The Phillies front office, now led by interim CEO Pat Gillick, stated back in October that given their current state, the team was in no position to be competitive for at least the next two years. This declaration came nearly a month after the Phillies finished their second straight 73-89 season, coming up last in the NL East. It is a statement that many fans may have expected to come after the 2013 campaign, but watched as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. pieced together another “contender” led by free agent veteran signees Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett, only further setting back the franchise in the process.
So where do we go from here? Well for starters, the soon to be 38-year-old Burnett chose not to exercise his $12.75 million player option to start November. Instead, Burnett opted to return to Pittsburgh on Friday, where he spent all of 2012 and 2013, signing a one-year contract worth $8.5 million. This comes as a huge sigh of relief for Phillies fans as Burnett finished 2014 with arguably the worst season of his 16-year career and one that fans did not want to have to relive again in 2015.
RAJ has declared that no one from the Phillies major league roster is untouchable. This includes infield mainstays over the last decade in Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, and Chase Utley. While Rollins and Utley both have 10-and-5 rights, giving them the option to veto any trade that comes their way, Howard is a different story. Ryan has the opportunity to veto a trade to up to 21 teams annually. While Howard does carry a hefty price tag, making $25 million in each of the next two years, the Phillies have said that covering money is not something they are afraid to do in order to find a new home for their first baseman. Their willingness to do so has drawn the interest from a few American League teams, most notably the Kansas City Royals who have a hole to fill at DH with Billy Butler headed to free agency. Howard, the Missouri native, would have the opportunity to return home and play in front of friends and family.
While not being linked to many big named free agents with major league experience, the Phillies have been considered big players in the sweepstakes for Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas. The 24-year-old Tomas has been linked to a few teams in recent weeks, but after meeting with agent Jay Alou this week, the Phillies seem be the frontrunners to land the outfielder. The Phillies are desperate for a young, right-handed batting power hitter. Tomas would certainly fill that void and then some. He will not come cheap though and in order to make room financially, the team would likely have find a trade partner for current right fielder Byrd. That is easier said than done. For Byrd to accept any trade, he would likely expect the other team to pick up his 2016 team option.
In lesser Phillies news, the team announced this week that they had already started signing players to fill out their 2015 AAA roster. They agreed to terms with infielder Andres Blanco, utility players Russ Canzler and Chase d’Arnaud, catcher John Hester, and outfielders Brian Bogusevic, Darin Mastroianni, Xavier Paul, and Jeff Francoeur. D’Arnaud is the older brother of former Phillies catching prospect and current New York Mets catcher Travis. Also announced was the signing of 23-year-old left-hander Elvis Araujo to a major league contract. The move was a bit of a head scratcher given the young pitcher’s struggles with control and also never having pitched at the major league level. The Phillies hope that Araujo can be a diamond in the rough and will likely be used out of the bullpen.