Incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail has his marching orders. "The mandate is to win," says Phillies owner John Middleton. "You tell us what you need to win." MacPhail is, in fact, one of the most successful executives in the game's history, building two World Championships in Minnesota and rebuilding the Baltimore Orioles and the Chicago Cubs into winning teams. If anyone is going to be able to accomplish the mission before him, chances are it's MacPhail?
This rather naturally prompts the question, however, what exactly MacPhail needs to win. What are his first steps? How does he move forward, empowered by the ownership's mandate and financial commitment to him and the ballclub, and to build the next great Phillies team.
Build a competent front office
The first thing he must do is assemble a competent front office team around him. The first use of the resources that his club is promising him is to build a robust staff to rival organizations like the Astros, Dodgers, Cubs, and Cardinals.
For too long, Ruben Amaro Jr. and his staff have been allowed to build and rebuild his club unfettered by interference from his own bosses. It's Amaro and his staff who rejected statistical analysis to the point where he didn't know the difference between an at bat and a plate appearance. It's Amaro and his staff who gave excessive extensions to one-dimensional players. It's Amaro and his staff who have shown no ability to find a way out of this mess.
That's an oversimplification, of course. There are good and useful members of Amaro's team. And MacPhail's first task must be to sort through this team to find the diamonds in a sea of rough. As he and Pat Gillick watch closely over Amaro's shoulder at the trade deadline, they will have to know the scouts and analysts whose opinions they can actually trust. And they need to be ready to move quickly once the season ends to fill gaps in their front office, particularly the general manager spot vacated by Amaro's dismissal and on the analytical end.
Indeed, the Phillies management stressed the importance of sabermetrics and analytics in the press conference, mentioning it first and often. Now, of course, this doesn't mean that the Phillies are going to become some kind of sabermetric dynamo, especially not overnight. Indeed, MacPhail is old school enough that he understands the importance of scouting and how it needs to work in tandem with the numbers generated by his more data-steeped execs. MacPhail has never been associated with sabermetrics before, but he has been associated with smart and well-run front offices, and he knows enough to understand the value in the things he does not know.
But that's at the end of the season.
Maximize roster value before he takes office
In the meantime, he needs to figure out whether it truly does make sense to trade Cole Hamels. Certainly, the Phillies are looking at a multi-year rebuild. While it's tempting to trade every veteran not nailed down, there's also significant value in continuity, and Hamels remains one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Sure, he could bring back a hefty return in prospects, but as I discussed yesterday, even elite prospects are no sure thing. Hamels, meanwhile, is under team control for four more seasons, which would mean he could still be an important part of that next Philadelphia club. In fact, he will only be 35 in that final year, and may be interested in an extension with a resurgent Phillies club.
Meanwhile, players like Ben Revere, Jonathan Papelbon, and Aaron Harang cannot be part of the Phillies after July 31. The Phillies have so many holes that virtually anything MacPhail can do to bring talent into the organization for one of these players would be worth it. Really, only Maikel Franco, a couple of relievers, and maybe Freddy Galvis have shown enough that they deserve to stick around.
Now, he can't simply turn over the whole roster in one offseason. He will need to separate the chaff from the really gross chaff. He just needs to make sure that the right decision-making team is in place when the Phillies make those assessments and replace those players.