is investing even more money in sports science and focusing on biomechanics, not just for pitchers, but for all players. Some teams appear to be dabbling in this, but I’m not aware of any team that has made a huge push to add this component to their organization. For those of you who follow European football, you may be aware of the Milan Lab, which was an attempt by one of Italy’s biggest clubs to find a competitive edge with regard to player fitness and keeping players fit and on the field. The Phillies have struggled with injuries as they’ve transitioned from golden age to garbage age. While the mysteries of the elbow and Tommy John surgery may remain a mystery forever, the Phillies may be able to mine value out of a big investment in sports science.

Beyond this new approach to medicine/health, the Phillies obviously need to make a serious commitment to analytics and understanding how to value players properly. It seems they have some sort of plan for this, so I won’t drone on about that.

Step 3 – Clean out the 40 man roster

It seems a fair bet that the Phillies will trade a few guys in the next 6 weeks or so, and they are probably going to try and acquire prospects, not major league assets, so for now, lets just look at what is on the 40 man roster. As you obviously know, managing the 40 man roster is very important. You start the season with 25 guys, and guys get hurt, so you need to be able to draw upon your depth, especially your pitching depth, and carrying dead weight on the 40 man roster limits what you can do.

The 2015 season is a flaming hot dumpster fire. Right now, the goal should be to lose just enough games to finish with the worst record in baseball, and they are comfortably on track in that regard. So, you can use the rest of the 2015 season to look at what is on the 40 man roster and determine which guys are worth keeping. Here are the guys that should certainly be evaluated:

Jesse Biddle – Biddle is only 23, but he’s already getting close to a career crossroads. Its tough to give up on a first round pick, but at some point the Phillies will need to determine if he can at least be a solid major league reliever. Giving him a handful of appearances in August/September might give them a glimpse.

Nefi Ogando – He’s 26. He’s pitched well at AA and is now at AAA. He’s 26. Either he’s going to be useful, and now, or he’s not. When Papelbon is traded, he should be called up and put in the bullpen and the Phillies should determine what he can do.

Seth Rosin, Hector Neris, and Joely Rodriguez – All 3 guys look like longshots to contribute anything of value in the big leagues. Rosin is 26. Neris is 26. Rodriguez is 23.

Aaron Altherr – He’s 24. He’s finally produced this year, putting up a .300/.376/.497 line, but this is his 7th year in the organization. It took him 4.5 years to get above A+ ball. Either he’s a late bloomer and he’s ready to take off now, or he’s not going to be anything more than a cup of coffee guy. There is no reason why he should not be getting semi-regular at bats in the majors after the trade deadline.

There is a whole lot of crap on the 40 man that will presumably be dumped after the 2015 season (Blanco, Jordan Danks, etc) but evaluating the guys who are still on the fringes of the prospect world and figuring out what you have is just as important, because those guys are taking up spots that could be used for other acquired assets.

Step 4 – Obliterate the Latin America/International market in 2016

With the signing of Jhailyn Ortiz and Rafael Marchan, the Phillies are just about at the limit of their allotted bonus pool, which is why they have traded for additional bonus money. It appears their plan is to stay under the cap this year, so they are not limited during the next 2 windows. Of course, the threat of an international draft is there, and what that could mean for teams that are incurring penalties now/in the next year is still unknown. The Phillies can take 1 of 2 approaches: They can choose to go all in now, signing anyone and everyone who comes out of Cuba between now and next July, or they can wait, stay under their cap, and then try to dominate the next window. The Yankees, famously, did this last year, signing tons of guys for big bonuses and spending close to $20m, when their bonus allotment was like 1/10 of that. Most of the top 2015 guys who were eligible to sign on July 2 have already been signed. Some guys in next year’s class probably have verbal deals in place. So if the Phillies are going to act next year, they should start working out those (illegal) deals now. That would mean they would not get involved with any of the Cuban defectors who sign before July 2, 2016 (because that would put them over their limit), so it is certainly a risk they need to measure. But the point is the same: the international market is still one place they can flex their financial muscle. If they wanted to win the bidding for Yasmany Tomas, they could have. If they want the next big thing to come out of Cuba or Japan, they can get them. If the opportunity arises in the next 6 months for the Phillies to sign 2 or 3 potentially elite talents from Cuba (that would count against the international spending pool), then maybe blowing the box for the 2015 window is the right move. If they don’t see those guys, then they should wait for next year and be prepared to spend $15M+ to grab 4 or 5 of the top July 2 talents. Will any of those guys turn into stars? Who knows. But if you sign 5 of them, and even 1 turns into a big league regular, then that pays the bill. Its just money. The Phillies have money.

