As spring arrives, Phils' transition still work in progress
GM Amaro focused on getting team 'younger and more athletic'
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies have made a few changes this offseason, but they know they have not made enough.
They traded Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd and Antonio Bastardo. They thanked their lucky stars A.J. Burnett declined a $12.75 million player option to return to Philadelphia. Kyle Kendrick signed with Colorado.
But with Phillies pitchers and catchers holding their first workout Thursday at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., there are still several veterans on the roster, inlcuding Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon and Cliff Lee.
So how does Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., look at the offseason?
"We didn't necessarily expect to make a full transition in a two- or three-month period of time," he said. "The process doesn't start on Oct. 1 and it doesn't end on Feb. 15. It continues. We'll continue to look at ways to get younger and more athletic. There's still a lot of work to be done.
"I think we've made some pretty decent progress as far as bringing some players and some talent into our system, particularly at the upper levels, that we hope will provide the depth that is necessary to move us forward. It's not a three-month process. The process is going to take a little longer and we understand that we have those challenges. We'll continue to work on that transition."
The Phillies acquired Minor League pitchers Zach Eflin, Tom Windle, Ben Lively and Joely Rodriguez. MLBPipeline.com ranks Eflin, Windle and Lively as the fifth, sixth and eighth-best prospects in the organization, respectively. The Phillies also picked up outfielder Odubel Herrera and left-hander Andy Oliver in the Rule 5 Draft, and signed left-hander Elvis Araujo to a big league contract because they like his arm.
Meanwhile, the Phillies are waiting for the right deal to trade Hamels, while also looking for a fair return for Papelbon. They seem to be waiting for the Red Sox to relent and include catching prospect Blake Swihart or infielder Mookie Betts in a potential trade for Hamels.
So far, it has been near impossible to find somebody who wants Howard, who has $60 million remaining on his contract. Lee must prove he is healthy before the Phillies can trade him. And Utley seems content in Philadelphia.
But in the case of Hamels and potentially others, could waiting for the near-perfect trade backfire?
There will be other aces available come July 31. There is going to be other top pitchers available next offseason, too.
Amaro does not seem worried about it.
"Look at the history of this era," he said. "There's more Wild Card teams. There's a lot more clubs with opportunities. You'll see as many as 15 teams, half the league is kind of in the race well into the season. Everybody always needs pitching. There's always a risk that somebody can get hurt. Somebody not getting the performance they want might change our circumstance.
"Again, if there were deals that we felt were appropriate for us to move forward then we would. So far some of the deals that we've discussed with some of our players have not yielded what we've wanted to do. And in some cases we feel like we're better off staying with the players that we have for a variety of different reasons. We'll move forward accordingly."
Amaro said the criticism that the Phillies overvalue their players -- there were several big trades by other teams this offseason -- does not bother him.
"Everybody has an idea of how they should evaluate," he said. "We have certain ways we evaluate our players and other players and what's right for the organization. I think we're in a better position to make those decisions than others."
Here are the important dates coming up for the Phillies as Spring Training nears:
Pitchers and catchers first workout
Full squad first workout
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Yankees, March 3 at 1:05 p.m. ET
Home vs. Red Sox, April 6 at 3:05 p.m.