After a 2016 season that finished with the Phillies missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year, Philadelphia is trying to get back on track for wild card contention. The Phils have been improving slowly but surely, and the team has had a productive enough offseason to try and make a postseason push happen. With several key new players being added to the roster, expectations are higher for the Phils as they look to end their playoff drought. With spring training around the corner, that means it’s time to get a look at some of the changes for this year’s team.
Bringing in Clay Bucholz from Boston was a big signing for Philadelphia. And with Aaron Nola looking to be healthy again, the rotation is looking good for 2017. Nola and Buchholz are joining a pitching staff that already includes Jeremy Hellickson, Vince Velasquez, and Jerad Eickhoff, and some are thinking this could be one of the most talented rotations the team has fielded in quite some time. Of course, defense wasn’t necessarily always the problem, but thankfully, Philadelphia is taking steps to solve their offensive woes as well.
The Phillies recently signed outfielder Michael Saunders from the Toronto Blue Jays to help bolster the lineup. And if he can play to his potential, he could be a great asset for the team. Saunders is coming off of his first All-Star season and a similar performance is exactly what Philadelphia was looking for when they signed him to a one year, $9 million deal. We noted that Saunders should be a “low-risk signing” that will help things out early on while not upsetting future plans for the franchise. Saunders, along with the signing of Howie Kendrick, should go a long way to improving Philadelphia’s offense and give them some much needed firepower at the plate to make them divisional wild card contenders.
It’s hard to get to down on yourself for not making it out of the NL East. The Division includes some of the best teams in baseball, with the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets both going through historically great periods in their respective franchises. The Miami Marlins have also proved that they’re no slouches either and with the exception of the Atlanta Braves, we’re talking about what’s easily one of the best divisions in baseball. But being a dark horse could actually work in Philadelphia’s favor. One article pointed out that underdogs perform better in divisional games and that could pay off for the new and improved Phillies. In a seven-year study of divisional games, the underdogs came away with 3,414 wins while losing 4,513. While that’s still a losing record, the fact that underdogs win at nearly a .500 pace bodes well the Philadelphia’s divisional chances.
Manager Pete Mackanin has been candid about his expectations for the season and feels that the Phillies will be able to improve their record to .500—and the team is doing all the right things to make it a reality. General Manager Matt Klentak has been playing it smart and the team is setting itself up for success in the future. Through the signings of quality veterans combined with a some bright prospects in the farm system—in addition to some particularly exciting free agencies in the coming years—Philadelphia could become a serious contender within a year or two. Now all we have to do is be patient.