PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies experienced a seismic philosophical shift in 2014.
Back in February, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, the Phillies pushed forward with their belief they could earn a postseason berth. So on the eve of Spring Training in Clearwater, Fla., they signed A.J. Burnett to a one-year, $16 million contract. They believed a rotation with Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Burnett and a healthy lineup with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard would return the Phillies to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
But the Phillies could not slow the aging process, despite their best efforts with a franchise-record payroll of more than $180 million. They lost 89 games, finishing in last place in the National League East for the first time since 2000.
The Phillies' front office got the picture and finally decided it needs to rebuild for the future, which is where it stands today. The Phillies are trying to trade their longtime veterans for prospects with an eye on postseason contention in 2017 at the earliest.
It certainly was not the season the Phillies expected, but here is a look back at the top five storylines from the year:
5. Overestimated offense
The Phillies thought if they could keep Rollins, Utley, Howard and Carlos Ruiz healthy; if they could get newcomer Marlon Byrd to repeat the season he had in 2013 with the Mets and Pirates; if they could get Domonic Brown to repeat his All-Star season in 2013; if Cody Asche could develop at a nice pace; and if Ben Revere could pick up where he left off before he suffered a broken right ankle in July 2013; the offense could be one of the better ones in the NL. Instead the offense tied for ninth in the NL in runs (619). The Phillies finished 11th in on-base percentage (.302), 13th in slugging percentage (.363) and 12th in OPS (.665). They finished fourth in strikeouts (1,306), despite finishing ninth in home runs (125) and 12th in extra-base hits (403). The game has shifted toward pitching and the Phillies simply did not have a good enough offense to compete.
4. Emerging bullpen
The Phillies have a dearth of talent in the Minor League system, but some of their young relief pitchers started to develop nicely. The list starts with right-hander Ken Giles, who should have garnered more attention for NL Rookie of the Year. He throws hard, overpowering hitters in nearly every at-bat. He is the team's closer of the future. Left-handers Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands and right-hander Justin De Fratus also put together solid seasons, giving the Phillies a potential strength in 2015. Jonathan Papelbon will remain the closer, if he returns in 2015. But Giles is a star in the making.
3. Can't keep pace with Cole
Cole Hamels had another remarkable season, despite a 9-9 record. He finished fifth in the NL with a 2.46 ERA. He finished eighth in innings, despite opening the season on the disabled list. He finished 12th in WHIP (1.15) and 16th in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.36). He remained one of the elite pitchers in baseball, but he could not overcome an overall disappointing performance by the rotation. Lee was hurt much of the season, while Burnett led the league in losses (18) and walks (96). Kyle Kendrick also underperformed in his free-agent season.
2. Rollins passes Schmidt
Rollins unquestionably is one of the greatest players in franchise history, and on June 14 he passed Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt for the most hits in franchise history. Schmidt congratulated Rollins on the field in one of the season's highlights. Rollins ranks among the top in almost every offensive category in Phillies history, a testament to his productivity and longevity.
1. A legend is traded
It happened months after the Phillies recorded their final out of the regular season, but the Phillies trading Rollins to the Dodgers is unquestionably the biggest story of the year. Rollins is regarded as one of the most influential players in Phillies and Philadelphia sports history. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big league debut in 2000 and quickly established himself as one of the better shortstops in the game. He memorably proclaimed the Phillies the "team to beat" before the 2007 season and backed up his words, pushing the club to its first NL East title since 1993 on his way to winning the NL MVP Award. He helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series, two NL pennants and five NL East titles. Trading him signifies the end of arguably the most storied run in Phillies history.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.