Postseason baseball seemed like a lifetime away, but MacPhail, speaking to reporters this weekend at AT&T Park, said his time since the sweep has been better than he anticipated.
"I'm actually more encouraged today than I ever would have dreamed I would have been after my first month with the Phillies," MacPhail said. "The [2015 non-waiver] Trade Deadline acquisitions helped springboard this process, accelerate the rebuilding process. And looking at it now 10 months after that process, the progress that some of those guys have made [in] our system and some of the guys we already had in the system have made … you really can't ask for a lot more."
The Phillies enter Monday's series opener in Arizona at 32-45, which is not a surprise to anybody, including MacPhail. The team is rebuilding and expected to struggle. But the Phillies' farm system is developing its prospects like it hoped, and its Minor League teams are winning, which has him encouraged.
Some of those prospects could be in the big leagues before the end of the season.
"I'm not going to be the final arbiter of that," MacPhail said. "My hope would be as the team president that we would be able to introduce players that deserve the opportunity to be here. And I know that it's important to [general manager] Matt [Klentak] and baseball operations that once we get them here, we want them to stay here. We want to give them every opportunity to succeed when they get here. And that means you need to build up their repetitions in the Minor Leagues to give them that opportunity."
Opportunities for prospects could arise following the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, although the Phillies do not have the pressure to trade players like last season, when they had Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley on the roster.
They will listen, but they also will not dump a veteran like Jeremy Hellickson for a fringe prospect.
They would trade Ryan Howard, but that's unlikely. Howard is expected to finish the season with the Phillies.
"To me, [Howard is] one of our 25 best guys right now in the role he's in," MacPhail said. "I don't think Matt or I see this thing as teetering. [Manager] Pete [Mackanin] has done a magnificent job of handling the situation. I know people are sometimes critical of us not getting involved, but we don't want to [undercut] the manager or the coaching staff. He has to write the lineups. We can't get him off the hook on certain things. That's the beauty of being a manager. When the players know the manager writes the lineups, the manager has an opportunity to influence the events."
But certainly MacPhail, Klentak and the rest of the Phillies' front office have begun to discuss their offseason plans.
Do they hit the free-agent market? Do they wait, giving prospects more opportunities to sink or swim?
"We won't shun the free-agent market by any stretch," MacPhail said. "If we can find something that makes sense for us and is a nice fit, we would do it, certainly in the pitching corner. If there's a position where we don't think we're as deep, then we can fill in with somebody now. We're going to have some flexibility, so I think we have every intention of trying to understand the market and what might make sense for us. In addition to that, it may not come in the form of a free-agent signing, but a club might be making a trade to either free up money or anticipate a player becoming a free agent they don't think they can sign. Maybe we think we can."
The perception around baseball is that the Phillies are a giant lying in wait, ready to pounce when the time is right to strike. It might not be this winter, but after this season, the Phillies will have very few payroll commitments. Combine that with an ownership that has shown in the past that it is willing spend, and the Phillies could go big.
"We hope so," MacPhail said. "But you've been around long enough to know how things look now and what people's perception of the system is now and what ultimately happens. They can be two different things. But I'm aware of that, and I certainly hope that's the case. We're going to do everything we can to try to make it be the case.
"The baseball operations group is very thoughtful. They are not going to shy away from opportunities today if they think it's going to make sense for the future. In other words, there's no lying low on purpose for a year and not doing anything. If something comes up that we think, 'Boy this fits in our window,' let's go."