The shock emanating from the disastrous last year-and-a-half have many Phillies fans scratching their heads wondering what the future holds.
Unless traded at some point this summer, Chase Utley, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz and Delmon Young are among the everyday Philadelphia players set to hit free agency in 2014.
As the non-waiver trade season heats up, Utley and Michael Young are among the cast of players in demand. The market is thin for catcher Ruiz, but Zach Links of MLB Trade Rumors.com believes the New York Yankees could be a possible destination for the 34-year-old backstop.
Meanwhile, absolutely no market exists for Delmon Young. Reserve player Laynce Nix is set to part ways with Philadelphia following the season as well.
Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently declared his intention of keeping Utley "in our uniform for the rest of his career, if possible." However, Utley would be 35 years old in 2014, far from the ripe spring chicken he was when the Phillies brought home the Commissioner's Trophy in 2008.
According to FanGraphs, Utley's Wins Above Replacement (WAR) has drastically fell from his peak seasons of 2008-09, going from 8.0 to 2.5 in 2013. The annual reduction in WAR is attributed to the multitude of injuries which run concurrent to his rapid aging on the diamond.
Needless to say, Utley is no longer as indispensable as he once was. Rather, he should be auctioned off to the highest bidder in order to net the most profitable return in terms of prospects. The same can be said of the fluttering Young and Ruiz.
With the aforementioned changes considered, what does the future hold for Philadelphia?
There are four things we do know. First, Ryan Howard is not going anywhere. Second, Jimmy Rollins will be back to man shortstop. Third, Domonic Brown is the best thing going for the Phillies moving forward. Finally, Ben Revere is here to stay at center field.
In a perfect world, Cody Asche would be ready to man the hot corner next April with Tommy Joseph making plays behind the plate. Cesar Hernandez appears to be the near-term heir apparent to Utley.
After being named to the International League all-star squad, both Asche and Hernandez are expected to see "a bit more development time" in the minors before they are expected to reach the majors.
On the other hand, Joseph continues to have setbacks with tje concussion he suffered on May 4, landing back on the disabled list. If the Joseph's concussion proves to be as detrimental as the concussion suffered by Justin Morneau and Brian Roberts, Joseph may have a long way to go in returning to the potential he showed when he came to Philadelphia in the Hunter Pence trade last year.
Without a plethora of special talent expected to be available in free agency, the Phillies may have to look inward in order to round out their lineup next season.
Without further ado, here is the projected lineup for the Phillies in 2014.
- CF Ben Revere (L)
- 2B Cesar Hernandez (S)*
- SS Jimmy Rollins (S)
- 1B Ryan Howard (L)
- LF Domonic Brown (L)
- RF John Mayberry (R)*
- 3B Cody Asche (L)
- C John Buck (R)**
Obviously, the Phillies would have a serious power problem at the top of their lineup. Hernandez has already seen 28 plate appearances with the Phillies, but he is more useful defensively. If he can develop a better bat, he is a seamless fit for the No. 2 hole in 2014.
Of course, the Phillies could pursue a second baseman in free agency if they choose to let Utley walk (or he is traded). However, the group of potential free agent second basemen is less than thrilling. Why offer Alexi Casilla a contract when Hernandez can provide the same projected numbers at a much more inexpensive and efficient cost?
Let's not forget that Freddy Galvis remains a candidate for second base as well. Owning an outstanding glove, Galvis could be useful at certain points, but his .217 batting average is putrid.
Meanwhile, Mayberry can be projected to platoon in right field. His position in the lineup can be attributed to the fact that the Phillies lack right-handed hitters. Minor leaguer Darin Ruf is an option here, but his defense remains suspect.
The Phillies are expected to pursue an outfielder in the offseason, and lefty Ryan Sweeney could be a possibility to fill a void in situational hitting.
For projection purposes, the Phillies are likely to pursue catching help via free agency. With Ruiz's contract set to expire, the only immediate internal options are Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero. Joseph is highly unlikely to open 2014 as the Phillies' starting catcher and the combination of Kratz and Quintero is negligible at best.
The options to make a big splash in free agency are simply not there for the Phillies. While Robinson Cano is expected to remain with the Yankees, Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz could be pursued, but they are likely to demand more money than the Phillies will be willing to shell out. Both sluggers are on the wrong side of 30 and come with potential injury issues.
If anything, Phillies fans can look forward to 2014 as being another stage in the rebuilding process in Philadelphia while lingering reminders of the franchise's recent glorious past continue to take the field.
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