As expected, the Philadelphia Phillies hit rock bottom in 2015, following up two 89-loss campaigns with 99 losses. General manager Ruben Amaro traded Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley and then got fired, replaced by Matt Klentak, a former Dartmouth shortstop and assistant GM with the Angels who also worked under new team president Andy MacPhail with the Orioles.
What do they need: Well, the team's website lists the current rotation as Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher and David Buchanan. You will not be surprised to know then that the Phillies finished with a 5.23 rotation ERA, although that was somehow only 29th in the majors (the Rockies were worse). The farm system acquired some much-needed talent with the team's various trades -- three of MLB.com's top four Phillies prospects (Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro) came over in the Hamels deal. But there's no urgency to do much heading into 2016. With the first pick in the 2016 draft, the Phillies may simply look forward to repeating their worst-in-baseball record, loading up on top picks like the Cubs and Astros did in their rebuilds.
Guy on the rise: Odubel Herrera was a Rule 5 pick from the Rangers, a minor league second baseman whom the Phillies converted to center field. He not only stuck with the Phillies but played well, hitting .297/.344/.418 with 10 Defensive Runs Saved. He did rely on a very high .387 BABIP to hit .297, so he may need to cut his strikeouts a bit to maintain his average, and you'd like to see a few more walks. But he looks like a guy who can be a solid contributor.
Prospect to anticipate: Shortstop J.P. Crawford entered 2015 as a top-10 overall prospect in the game and held his own in his first taste of the upper minors, hitting .265/.354/.407 at age 20 with more walks than strikeouts. He needs to get a little stronger, but the plate discipline is a plus and scouts love his range at shortstop. He did make 27 errors, so he needs get a little more consistent there. The Phillies don't need to rush, so he may return to Double-A or spend the entire season in Triple-A to save on his service time. But he could play himself into a late-season callup.
Winter action plan: It will likely be a quiet offseason. The Phillies will sign this year's version of Aaron Harang to help fill innings in the rotation. They would love to trade Ryan Howard -- one more year at $25 million plus a $10 million buyout -- but nobody wants him. Really, the Phillies should just eat the $35 million. There's no reason to play him at this point. They could shop around closer Ken Giles, the idea being that as teams try to match the Royals' postseason blueprint with bullpen depth Giles could bring a lot in return. Yes, Giles isn't even arbitration-eligible until 2018, but relievers often burn out quickly.
The Phillies could go after one of the big free-agent starters, but (1) Why would one of those guys want to come to a team that probably won't be ready to compete until at least 2018; (2) It's probably to the Phillies' benefit to tank another season and get that high draft pick. But, this is a big-market team with money to spend, and the pitching market is deeper this year than it will be next offseason.