"I wouldn't think '15 or '16," Gillick told the network, when asked when the team might contend. "So I think somewhere around 2017, 2018."
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was not blindsided by the comments. The Phillies have discussed those feelings internally for some time, and they publicly have alluded to a more long-term plan since president David Montgomery took a medical leave of absence and Gillick became interim president in late August, saying that anything and everything is on the table, including the possibility of moving on from core players like Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
Nevertheless, it is a stark shift in philosophy. Amaro often said during the season that the organization does not believe it can afford a full-out rebuilding process.
"July is July and October is October," Amaro said Friday afternoon about the change in tone. "We've been talking about a lot of things internally. Through the process we've been discussing internally a lot about the best ways to proceed, and it's pretty clear that we have had a shift.
"I know we have to do some things differently, which is certainly the plan. It's clear that it may take some time. How long it will take, who knows? Pat kind of speculated when he said those numbers. They're not etched in stone. But we've got some regrouping, rebuilding -- whatever you want to call it. There's things that we have to do that are different."
The Phillies are expected to be active in the offseason. They will not be afraid to pull the trigger on trading Hamels, if they find a deal that makes sense. They will listen to offers for Rollins and Utley, even though they have full no-trade rights.
They certainly will try to move Howard, who has $60 million remaining on his contract.
Rollins and Utley have said they would not waive their no-trade rights because they believe the organization will win. But now that Gillick has predicted winning is at least a couple of years away, perhaps their minds will change.
"You'd have to ask them about that," Amaro said. "It's possible.
"Again, our job is to try to make improvements and we're probably looking more long term than short term in our improvements. What our roster will look like in April depends on a lot of different things. But I have confidence we'll be very active, but whether we'll be able to do certain things we want to remains to be seen."
One move that could improve the team in the short and long term is Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas. Sources said the Phillies are serious players for Tomas. He could command $100 million, but the Phillies have the money to spend, and with no outfield prospects knocking on the door, it is something that makes sense for them.
"We know the player," Amaro said. "We've talked to the agent. We know who he is and we've scouted him, and that's about the extent of what I can give you."
Amaro is entering the final year of his contract, and he has been under fire from fans for the past couple of years. A rebuilding effort is not an ideal situation for a GM on the hot seat, but he said he feels no pressure.
Maybe the shift in philosophy will help him. If the Phillies improve next year without entering the season under the pretense they can win a championship, perhaps he will keep his job.
"My job is to try to make the improvements," Amaro said. "If we've decided we're going to improve long term rather than short term then that's what we'll do. That's what we're championed to do. And that's what we feel is necessary to get us back on track. Our job is to try to be a perennial contender. We made the assessment that with the group we have right now there are changes that have to be made to get there. And so that's our job at hand. As Pat said, we are keeping all of our options open and we're not going to limit ourselves with the options that might be out there."