Phils' young core a focal point entering spring
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies plan to make moves in 2018.
They believe the rebuild is ready to turn the corner. A postseason berth will still be a challenge, but the Phillies expect to play better baseball this season. Better baseball means they should put themselves in better position to snag a premier player or two in the offseason. Adding a big name, plus the continued development of its core, and the Phillies should take a run at October baseball in 2019.
• Spring Training info
Phillies pitchers and catchers hold their first workout at Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 14. MLB.com is asking all 30 teams: What's the vision? What is every team trying to accomplish this season? How do they plan to do it?
Ideally, the Phillies' picture 2018 as one of their final steps in the rebuild. But they will need their core (Rhys Hoskins, Aaron Nola, Odubel Herrera, J.P. Crawford, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, etc.) to make improvements, even if those improvements are incremental. They will need Carlos Santana to be a major presence in the lineup and clubhouse. They will need the bullpen to make up for any weaknesses in an inexperienced rotation. They will need new manager Gabe Kapler to maximize the capabilities of his players.
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The Phillies believe if those things happen -- those are a lot of ifs -- they will find themselves on the cusp of big things entering next offseason, when Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and others are expected to hit the free-agent market.
Of course, who knows? If everything breaks right perhaps the Phillies find themselves playing meaningful games in September.
"We certainly see the way the division is evolving in terms of age or rebuilds," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said in December, when the Phillies signed Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract. "As long as there are examples like last year's Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers, teams that are coming off tough years or out of rebuilds and take that step forward, as long as there are examples of teams that we can model each other after, we want to do everything in reason to put ourselves in position to excel at the Major League level.
"There's always a balancing act. You'll likely always hear me talk about that and we need to be smart about that, but we want to take steps forward to get better and to get better next year."