The most encouraging thing about the offseason is that interim president Pat Gillick and general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. have acknowledged in recent weeks that the organization rode the core from the 2008 World Series championship team too far. In the past few offseasons, the front office thought the Phillies would win if everybody stayed healthy and the club surrounded Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz with productive complementary pieces. But that is no longer reality.
Rollins, Utley and Howard will be regarded as the greatest Phils at their respective positions in franchise history, but they can no longer carry a team on their shoulders. That is an important first step for the front office. It doesn't mean the Phillies will turn their fortunes in one winter, but they should have a clearer picture of what they need to do to improve.
Who is going to be in the Phillies' outfield next season?
-- Matt S., Boston
It would be very surprising if Marlon Byrd, Ben Revere and some combination of Domonic Brown, Darin Ruf and Grady Sizemore are all back. At least one new outfielder, maybe two, is likely. Phillies left fielders have a combined .620 on-base plus slugging percentage, which is 28th in the Majors. Brown's .652 OPS is the lowest among qualifying left fielders since Juan Pierre's .650 OPS in 2011. If the Phils move on from Brown, they could platoon Ruf and Sizemore. Revere had to hit at a .363 clip from June 26 through Sept. 5 to get his season OPS to .694, which is 19th out of 26 qualifying center fielders.
Manager Ryne Sandberg stopped short last week when asked if Revere is viewed as a bona-fide everyday center fielder in the National League. The feeling here is that the front office would like to upgrade at center field, if possible, because Revere almost needs to hit at a .350 clip to be productive, since he lacks power and is a liability defensively due to his weak arm.
Byrd has been productive; his .765 OPS is 12th out of 27 qualifying right fielders. But if the Phillies are not going to contend next season, it would make sense to trade him for a piece or two that could help in the future. Of course, the Phils tried to trade Byrd before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline without success. In fact, sources said Philadelphia could not get anything close to a top 10 prospect in any team's farm system for him. Byrd will make $8 million next season and has an $8 million club option in 2016 that vests automatically based on plate appearances. Byrd, who has 617 plate appearances this year, needs 550 plate appearances next year to vest the '16 option.
That is an issue for interested teams because Byrd will be 38 at the end of next season. Look for the Phillies to take a run at Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas, who is a free agent. If they like him, they are prepared to pay him because the crop of free-agent outfielders is relatively weak (Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Michael Morse, Colby Rasmus, Michael Cuddyer, Jonny Gomes and Josh Willingham) and the Phils have nobody coming through the system.
Do you think the Phillies will trade Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason?
-- John D., Philadelphia
They will try hard to trade him, but Papelbon's contract and his recent seven-game suspension will make it more difficult than it should be. Papelbon will make $13 million next season and has a $13 million club option for 2016 that automatically vests with 100 games finished across 2014 and '15. (The right-hander has finished 50 games this season.)
Papelbon remains one of the game's elite closers, but the perception that he is a problem in the clubhouse permeates the game. Surprisingly, Papelbon has been a tremendous influence on the team's young relievers all season. But owners and GMs from other teams flinch when they see Papelbon's behavior and hear other stories.