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2015 Phillies preview: Signings, departures, payroll, odds

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The Phillies' 2015 outlook is bleak, but things may finally be looking up in the City of Brotherly Love, where a long-awaited rebuilding plan is in place.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Phillies and GM Ruben Amaro Jr. have long been the butt of jokes among observant baseball fans, as the organization has continuously delayed its inevitable rebuild. However, it appears that the reshaping of the franchise has finally arrived, and while Amaro is still at the helm, the club appears to be moving in a positive direction in terms of improving the overall state of the organization. Nonetheless, 2015 is going to be a brutal year for Phillies fans, as the club has openly acknowledged its planned rebuild, and has already dealt away numerous big league pieces this offseason.

Departures

Position Player New Team
RHP A.J. Burnett Pirates
RHP Kyle Kendrick Rockies
SS Jimmy Rollins Dodgers
OF Marlon Byrd Reds
LHP Antonio Bastardo Pirates
RHP Mike Adams Free Agent
C Wil Nieves Free Agent

The biggest loss for Philadelphia this offseason has been by far Jimmy Rollins, who was dealt to the Dodgers in December for a pair of pitching prospects. Originally drafted by the club in 1996, Rollins has been a constant for the Phillies over the past 15 years, thriving through good times and bad. His presence is felt all over the Phillies' all-time leaderboards, including at the top in hits, and second behind only Mike Schmidt in games played. He's also held up as a reasonably productive player in his mid-30's, posting a 3.9 WAR last season; his highest total since 2008.

The absence of Rollins in 2015 will be hard to ignore, and the drop off from him to Freddy Galvis will certainly be sleep, but Rollins' departure seems to be the ultimate indicator of a turning point in franchise direction.

Also leaving the club via the trade route was Marlon Byrd, though the decision to cut ties with him was seemingly much easier than with Rollins. The Phillies genuinely had no need for a 37-year-old Byrd, who was set to make $8 million in 2015, along with another possible $8 million in 2016 via a vesting option. Coming off a 2.6 WAR season in which he hit .264/.312/.445 with 25 home runs and a 110 OPS+, he also had real value, and the Phillies were able to extract reasonably regarded pitching prospect Ben Lively in a trade with the Reds.

Via free agency, the Phillies' rotation lost two members in A.J. Burnett and Kyle Kendrick, who signed with the Pirates and Rockies respectively. While their absences will have clear negative ramifications in terms of rotation performance, neither of them were likely to be contributors to the next Phillies playoff team.

Of course, the biggest departures for the Phillies may have yet to come. The team has apparently been shopping the likes of Cliff Lee, Ryan Howard, and Jonathan Papelbon, though lofty salaries will make moving them difficult. The most likely impending loss appears to be Cole Hamelswho's inevitable trade will have a profound effect on the timeline of the Phillies' rebuild.

Jimmy Rollins
Rollins had a 45.7 WAR in his time with the Phillies.

Additions

Position Player Old Team
IF Odubel Herrera Rangers
OF Jeff Francoeur Padres
RHP Aaron Harang Braves
LHP Andy Oliver Pirates
RHP Chad Billingsley Dodgers
1B Chris McGuinness Pirates
C John Hester Angels
IF Chris Nelson Padres
IF/OF Cord Phelps Orioles
OF Jordan Danks White Sox
OF Darin Mastroianni Blue Jays
OF Chase d'Arnaud Pirates
OF Brian Bogusevic Marlins
OF Xavier Paul Diamondbacks
RHP Kevin Slowey Marlins
RHP Ben Lively Reds
LHP Tom Windle Dodgers
RHP Zach Eflin Dodgers
LHP Joely Rodriguez Pirates

The Phillies really didn't do much in terms of impactful additions, with the only notable movies coming in aiding the rotation. Along with re-signing Jerome Williams, the Phillies also gave one-year deals to both Aaron Harang and Chad Billingsley. They should fill the holes left by Burnett and Kendrick, and will join Lee, Hamels, Williams, and David Buchanan in the mix for one of the five spots (assuming the oft-injured Billingsley is healthy to start the year).

A majority of the Phillies' minor moves came in adding position player depth, mainly through minor league free agency, though Odubel Herrera was a Rule 5 selection from the Rangers.

However, the most intriguing additions this offseason seem to be the three young arms the club acquired in the Rollins and Byrd trades. Lively, Tom Windle, and Zach Eflin are by no means elite pitching prospects, though all hold the upside of becoming serviceable starters, something which was lacking previously in the Phillies' system. The trio will likely head to Double-A to start out 2015, and could help the big league youth movement by 2016.

Payroll Outlook

Estimated Payroll: $142.23 million

While still grim, the Phillies payroll outlook is actually much more optimistic compared to last year, when they had a payroll north of $170 million. However, they are still paying four players (Howard, Lee, Hamels, and Chase Utley) at least $15 million this season, with all four contracts likely to still be on the books in 2016 (Utley has a vesting option if he reaches 500 plate appearances, while Lee's $27.5 million option vests with 200 innings pitched, though he would be due a $12.5 million buyout if it doesn't). None of the deals are immovable per say, as Lee, Hamels, and Utley are still quite productive. However, the Phillies would likely have to pick up a significant amount of salary to move either Lee or Howard, and potentially draw a ransom for Hamels.

On the brighter side, in terms of guaranteed contracts, the Phillies are scheduled to "only" be on the hook for $102.2 million in 2016 assuming Utley's option vests and Lee's option is declined. While still relatively high, it is more palatable, and that number seems likely to decrease over the course of the season, as players such as Hamels, Lee, Howard, Papelbon, and Carlos Ruiz have the potential to be traded away.

Odds (Via Bovada)

World Series Odds: 150/1

Over/Under: 68.5 wins

Errggg, that's brutal.

It's easy to say that Vegas is not expecting great things out of the Phillies in 2015, as they have the worst odds of any team in baseball. Along with the Rockies, they share the worst World Series odds, and their 68.5 over/under is the only team's prop under 71.5. So year, not exactly optimistic.

Bottom Line

The Phillies are headed towards a dismal 2015 campaign, but that doesn't mean they won't be interesting to watch. They still have some quality players such as Utley, Hamels, and Ken Giles, and their trade pursuits will be seemingly entertaining. It will also be intriguing to see some new faces in Philadelphia this year, with Maikel Franco likely surfacing in the majors early on, and elite prospects J.P. Crawford and Aaron Nola potentially coming up by the end of the year.

So, 2015 isn't going to be fun for Phillies fans, but at least hope is on the horizon.