After a season that saw them post the third worst record in baseball, the Phillies will spend this off-season filling holes and bringing the team one step closer to contention. We can talk all we want about starting pitchers, bullpen fortification, a strong outfield, and the infield log jam, but none of that matters if they can’t play the game the right way.
The Phillies are a young club, and it shows. According to baseballreference.com, the Phillies average age was 26.7 for the 2017 season. Let’s look at the positives of that number first.
You have players who are just entering their prime, or are still a couple of years off. Guys like Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr, Aaron Nola, and Odubel Herrera will form the next core of this team. They showed tremendous potential last season, and it’s exciting to think about what they can do in 2018 and beyond. If all goes well, they will here for many years.
Second, this young talent will attract big name free agents to Philadelphia. The 2018 free agent class is one of the best in history, including players such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, and Andrew Miller. Philadelphia would be an attractive place for these guys to sign with a young nucleus of players who could be on the verge of making a run. One of these free agents could be the piece the Phillies need to get them over the top.
Now the bad.
Watching the Phillies this season was excruciating at times, and it all came down to their age. There were too many errors, both physical and mental. Errors that smart, veteran players don’t make. Poor baserunning, not working the count, not knowing what to do when the ball is hit. We saw these mistakes and others time and time again. These mistakes can be corrected by guys who have been here and done this before. The only problem is the Phillies don’t have much veteran leadership on this team, guys who have been around the block and know the right way to play the game.
If the Phillies can sign one of these veterans, the product on the field will see a big improvement.
There’s a few guys who should be available at the end of this season. Jayson Werth is on his last legs with Washington, but I don’t see him coming back. Other free agents that can make an impact include Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and J.D. Martinez. All of these players have serious post season experience and can set an example for all the green players the Phillies have.
There’s one other name that would make a lot of sense; Chase Utley. What is there to say about “The Man” that Philadelphia fans don’t already know? He’s a grinder, well respected, and a bona fide leader. And even in the twilight of his career, he sets the example for what it means to be a Major Leaguer. Just ask the Dodgers.
I think Utley never should have left the Phillies. Just like I think Brian Dawkins never should have left the Eagles. And yes, the chances of him coming back are slim. But whether it’s Utley, Werth, one of the free agents mentioned earlier, or someone else entirely, the Phillies need veteran leadership.
They need someone to take these budding youngsters under their wing and get them on the track to stardom. The Phillies are getting closer to playing playoff caliber baseball, and a veteran leader will make sure they stay that course and stop these little league mistakes.
Photo: Elaine Zeno (via Flickr)