Step 5 – Rebuild the major league coaching staff

While I highlighted the importance of the player development department, we also need to focus on the major league coaching staff. This obviously starts with the manager, but finding the right hitting coach and pitching coach is just as important, if not more important, since the role of today’s major league manager is more about managing egos and personalities, and less about “teaching the game” on a day to day basis. When Andy McPhail hires a GM, his GM is going to want to hire his own manager. Cool. Just make sure you pick a manager that has some experience managing (major league level isn’t required, but you’d hope the manager has at least some managerial experience in the minors) and more importantly, is willing to implement the strategies and ideas that you, as an organization, are trying to instill throughout the franchise. In other words, don’t hire a manager still rooted in the 70s who isn’t willing to utilize the data and information you have developed.

If you look around the league, you consistently see certain teams producing gems and reclamation projects each season. Mickey Calloway, the Indians pitching coach, has resurrected the careers of Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber, and of course Don Cooper is widely considered one of the best pitching coaches in baseball. If you are the Phillies, a team with huge resources, financial and otherwise, you can afford to go and get these high level, elite coaches. These coaches may end up being more valuable than any free agent you could sign.

Step 6 – Rebuild the major league roster

So, this is the one you were probably most interested in, right? It is obviously very important. I’m not going to suggest which free agents the Phillies should sign this winter, who they should target in trades. Instead, I am going to look at the 25 man roster more philosophically.

* Cole Hamels – This is obviously the big item on everyone’s radar. Right now, if the Phillies cannot get a team to pay fair value for him, then they should keep him. The goal is to rebuild this franchise and do it quickly. Hamels is still young, hes still an elite pitcher, and hes signed to a very good contract both in the short term and long term. If you can turn this thing around and do it in 2 years, then Hamels will still be here and still be at the top (or near top) of his game and can be a part of the next run at success.

The starting rotation – Will be tough to fix overnight. Hamels obviously gives you an ace to start with. I’m going to pencil Aaron Nola in the rotation for 2016. He’ll be up in a few weeks, and I expect he won’t see the minor leagues again. If you look at the rest of the 40 man roster, you probably can’t realistically pencil in any of those guys and expect to get major league average performance. Adam Morgan, in his limited looks, appears capable of being a decent #5 starter. Chad Billingsley could possibly be a #5 starter if he can actually stay healthy, but I wouldn’t count on that. The rest of the options look like 6th starters/AAA guys. That means the Phillies should be in the market for 2 middle of the rotation starters. You can probably get those guys for 4 year deals in the 40-50m range. The Phillies can afford that.

The bullpen – As soon as our long nightmare ends (Papelbon is traded) Ken Giles will ascend to the closer’s role and should be good to go, as long as he can remain healthy. The rest of the bullpen is a shambles. Hiring a new pitching coach, a good pitching coach, may help to get more out of guys like De Fratus, Diekman, and others. A player like Severino Gonzalez might actually be valuable as a 6th/7th inning reliever, even though he won’t make it as a starter. Philosophically, the Phillies should be targeting power arms and hoping the new PD staff and ML coaching staff can smooth out some of the roughness and turn them into assets. While I have reservations about how teams use their bullpen, and while I would love to dream about a world in which the Phillies have a progressive front office and a progressive field staff, I expect the 5 starters/7 relievers model will remain the status quo. It is important to have a mix of guys who can come in and pick up a big strikeout, and the guy who can come in during the 5th inning and give you two solid innings. Some of those pieces might be here, some of them might be in other organizations.

The lineup – Again, I’m not going to get into specific players, but what the Phillies need to do, and what it seems like teams are still afraid to do, is utilize the platoon system, especially at the corners of the infield and outfield. Establishing a solid spine (catcher, second base, shortstop, and centerfield) is critical, and I think stability at those positions is where you have to start. Right now, the Phillies could have 2 of the 4 pieces needed, with JP Crawford (SS) and then Freddy Galvis (2B) for now. A cornerstone centerfielder and catcher should be on the Phillies shopping list this winter. Cameron Rupp looks like a solid backup C, at least while hes cheap, but finding a legit starting catcher should be a priority. If you do not have a potential difference maker at 1B, 3B, LF and RF, that is where you should utilize the platoon route. The Phillies do have a quality guy in Franco, and he should be playing every day until he shows you he isn’t suited to the role. I think he’s going to be a 600+ PA guy a year, so no need to platoon there. At 1B, until Ryan Howard goes, he should play against RHP and a suitable RH batter should be paired up with him. The Phillies don’t really have a LF or RF that warrants 600+ PAs right now. Find out what you have in Altherr, continue to give Dominic Brown PAs for the next 2 months. Cody Asche, Odubel Herrea and Ben Revere are not players you plan around. They are fill-ins until you find a better option.

