As Spring Training approaches we are about to see a lot of new, young players that may not be familiar faces to us. The team has changed drastically since their magical run in 2008. The only current Phillies projected to be on the opening day roster this year from the 2008 squad are Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Carlos Ruiz, and Chase Utley. This brings us to reason #9 to watch the Phillies in 2015: The Final Four.
Cole Hamels signed a $144 million contract in 2012 locking him in a Phillies uniform until at least 2018. For my first not so bold prediction, Cole Hamels will not come close to finishing that contract with the Phillies. The trade rumors have been active for the coveted left-hander dating back from last season. The Padres and Red Sox appeared to be the front-runners in the Hamels sweepstakes, but being so close to Spring Training they will probably stay as ‘rumors’ until closer to the trade deadline. The San Diego native has an impressive career 3.27 ERA, with a career ERA best of 2.46 last season. If you watch Cole Hamels for any other reason this year, it is to get what could be some of your last glimpses of your 2008 World Series MVP and one of the best pitchers that will play for this team.
Ryan Howard’s contract is guaranteed through 2016. In my second not so bold prediction, Howard will not complete his contract with the Phillies. In fact, he probably does not last this entire season. When the GM is quoted as saying, “…in our situation it would probably bode better for the organization not with him but without him,” that prediction is far from a stretch. Howard’s power days appear to be long behind him, probably due to a combination of age and injuries. This season, go out and try to watch Ryan Howard for the player that he was. With his playing days likely numbered in Philadelphia, who knows the next time the Phillies will have a player capable of 58 home runs in a season on their squad.
Carlos Ruiz’s tenure in Philadelphia is a lot less bleak as some of the others in The Final Four. Ruiz is in year 2 of a 3 year contract with the Phillies. Ruiz is an interesting trade candidate closer to the deadline for a team that needs a veteran catcher. He has caught two no-hitters, one perfect game, was elected as an MLB All-Star, and has a World Series ring. While there are no imminent trade rumors for the catcher from Panama, enjoy watching Ruiz this year. Anything is possible with him behind the plate… and who doesn’t enjoy shouting “CHOOOOOOOCH”.
Chase Utley is more than likely the ‘last man standing’ for The Final Four. This is the last year guaranteed in Utley’s contract, but once he hits 500 plate appearances, his 2016 option is guaranteed. He has vesting options that could keep him on the team through 2018. Basically, if Utley is healthy we will see him next season. Sure he could easily be a trade candidate, but has always expressed his desire to stay in Philadelphia. That and the fact that he has full no-trade protection from his 10-and-5 player rights means that Utley dictates his future in Philadelphia. Win or lose this year, Utley plans to play for this city. What other reason do people need to be excited to watch him?
As painful as it is to admit, the 2008 days are just a distant memory. These four players were a core part of that championship. They will not be on the team forever, so let’s enjoy the constant memories they provide while we can.