Spring Training is about to begin; this is normally the time we wax poetic about the grass being green, a new slate, hope springing eternal, etc, etc, etc. Not to go all Debbie Downer on you, it’s just not that kinda year.
The Phillies have issues throughout their organization right now, and not just on the field. There are several questions that will need to be answered this spring. The more that can be completed, the better.
1. Will the Phillies move the rest of their veterans?
-Cole Hamels is the prized commodity, but Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon are still here, as well. Take Chase Utley out of the equation, because he’s not going anywhere. Several teams have interest in Hamels, so it comes down to whether or not it’ll be enough for Ruben Amaro to pull the trigger. My guess is he’s here through the beginning of the year and is moved at the deadline. Howard’s role is unclear, although his options outside of Philadelphia seem very, very limited. Papelbon is an interesting case. He’s still pitching effectively, yet the Phillies have made it known they want to move on. Best guess, someone steps up in the next month, and if not, definitely in July.
2. Who is running the show?
-Ruben Amaro is the GM, Pat Gillick the new team President. Who makes the final call here? It certainly seems like Gillick has always had Amaro’s ear, yet this is a different scenario with Gillick taking over for David Montgomery. Ruben is also fighting for his job, so he needs to make sound moves over the next 6-12 months. What sort of moves will the new team pull off?
3. Who will play shortstop?
-Freddy Galvis looks like the man right now. Pardon me if I’m not impressed. Galvis is nothing more than a bench player in the majors, however, the Phillies don’t have a lot else right now as they keep the seat warm for JP Crawford, who could possibly be the everyday shortstop in 2016 if all goes right this year. That’s a long ways away.
4. What’s the rotation look like?
-Cole Hamels is your ace, provided he’s here in early April. Cliff Lee, if healthy, provides a steady second option. The “if” is so huge here, because who the hell knows what he’ll give. That should be answered down in Clearwater over the next seven weeks. Beyond that, it looks like Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsly have the upper hand for spots three and four. The number five starter? That’s anyone’s guess. After a pretty strong showing at the end of last year, Jerome Williams has the lead.
5. What will Brown (and Asche and some others) do for you?
-Domonic Brown is nearing life support with the Phillies. He’ll be given plenty of time to prove that he’s still a franchise player in 2015. That all starts with a strong spring showing. He can ill-afford to decline for another year or he’ll find himself in another organization. Cody Asche looks like your starting third baseman as Maikel Franco gets tested in the minors again. Asche needs to clean up his D or learn a corner outfield spot, or he’s doomed as well. What exactly is Darin Ruf’s role? I think everyone would like to know.