Given that teams are keeping their superstars and not letting them get to free agency, finding good fits becomes tougher, and those players become more expensive. One way around this is to look for players who have flaws and then maximize what they do well to your advantage. Maybe you can find guys who struggle against same side pitching, but rake against opposite side guys. They’d be exposed playing full time, but in a timeshare, you are getting the best of what they do and minimizing their weaknesses. What this also does, beyond giving you the platoon advantage for the first few innings of the game, is it strengthens your bench. If you are facing a LHP to start a game and you use your righthanded bats to start, you have lefthanded bats on the bench that can be used later to pinch hit. While everyone is looking for the smallest of edges to get ahead, platooning seems like one of those obvious solutions that too few teams utilize. If you have a cornerstone player at 1B, 3B, LF or RF, you obviously don’t want to platoon them, but when you lack that type of player, you can still “build” that type of production with multiple players.

Its tough to go free agent shopping and pick up a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper in today’s game, because teams are locking these guys up earlier and it has thinned out the free agent pool. But elite guys are still available every winter if you are willing to spend. The Phillies, through their glory run, were willing to spend. They were willing to give out the richest contract ever to a reliever. They were willing to give Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee mammoth contracts, and give Ryan Howard a monster contract years before they had to. You can argue how smart any of those moves were, but the point is, the Phillies are not limited by their financial power. When the right guy becomes available, they can offer them a top of the scale contract.

If you do your homework, if you identify what you need and how to properly use it, you can reconstruct a major league roster fairly quickly. The Phillies will be shedding some of their huge bad awful contracts this winter. They have money. They will have the space to make something happen.

Conclusion

For most of my life, the Phillies were nothing more than a source of angst, frustration and yearly disappointment. I was born a year after the Phillies won their first World Series. During my childhood, I saw a lot of bad baseball. 1993 was a mirage in the desert of baseball despair. The 2007-2011 era was a gift. Truly a beautiful gift. But it does not have to be a mirage, an outlier in an otherwise bleak Philadelphia baseball existence. The Phillies are a big market team playing in a city that still loves baseball. 2012 was tough. 2013 was tougher. 2014 was really bad, and 2015 is surely going to be rock bottom. But that is okay. Rock bottom brings us the #1 draft pick. The most draft money to spend, the most international bonus pool money to spend, and the chance to quickly re-stock our minor league system. The Phillies have the financial muscle to do what they need to do. They have an opportunity here to gut the mold and rot out of the organization, build a strong foundation, and quickly turn things around. I mean, I’ve outlined the entire plan here, what else is left but to implement it? Again, Mr. McPhail, you are welcome.

26 thoughts on “The blueprint to rebuild the Phillies

  1. you’re hired!
    seriously though, so well said. especially Step 1- just the need to have an organizational philosophy and plan, that goes through all levels of the organization.
    i’ve admired what John Hart has been doing in Atlanta since he’s taken over, without nearly the financial resources the Phillies have, coming in with a plan, moving some veterans, making some creative deals, even being willing to take on some other teams bad contracts in order to get prospects or competitive balance picks to beef up the farm system.
    hope MacPhail can bring to the Phillies much of what you are calling for here.
    and agree with you on Hamels as well- also from the standpoint having him around might take some pressure off of Nola as he starts his career.

  2. One avenue that could yield one more unpolished gem, is the Rule 5 draft this December.
    The Phillies get the first selection option I believe and with that could get to choose a player that could make the 25 and add some value, ie Odubel Herrera.

  3. Fine job of laying out the basic tenets of a rebuild but if Hamels isn’t moved then the renovation is already hampered.

    He must go. It’s almost inhumane to keep him on this team and one look at what each of the division rivals is doing tells you the Phillies will be nowhere near competitive while he’s still at the top of his game (the next two years).

