Despite being one of the few remaining fools refusing to give up on the 2012 season until the door is actually slammed shut, I also realize this this Phillies team has glaring holes that need correcting this winter.
Their fall from the pinnacle of baseball—102 wins and an all-but-certain trip to the World Series—has been sudden and epic, but their return to the top of the mount can be just as quick and dramatic.
With a few tweaks, instead of a major overhaul, the Phillies can easily continue contending for World Championships.
A lot of what went wrong in Philadelphia this year—Ryan Howard missing the first half of the season; Roy Halladay injuring his shoulder and struggling to find his grove; Cliff Lee’s absolutely astonishing season—are unlikely to repeat themselves in 2013.
(Please note there was no mention of Chase Utley, who I fully expect to be ready to go until the last moment, when it’s decided he needs two to three months of rehab in order to play the game at half the player he once was.) And most of the other issues the Phillies faced this year are easily fixed, especially for a club with money to spend in free agency.
In recent seasons a lot has been made of the Phillies' ownership group’s apparent refusal to exceed the luxury tax threshold (not that it has stopped them from adding payroll when needed). With the trades of Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton this summer, the team will avoid paying the fine once again this year.
However, they have almost no chance of doing so again in 2013, and with the tax threshold raised for the 2014 season to $189 million (from $178 million), that gives the Phillies an extra $11 million in “cap” space.
Without any big-name arbitration-eligible players (i.e., Cole Hamels, Hunter Pence), the Phillies theoretically could add two or three impact players without exceeding their budget. However, not all that ills this club can be corrected in free agency.
Without any further adieu, here are the four steps I believe the Phillies must take in order to return them to the National League powerhouse they were only a year ago.