OXON HILL, Md. - Like every other team in our win-deprived city, the Phillies have a plan that requires a long process and a ton of patience. It was clear long before they arrived at these winter meetings in the shadow of our nation's capital that the waiting for the winning is going to continue through the 2017 season.
Merry Christmas and happy new year, everybody. No sense in looking under the tree for that something special you've been waiting so long for. Stud hitters and staff aces are being dropped off in other places.
That, of course, is a tough sell for a fan base that has been down and out since Ryan Howard collapsed a few feet from home plate after making the final out of the 2011 season. It is not always easy for the team to stomach, either. When media members walked into the Phillies' suite Wednesday afternoon, general manager Matt Klentak admitted that he did not have any exciting news to report.
"Right now," he said, "there's not a lot cooking."
Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail have made some moves this offseason, and for the most part, they've been solid acquisitions.
The trade last month with Houston for Pat Neshek gave the Phillies one competent veteran reliever and the signing of Joaquin Benoit on Tuesday gave them another. Neshek, 36, was 16-12 with seven saves and a 2.75 ERA over the last five seasons. Benoit, 39, went 27-17 with 43 saves and a 2.40 ERA over his last seven seasons. Add them to a mix with Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, and Jeanmar Gomez and you have the makings of a pretty good bullpen.
In between the additions of the veteran relievers, the Phillies picked up outfielder Howie Kendrick in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, surrendering two players - Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney - who did not figure into their future. A year ago, the Phillies used nine players in left field and got diminishing returns. Kendrick will make them better at that position while also allowing some others to get more seasoning at triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Neshek, Benoit, and Kendrick should make the Phillies better in 2017, but not nearly good enough to compete against the Washington Nationals, New York Mets or even the Miami Marlins. It also did not move the excitement needle even a quarter of an inch.
In order for the plan and the process to look like it has a chance, the Phillies need Maikel Franco, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Roman Quinn, and Tommy Joseph to take huge steps forward at the big-league level. They also need the likes of J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, and Dylan Cozens to knock loudly at the big-league door.
In essence, the Phillies are in the process - there's that word again - of trying to do what the World Series champion Chicago Cubs started doing in 2012. A Cubs official said Wednesday that he sees similarities in the Phillies' plan, but right now it's missing young stars like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Addison Russell.
"When we look at teams that have successfully rebuilt their organizations, they were teams that started with a plan, followed their plan and maintained their discipline throughout their plan and, almost without fail, they were rewarded in the end," Klentak said. "The most recent examples are the Cubs, the Astros, the Pirates, the Orioles, and the Royals."
Klentak went on to say that the St. Louis Cardinals, with their four World Series appearances, including two titles, and 12 playoff appearances in this century are the model franchise in his mind.
"That's incredible success in this sport, to have that kind of consistency," Klentak said. "That ultimately is the long-term goal. Not only do we want to build a winner, but we want to build a winning environment that sustains over a long period of time."
It's a goal that still seems light-years away for the Phillies. Klentak, however, strongly believes that the organization's patience will be rewarded one day.
"I think one of the advantages we've had as a big-market club is that we were able to take advantage over the last couple of years of trading some key assets [while eating salary] in order to get younger," Klentak said. "Another huge advantage we have is that we have a very dedicated ownership who we know will spend when the time is right. That combination of factors, on paper, should put the Phillies in a pretty good spot."
In the meantime, there is nothing to do but sit through more losses without any guarantee of a better tomorrow.