Where the Phillies Should Go From Here
It seems as if Ruben has finally realized it is time for significant changes. What that means, exactly, remains unknown. But since it’s a long time until pitchers and catchers report, here is my plan to improve the Phillies. This will not improve them in one season, or even two or three, but it is what will put them back on that path instead of where they are now, which is meandering into irrelevancy.
- Trade or release Ryan Howard– In order to trade him, the Phillies would have to eat almost all of his remaining contract: two more years at $25 million and then a buyout. Even then it is a shaky proposition if a team would even be interested. His OPS was very low for someone who doesn’t give you anything else. It was lower than any American League first baseman with enough at-bats. Therefore, the only real option would be to release him. I know the Phillies would hate to do this as they have so much money invested still in him, but to move forward they have to get rid of him. Legitimate prospects like Ruf and Franco need at bats by playing at first base. The team doesn’t need Howard sulking when he doesn’t play everyday for the next two years. He’s going to be paid regardless, so don’t feel bad for him. He had a great career here, but now can spend time finishing his enormous mansion and going to Home Depot to pick out paint colors.
- Trade Cole Hamels– I’ve said this already, but it needs to be done. Sure, I’d love to watch Hamels pitch for the next few years, but the fact is that the Phillies will not be competitive over the life of his contract, so they might as well trade him for the best possible package. His trade value is as high as it ever will most likely be after the great year he had. Jayson Stark feels there are enough suitors out there. They certainly shouldn’t give him away, and if they have to wait until next year’s deadline, then so be it. But he has to go, too.
- Sign the Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas–I’ve written about this already, too. Yes, it will cost them a lot of money. But they have a lot of money. The guy is 24 and they have precious few outfield prospects.
- Give Dom Brown One More Chance– He’s too young to totally give up on, but I think we’ve seen what he can do. However, because the team doesn’t have any real big-time outfield prospects, they can afford to run him out there again. But if it’s a repeat of last year by the All-Star break, then trade him for a similar “change-of-scenery” prospect. They did that in the Greg Golson for John Mayberry, Jr. trade, and they got the better of that deal (even though Mayberry, Jr. was not great). In the meantime, I would try to start one of the outfield prospects they do have, either Cameron Perkins or Kelly Dugan. I know I am reaching here because Perkins was pretty bad at AAA and Dugan has not yet been to AAA, but I think fans want to see what these guys can do, and there’s no better way to learn to hit big-league pitching then to face it. If the Phillies have no chance next year, which they don’t, then it’s okay if they struggle. They can’t be much worse than Dom Brown was last year and he stayed the whole season. Dugan was their first pick one year, so he should be first. He probably would have been called up by now, but he’s gotten injured every season.
- Do A Better Job Giving Utley and Rollins a Break– Utley had an amazing start last year but faded badly. If Ruf can play at first, then Ache and/or Galvis can spell Utley sometimes at second, if you play Asche and Franco at third. This may or may not help Utley, but they can try. The same goes for Rollins.
Lastly, the Phillies have to make a commitment to rebuilding. Not this “we’re worried to say we’re rebuilding because the fans might not like it and not come to the games” nonsense. The fans are already not coming in droves. Many have commented how boring the team is to watch, too. Most knowledgeable fans realize this, I think, and will be okay with it as long as it does not last as long as the rebuilding period of the Pirates or Royals. With Pat Gillick getting final say on decisions, I feel better than if it was just Amaro alone. It’s going to take time, and it won’t be pretty, but this is the strategy the team has to pursue.