New Directions in Philadelphia

For Phillies fans, the 2015 season was a summer of baseball discussions primarily revolving around draft positions, rebuilding, and tanking. The team entered the All-Star Break with a nearly unfathomable 29-62 record and a 9 ½ game lead on the race for the #1 pick in the 2016 draft. The dispiriting race to the bottom tightened throughout the second half, but in the end the Phillies secured their rightful place on the Losingest Team in Baseball throne. Now, with just one relatively minor off-season move, it already appears as though the tide is beginning to change and we may need to search for new talking points in the 2016 season.

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Odubel Herrera Shutout in ROY Voting

In a typical year, a Rule 5 guy hitting .297/.344/.418 with 3.9 fWAR and 3.8 rWAR would be an absolute lock to receive Rookie of the Year votes, if not win the whole dang thing. Unfortunately for Odubel Herrera, this was not a typical year. As I noted last week in a piece for The Hardball Times, the percentage of league WAR contributed by rookies in 2015 was the highest it’s been since World War II. The elite rookie class and Rookie of the Year ballots limited to just three names made it extraordinarily difficult to grab NL ROY votes this year. Check out the NL contenders by WAR* Leaderboards:

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Phillies Reportedly Interested in Marcell Ozuna

Christian Moreno of ESPN Deportes reported on Thursday that the Phillies have interest in trading for Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna struggled in the first half of the season before being demoted to Triple-A New Orleans in early July.

There’s more to Ozuna’s demotion than performance. Team owner Jeffrey Loria didn’t want to play Ozuna due to playing time concerns, and former GM and manager Dan Jennings played Ozuna against Loria’s wishes, as USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale reported. That led to Jennings’ dismissal at the end of October.

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2015 Phillies Report Cards Anthology

Since the beginning of October, we’ve been posting a report card for nearly every player to don Phillies red pinstripes in 2015. At long last, the list has been exhausted (as are we). If you missed any of them, use the convenient list below. Each author’s name is a link to his or her Twitter account, so make sure you’re following all of us!

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Crash Bag, Vol. 5: The 2016 Phillies

The Crash Bag is back just in time for Hot Stove season! After a disastrous and depressing season of 99 losses, the Phillies enter a strange new world. The next Phillies team will be the first without Jimmy Rollins or Chase Utley since 1999. There’s a lot to look forward to, so let’s get to it.

If we’re all very good girls and boys, September 2016 will be J.P. Crawford time. I’m not expecting him to be Carlos Correa as a rookie, but considering the options and the implications on his development, I don’t see Crawford batting eighth. If he and Nick Williams come along as expected, I imagine the lineup may look something like this: Continue reading…

It’s Time To Let Howard Go

There will be a day when Ryan Howard is no longer employed by the Philadelphia Phillies. The ill-fated contract extension which kicked in during the 2012 season and, at the time, seemed interminable is, in fact, terminable. The Phillies may opt to keep Howard through the natural conclusion of his contract after the 2016 season or, as has been rumored for nearly half a decade, they may decide to trade or release him. Since 2012, Howard has been a neutral or negative contributor to the Phillies by WAR but removing him from the roster was never previously a priority.

Keeping Howard made sense for a few reasons (beyond the obvious that no other team was itching to acquire him): he wasn’t blocking a prospect, the team was paying him regardless, and the team wasn’t competitive. However, the 2015 season was in many ways a transition year for the Phillies and they will enter 2016 as a franchise with new priorities. A franchise which can no longer afford to keep Ryan Howard on the roster. This winter, it’s time to finally say goodbye to the man who is second to only Michael Jack Schmidt in home runs in Phillies history.

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Phillies Willing to Trade Ken Giles

Yesterday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Phillies have made closer Ken Giles available in a trade. GM Matt Klentak confirmed Heyman’s report, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Giles is 25 years old, under team control through 2020, and has put up back-to-back stellar seasons. That teams might be interested, and that the Phillies would make him available, should come as no surprise. As Heyman points out, the free agent market for relievers is notoriously weak, which has prompted the trade market to perk up. The Reds are expected to make Aroldis Chapman available, as are the Padres with Craig Kimbrel, the Nationals with Jonathan Papelbon, and others.

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2015 Phillies Report Card: Ryne Sandberg

He wanted to win. I sat down to write my final report card and tasked myself with the following: find one positive thing to say about Ryne Sandberg‘s managerial tenure. The negatives of his stint as a Phillies manager are copious enough to fill an entire (boring, depressing, and unreadable) book, but from time to time our dialogue on baseball devolves into black-and-white Hot Takes. I know my own analysis of Sandberg has been more than a little Hot Take-y at times, so I give you this: He wanted to win. He really, really wanted to win. Unfortunately, that was never his job in Philadelphia.

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Free Agent Pitching Targets for the Phillies

Despite having made several headlines in recent months as the front office has molted, the Phillies portend to have a relatively quiet off-season. Nearly all of their trade candidates have already been moved — Cole Hamels to Texas, Chase Utley to Los Angeles, Jonathan Papelbon to Washington. Many roster spots are now spoken for by younger, less-proven players and the next stage of the Phillies’ rebuilding process is to help these players develop into major league-caliber players.

It is enticing to pore over the list of free agents and envision many of them donning Phillies red pinstripes, but the David Prices, Zack Greinkes, and Jason Heywards of the world will be getting their contracts elsewhere. The Phillies, as has been common for them over the past couple of years, will be hunting for bargains — inexpensive, risk-free targets not to star, but instead to support their youth.

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