  4. Step 4…Latin/International market.
    Since 2011 with Tocci’s signing, that phase is in the pipeline. Then there were Deivi Grullon, Jose Pujols, Luis Encarnacion, Arquimedez Gamboa, Jonathan Arauz, Daniel Brito, and Jhailyn Ortiz……all big bonus’ and look promising. And pitchers like Kilome, Pinto, Eduray Ramos and Elniery Garcia all appear to be on the verge of blossoming.
    But all will take at least 3/4 more years before they are on a CBP radar.
    This part of the rebuild appears to be well on its way.
    Add a well experienced and talented Cuban and who knows how fast the turn around can happen.

  5. Completely disagree with you on Step 1, revamping the player development system. Have you been paying attention to how strong the pharm system has become this year, my gosh it is the one shining light in the entire organization. The trio of Jordan, Almaraz and Agostenelli is brilliant and it would be a grave mistake to mess with this group.

    All 3 of them have done a wonderful job. Its at the major league level that we need to changes. Our, scouting, drafting and player development system is doing an outstanding job. It has already been revamped. Leave them alone.

    1. I believe that Matt Winkleman would agree with you based upon his last article. I would not mess with the Latin American scouts or the GCL development team. Based on what Matt said there are too many talented players and not enough positions to play them.

    2. While I agree that the scouting department has done a nice job its a little bit of a stretch to say that the player development has done a wonderful job. The players that are making it through were polished and elite when we got them, not guys we’ve developed into stars. Player Development can use a complete overhaul in this organization.

  6. A fine review of the present status and the urgent need to change philosophies. The signings of many “likely” LA prospects over the last couple of years is beginning to yield some expectations. While Sol Agostino is their primary source for scouting and signing LA’s,it seems to me that our recently hired draft-prospect-finder (Alvarez) should be lending a hand there…as well. Alvarez’ own approach in the draft indicates to me that his evaluations and choices are well worth duplication in the LA area.

    Alvarez’ draft picks have yielded more upticks in new draftees this season than in any previously season within memory. A LARGE step in the right direction there.

    The plan expressed by “me” makes sense and it is not surprising that almost all here would agree. The apparent gain of spending for the Intl free agent for ’16 and ’17 call for a quicker turn-around than how the FO has been so restrained for some time in those markets. See the Cubs and Epstein, and the Braves who have been acting on a similar plan to re-start themselves. Not the proverbial “one year too late” when it comes to cash in your vets for prospects in rebuilding.

    Immediately, the crying need is to be able to fill the pitching staff with, as suggested, with a couple of # 3s-#4 via money spending of which there is sufficient supply now and after the contracts of Hamels, Paps, Revere (?) are moved. And, yes, Altherr MUST be given a shot at our OF (RF?-CF?) certainly no later than Sept. I’d also move up Lino during that time who can accompany Nola.

    In shopping in LA, I’d love to catch a “marvelous” outfielder and some superior pitchers. Add another catcher. The left side of the Phils infield is settled for some years to come, barring injuries. Ortiz is 17 and unlikely to be ready for 4-5 years. in meantime, we have several first basemen who are tearing the cover off the ball in the low minors. Howard? He dropped anchor a few years ago and has never been able to unhook himself and I wonder whether he and another mud-stuck Brown will be with the franchise in ’16.

    The plan suggested is likely to be the one that revivifies the org. IF it is put into effect…and I suspect that “me’s” plan is on board with the FO and Middleton.

    Thanks for the write-up!

  7. dankeely…no, its all interrelated. In fact, Jordan, who is in charge of player development, just talked about he sits in on the meetings with Almaraz and loves what goes on there. Its all related. But even if we take your view, then I say to leave Jordan and his player development skills alone.

    There has been no greater voice of reason and positivity than Jordan over the past couple of years and to suggest that the system hasn’t made major leaps and bounds is to basically deny what we talk about almost on a nightly basis…the list of players who are improving is almost endless.

    Just today [July 12] the pharm system went 5-0, yep all 5 pharm teams won and as just an overview, the following players had big days…Moore, Altherr, Stassi, Dugan, Knapp, Rodriguez, Grullon, Sandberg, Martin, Pujols, Leftwich, Gilbert, Morris, Tocci, Leibrandt and Nunez.

    Heck, these are guys we have been talking about, dreaming about, praying for. Now they are producing. That is because of the player development skills of Joe Jordan, who was brought in a couple of years ago and has been a breath of fresh air ever since.

