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Phils win finale, but changes could be looming

Kapler bullish on next season as club set to re-evaluate
MLB.com @ToddZolecki

PHILADELPHIA -- Odubel Herrera jogged off the field in the top of the fourth inning Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, ending his season in a double-switch. It could have been the final moments of his Phillies career.

Changes are coming.

View Full Game Coverage

PHILADELPHIA -- Odubel Herrera jogged off the field in the top of the fourth inning Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, ending his season in a double-switch. It could have been the final moments of his Phillies career.

Changes are coming.

View Full Game Coverage

The Phillies capped an endlessly fascinating and often frustrating 2018 season Sunday with a 3-1 victory over the Braves. They finished 80-82, which is a 14-game improvement from 2017. But the improvement is tempered with the fact that the Phillies had the second-best record in the National League on Aug. 5 only to finish 17-34, which included the second-worst road trip in franchise history. The Phillies acknowledge they need to make significant changes before Spring Training, and it is believed anybody not named Rhys Hoskins or Aaron Nola could be traded.

Video: ATL@PHI: Hoskins drives in Bautista with RBI double

Phillies honor director of Minor League operations before game

That includes Herrera, who the Phillies signed to a five-year, $30.5 million contract extension in December 2016. Herrera hit .255 with 22 home runs, 71 RBIs and a .730 OPS in 597 plate appearances. But the 26-year-old Herrera did not come into Spring Training in good shape, and he lost playing time late in the season to Roman Quinn as he posted the second-lowest OPS in baseball (.630) from May 20 through the end of the year.

"We all know how baseball is, it's a business," Herrera said through the team's interpreter. "I can't really tell you. But I'm going into the offseason still thinking I'm a Phillie, and if something happens, it's nothing I can control."

Video: ATL@PHI: Kapler on season takeaways, changes in 2019

Cesar Hernandez launched a leadoff homer in the first inning. It was his career-high 15th homer of the season and the eighth leadoff homer of his career. Hernandez, 28, finished the season hitting .253 with a .356 on-base percentage and a .718 OPS. The Phillies' front office loves Hernandez because of his on-base skills, which is why they were reluctant to trade him last winter. But Hernandez's on-base percentage and OPS this season are his lowest marks since 2015. It is not a stretch to think he could be traded to move Scott Kingery back to second base.

Hernandez, who is the longest-tenured player in the organization, declined to comment.

But Phillies manager Gabe Kapler spoke glowingly about the team's future Sunday. There are reasons to be enthusiastic. The Phillies are expected to pursue heavyweights in free agency this offseason. Manny Machado and Bryce Harper sit atop their wish list. Other moves are expected, too. And there is no reason to think some of their returning young talent will not improve.

5 questions heading into offseason

Video: ATL@PHI: Hernandez backhands a grounder, nabs Camargo

"If everybody takes a small step forward in their development we'll win a lot of baseball games," Kapler said.

But could the team's performance the final two months scare them a little bit?

"Just the opposite," Kapler said. "I think I've been fairly consistent since the beginning of the season that baseball has to be looked at in as large a sample size as possible. You get into a 162-game season, you have ebbs and flows during that season. So while maybe we weren't as good as we were in the first half as one of the two top teams in the National League, we are a much better ballclub than we were during the final six weeks of the season. So perhaps our record indicates we're somewhere in between those two for 2018, and if we get a little bit of development -- everybody takes a small step forward -- for 2019 it would be a really special year for all of us."

Video: ATL@PHI: Dominguez whiffs Culberson, earns 16th save

Said Hoskins: "Obviously there was a lot of excitement early in the year. A lot of disappointment at the end. I think the biggest thing about this year is that everybody in this room is going to learn from it. The disappointment is tough to swallow, and there is a lot to learn from that, and we're all going to be better from it. Every single player in this clubhouse. Every single coach in that room over there. Everybody's going to learn from it, everybody's going to be better from it. With the strides that we've made this year, I don't see any reason because of the type of competitors we have in this clubhouse, I don't see that improvement not happening again."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Phillies left-hander Ranger Suarez allowed one run in three innings. He walked two and struck out five. He also tripled in the second inning. But the Phillies' bullpen threw six scoreless innings to cap its season with Tommy Hunter (5-4) getting the win and Seranthony Dominguez earning his 16th season.

Video: ATL@PHI: Suarez triples for his 1st career hit

SOUND SMART
The Phillies had a total attendance of 2,155,695 at Citizens Bank Park. They drew 250,341 more than last season.

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Carlos Santana made a fantastic play moving to his right in the fourth inning, fielding the ball behind the bag and throwing out Tyler Flowers from foul territory. Santana started 16 games at third base in September. It started as a way to inject more offense into the Phillies' lineup. It ended as the Phillies looked to see if Santana could play there regularly in 2019, which would allow Hoskins to move back to first base.

"We'll see what happens next year," Santana said. "Gabe and [general manager] Matt [Klentak] did not tell me yet about that."

Video: ATL@PHI: Santana nabs Flowers from foul territory

HE SAID IT
"Obviously a little bit disappointing with the way that the season has ended. I'd like to promise you that we will learn from it. We will get better from it, and we will be better and ready when 2019 comes around." -- Hoskins, addressing fans before the game

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Philadelphia Phillies, Cesar Hernandez, Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins