At his introductory news conference in July, Phillies president Andy MacPhail noted his concerns about the team's minor-league pitching depth. The Phillies had few major-league ready pitchers. And those who were being promoted - like Aaron Nola - were leaving large voids in the minors when they joined the Phillies.
Since MacPhail's arrival, the Phillies have traded for 15 pitchers and just three everyday players. The Phillies agenda is clear as they look to bolster their pitching before turning toward acquiring offense.
They could start next season with five of their top pitching prospects in triple A. Come July or August, the major-league rotation could become a competition for the organization's young arms, most of which have been acquired since MacPhail's introduction. According to MLB.com, five of the team's top 10 pitching prospects have been acquired by MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak, who arrived in October.
"I know we have more than we did have. But, over time, we're going to really learn exactly what it is," MacPhail said. "It's still going to be a priority for us. I really believe as our team grows more and more competitive, we're going to be able to find hitters. It's going to be an attractive place to come. If they think we're winning games, we're going to get the hitters. But the pitching needs to come from the system and it needs to come from trades. That's the approach we've taken."
MacPhail was joined on Friday by general manager Matt Klentak and manager Pete Mackanin at Our Brother's Place, a homeless shelter for men operated by the Bethesda Project and the city near North 9th and Spring Garden streets.
The Phillies helped serve meals to the shelter's residents. Mackanin, who was joined by his wife Nancy, wore a chef's hat as he slapped turkey and stuffing onto trays. Tina Pagotto, the Bethesda Project's chief operating officer, said the facility sleeps 149 men each night. Our Brother's Place can serve meals daily to an additional 200 men, Pagotto said.
"This event is incredibly important to Bethesda Project," Pagotto said. "Having the Phillies bring cheer and holiday wishes at a time when so many of our homeless shelter guests are feeling the lowest. It goes so far in making a difference for their spirits. We're very grateful and we look forward to it every year. They support us all year round."
The Phillies' plan to eventually find their offense in the free-agent market carries less risk than signing a free-agent pitcher to a lucrative deal. It is easier to project a hitter's future and what the player's production could be. A hitter also has a longer shelf life, which brings less caution to a contract.
Even so, the Phillies may be forced to sign a top-flight pitcher, unless they can develop a true No. 1 arm, which could be the target of next June's No. 1 overall draft pick.
"Pitchers, as they get older, they become more expensive. And frankly, they become more fragile," MacPhail said. "When you're in that market, you understand the dynamic of that market. We prefer at the present time to be accumulating young starters. Hopefully, we'll get to that market. But not yet."