    My premise remains the same….the player development staff does not need revamping, it needs to be left alone.

    1. I’m not saying they aren’t related. Just that they aren’t the same thing and that it is possible to rework the player development completely without getting rid of Sal and Alvaraz. In fact, the former is extremely highly thought of by everyone and the latter is a new hire who has already had success, so they may be the two most untouchable employees in the entire Phillies organization.

      As for the player development staff, prior to this year it has been tragic how bad they were. This year it’s hard to determine whether we are succeeding in spite of that or there was some kind of change. But there is no denying there has been poor choices and poor handling of players. Look how Dom Brown and Jesse Biddle have been handled. Those were two of our highest rated prospects and now they don’t even look like fringe major leaguers. Now that doesn’t mean its Jordan’s fault, as he’s relatively new as well. But he’s the head of development, so he gets credit for all the failures as well as all the successes. Have we had an acceptable number of successes versus failures under his tenure in your eyes?

  8. CD: there is a big difference between scouting/finding/signing good prospects and developing them within the system once they’ve become members of the org. Until this draft, it seems that our choices in the draft have been terrible and thus not really likely to benefit from instructions because they started out so questionably because they had been looking for “finds”…i.e., athletes they could mold into players. We can readily name several early past draftees who never could learn sufficiently to become anything useful at the MLB level.

    The shift apparently begun with this year’s draft, but getting both Crawford and Nola in the two prior drafts sure helps.

    One thing that I wonder is whether the changes going on in the moving of prospects up to Reading that sure looks like a big change has been going on with some of those elevated.
    Lino came through and now up to AAA LV; Altherr come through Reading and now is doing WELL at LV, too, each of them stopping at Reading for a cup of coffee. Now Knapp may be doing the same thing. Maybe the coaching at Reading is a polishing one.

    Keep watching.

  9. I think you have successfully hit on two biggest areas: 1) player development or lack of and 2) why the phillies players age in dog years and need for something innovative.

  10. Really well written. I disagree with a few things, but thats it. I do think Herrera can be a starter on a good team. Remember, he is still less than a full year out of AA ball. I think he can get better.

    Secondly, not so sure that Lino/Rupp can’t be a formidable catching tandem. With Knapp in the minors, I may be hesitant to go out and spend on a catcher before seeing if Lino can play in the majors. If he can hit .245 and provide the kind of defense he is known for, that is a ML starting catcher.

  11. I agree that Hamels should not be traded unless the Phillies get fair value for him. The question is: what is fair value for Hamels? There appears to be a major difference of opinion between the Phillies and the other teams as to what his trade value is.

    1. Well Hamels has a team friendly contract but nobody wants to pay at least their top prospect.

      The hit articles from Heyman earlier this year suggested a bunch of A ball guys are sufficient which is wrong.

      I have always said that the quality of the first prospect makes up the rest of the package.

      One benefit to the Phillies is how well the teams are doing from AA down to SS. The Phillies can very easily make the argument that they have no room for five to ten prospects at the A+ level and below.

      The strength of the system means the Phillies can ask for higher tier prospects close to The Show. Maybe you get less in number but you get higher quality overall.

      1. As I stated in the past, if Cashman came calling for Hamels…I would be happy with OFer Aaron Judge, LHP Ian Clarkin (now on the DL this year) and catcher Gary Sanchez
        Understand Phillies wanted the above with Luis Severino ilo of Clarkin.
        Yankees have starting pitching concerns so Luis Severino would be off limits according to Cashman.
        . I would substitute Clarkin who also has a high ceiling but has not pitched this year yet.

      2. In the trade conversations a team could push an A ball prospect on the Phillies and Amaro can push back that X player will be moved up and Y player will take his place. You could move him to a new position but Amaro could counter that the team likes Z player for that position.

        It is all part of negotiating and the strength at the lower levels is strengthening Amaro negotiating position for better prospects at the upper levels even if it means taking less guys overall for Hamels.

        This is all the negotiating process.

  12. Thanks for a great write-up, James. I especially appreciate an analysis that can be easily understood by some of the less adept members of this forum, such as myself.

    I would only dare to give my opinions on a few items…

    • I would tend to agree with the arguments to keep the player development staff in place. They have certainly brought the pharm to more respectability.

    • 5th starters: Dave Buchanan IMO should not be overlooked as a permanent candidate; would seem to have as much upside as Morgan if not more; Billingsley, if he achieves his upside at this point in his career could be a 4, but is surely a longshot.

