SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Last May when the Phillies came to Wrigley Field, they were 26-21 and two games out of first place and some were calling them a possible surprise contender.
I told my friends, “This is a bad team and they are going to lose 90 games.”
I got scoffed at, but it turns out I was right. The Phillies had the worst record in the National League beginning with that series at Wrigley — 45-70 — and they finished 71-91, the fourth straight year they’d lost at least 89 games.
So it’s rebuild time, right? Well... sort of. The Phillies filled one of their holes by signing Howie Kendrick as a free agent. Not exactly the kind of thing a rebuilding team does, more like a stopgap kind of signing. On the other hand, they signed Michael Saunders out of free agency and he’s pretty good. But Saunders is 30 and has played one healthy season (last year) out of the last three.
Otherwise the Phillies have to hope that some of their good young hitters (Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco) continue their development, as do some of their good young pitchers (Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff). Clay Buchholz, oft-injured with the Red Sox, will try to get his career back on track in the Phillies rotation. The Phillies got offers for Jeremy Hellickson but decided to keep him. He was pretty good last year and if he’s good again, with free agency beckoning in 2018, if the Phillies are out of contention again they’ll almost certainly deal him.
Jeanmar Gomez closed for the Phillies last year, and though the 37 saves look gaudy, the six blown saves don’t, and his peripherals weren’t very good. Overall Gomez posted negative bWAR, not good for anyone, especially a closer.
Chris Coghlan signed with the Phillies and says he thinks the Phillies are pretty close:
"I don't feel like you're starting from scratch here," said Coghlan, his red shirt drenched in sweat from a three-hour workout. "I feel like I'm getting in at the perfect time, where it's maybe one or two years away. I'm just hoping to produce, stay healthy, and hope they like me. I want to be a part of watching something bigger than yourself."
What I hope for Coghlan, if he makes the team, is that he doesn’t have a horrific start to his year like he did in Oakland in 2016. Once he came back to the Cubs he was pretty much the same Coghlan the Cubs had in 2014 and 2015. But he’s a spare part, anyway.
Pete Mackanin returns as manager. I can’t help thinking that he’s a caretaker who won’t be the manager of the next Phillies playoff team, whenever that is.
Cubs vs. Phillies in 2017:
May 1-2-3-4 at Wrigley
August 25-26-27 at Philadelphia