The Phillies got old in a hurry. In a span of four years, they went from a World Series contender to possibly being one of the worst teams in the league. They signed all their stars to lucrative long-term contracts during that time. The worst-case scenario played out and they are all nearly immovable in a trade.
Manager Ryne Sandberg took over after Charlie Manuel was fired mid-season in 2013. He’s great with younger talent, but he might not be able to keep his job during the transition. They need to move the big contracts for a few decent prospects, but dumping money is more important.
Can the Phillies find a trade partner for Ryan Howard?
Here is the 2015 MLB season preview for the Philadelphia Phillies.
2014 Win/Loss Record: 73-89
Key Additions: SP Chad Billingsley, SP Aaron Harang, OF Jordan Danks, RP Jeanmar Gomez, SP Kevin Slowey, 2B Chris Nelson, OF Chris Bogusevic & OF Jeff Francoeur
Key Losses: SS Jimmy Rollins, OF Marlon Byrd, SP A.J. Burnett, RP Antonio Bastardo, SP Kyle Kendrick, C Wil Nieves, RP Mike Adams, OF Tony Gwynn Jr., 3B Reid Brignac, RP Jeff Manship & RP B.J. Rosenberg
Interleague Schedule: AL East
Projected Starters: Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Cody Ashce, Freddy Galvis, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere & Grady Sizemore
Projected Starting Rotation: Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang, David Buchanan & Jerome Williams
Closer: Jonathan Papelbon
Fantasy Sleeper: 1B/OF Darin Ruf – John Mayberry Jr. isn’t on the roster and Phillies don’t have much outfield depth. Ruf can fill-in for Sizemore in right field, as well as spell Ryan Howard at first base. Ruf hits left-handed pitching well, but struggles against righties. He did hit righties well one season in the minors, but that might be an outlier. He does have some power which is why he’s an interesting sleeper.
Prospect To Keep Your Eye On: 3B Maikel Franco – Franco got a September call-up last season, but he batted .179 in 56 at-bats (only two extra-base hits). The 22-year old shot through the minors since signing with the Phillies as a 17-year old. He has gotten better with age, but he could need some extra seasoning in Triple-A to start the season. Current third baseman Cody Asche did well enough last season to keep his job. Franco will be up at some point, but the Phillies have no need to rush him.
Team Analysis: The Phillies are in full-blown rebuilding mode. This isn’t the situation Ryne Sandberg hoped the team would be in when he took the job. Philly looked like they had a few more seasons left in Howard, Rollins & Utley, but the three former All-Stars all hit a wall.
The Phillies don’t have three major pieces from last season: Rollins, Burnett and Byrd. They didn’t exactly replace them with anybody of note either. I expect them to be sellers all season long. Domonic Brown has been rumored to be on the trading block since before he made his MLB debut. The streaky outfielder will be traded this season. I also look for them to pull the trigger on Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon as well. I know Cole Hamels could get more in return, but I think they hold onto him.
The perennial basement-dwelling teams in the AL East all got much better in the last two seasons. The Phillies should end the season in last place by a wide margin. As much as I hate to say this, I also expect Sandberg to get a pink slip by year’s end.
2015 Wins Over/Under Betting Line: 68.5 (Prediction: UNDER)
2015 Projected Win/Loss Record: 60-102 (5th NL East)
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.