    • Bullpen; Beyond Papelbon (yes, let him toil somewhere else if possible) and Giles, “the rest of the bullpen is a shambles”. This is largely true and a huge disappointment. Diekman has been the biggest letdown. DeFratus, whether because he’s been put into a workhorse role or another reason, has disappointed. We need to find some better arms. Give Ogando a shot, but may have to come from outside the organization until a few of the promising lower farm relievers are ready.

    1. ‘ We need to find some better arms. ‘…Edubray Ramos, now at Reading, is another bullpen arm that could surprise.

    2. Re the closer: Paps does not want to be on this team so he is not representative of its future. Therefore, despite Pap’s contract calling for an option guaranteed with 48 games finished in 2015, is it time to insert Giles into the closer’s role now? Or is this impossible for several reasons, one being it will cause the Phils to operate from a weakened position as to unloading Paps?

  13. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this – I agree with much of what you say.

    On Hamels, you say he’s young, but he isn’t – he’s probably at least 2/3 of the way done with his career and I just don’t see the Phillies becoming good enough to compete for a playoff spot again while he’s on this contract so it’s beneficial to trade him. I agree that you don’t have to trade him at the deadline if the price isn’t right but they really should trade him before next season begins. Assuming his last start is not the sign of a major implosion, Cole Hamels should command a good package from a team hungry for a WS and that combined with salary relief should benefit the team.

    Agree on the major league coaching staff – I think it’s generally horrible (Bob McClure is a joke – just as he was in Boston) and I could not agree more that the team needs to make a priority of having the finest coaching and developmental people money can buy – it will pay the team back in terms of long term success of their players and prospects. To me, the first sign the team was getting arrogant and not properly valuing effective coaching was when they let Davey Lopes walk. Why would you do that? Davy Lopes may be the best baserunning coach in history – whatever you pay him he is worth that much and more in terms of added runs. When Ruben got into a semi-public pissing match with Lopes and allowed him to leave, I thought to myself “this isn’t good, why can’t Amaro swallow his pride a little and find a way to keep this guy?” It’s not that, by himself, the loss of Davy Lopes significantly harmed the team, it’s that the team became self-satisifed and started to ignore the little advantages it needed to make it itself more competitive. It’s one of the many “thousand cuts” that has caused the team to hemorage and decay.

  14. Thanks James. As always, it is great to read what you have to say. Catch, I agree with you. I never understood the Lopes deal. It was supposed to be over a small, in Baseball terms, amount of $. It mystifies me that they waited this long to hire McPhail. If he was on board prior to the season, then Amaro would be out, new guy would have had until now to decide on Hamels/Pap trades, and while the product would be as awful this year, they would be a little ahead. Instead, there is now a 3rd wheel deciding on trades, which makes no sense at all. Now, it could be that it took this long for the Middleton/Buck guys to fully take charge, but trades should start happening right now. Start with Pap and Revere.

  15. Actually, by far (and I mean, by FAR) the most important thing for this team to do right now is hire the right general manager.

    David Murphy actually wrote a very good article on this today in the paper – and while I don’t agree with everything he says, his main point is that MacPhail needs to hire the right GM, and I could not agree more. One thing I really liked about the news conference the other week is that the Phillies seemed to insist that MacPhail adopt modern analytics and force the team to be forward looking. I also liked that MacPhail was humble in admitting that these things were very important even if he didn’t always understand them fully and things had to be explained to him. His message was this “look, I’m smart and I’m experienced, but I’ve been out of the game for a while and there are some developments that I don’t understand now and didn’t understand all that well when I was in my last job, but they are important and I’m go to read, watch, listen, and get myself up to speed so I can move the entire organization forward.” I’m not sure he could have sent any better message than that. I was impressed by the message, his demeanor and obviously, his vast experience. And the thing I kept reminding myself when I had thoughts that the team was a bit too conservative in hiring him is that he’s the President of the team, not the GM. The President should have a longer and more varied background and some gravitas – let the GM be the vanguard thinker (hopefully). But when you look at the Phillies organization as a whole and realize that, long term, they are replacing Montgomery with Andy MacPhail – that’s a huge plus for the team. In concept, I think they’ve done a good job. Now Andy has to exercise some foresight and pick the right GM.

  16. James, that is a heck of a lot of over simplification. My goodness, you can’t be dumb enough to think that it could be that easy. If it were that easy, there would be no crap teams.

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