With Spring Training games just over a month away, it's time to break down what each team did over the offseason. The series begins with the basement-dwelling Philadelphia Phillies. With only 63 wins in 2015, the Phillies just narrowly missed a triple-digit loss season. There aren't a whole lot of expectations going into 2016, but with Matt Klentak entering his first full season as general manager, the rebuild seems to be on.
The Free Agents
Klentak and the Phillies management team kept pretty low key on the free agent market, which is relatively status quo for a rebuilding team. There's no need to invest vast amounts of payroll in assets that could help you finish third in the division.
The offseason revolved around trying to find some major league talent willing to take minor league deals. Two such players were Ernesto Frieri and J.P. Arencibia.
Frieri -- a former closer for the Los Angeles Angels -- is coming off of two terrible seasons. The 30-year old reliever has had his strikeout rates drop significantly so his uphill battle for a major league roster spot will continue.
Arencibia -- who has had two 20-homer seasons -- is coming off a fairly productive season with the Tampa Bay Rays. While he still strikes out too much, his slugging potential is undeniable and teams will continue to give him chances.
The good news for both Frieri and Arencibia is that, with the Phillies, their chances of earning a spot on the major league roster are greater than some other teams.
The Phillies' big signing -- if there was one -- was signing David Hernandez to a one-year deal. While it's unclear who will be the Phillies closer, Hernandez seems to be the top choice on the reliever depth chart. Hernandez is coming off of two pretty disappointing seasons so he will still need a strong Spring Training to show his worth. As of right now, he's likely on a short list of closer-ready relievers. Considering the Phillies may not have many games to close, it might not even matter though, and they could close by committee all season.
This was where the Phillies shone the brightest. Four of the top-five prospects in the Phillies system are a result of trades they've made in the last eight months.
Make no mistake, the Phillies didn't have to trade Ken Giles. In fact, a case can be made that he would be worth more to a team at the trade deadline than he would during the offseason. However, when the Houston Astros offered Mark Appel, Vincent Velasquez, Thomas Eshelman, Brett Oberholtzer, and Harold Arauz for Giles and Jonathan Arauz, the Phillies couldn't turn it down.
A more unlikely trade was the one that netted the Phillies Jeremy Hellickson. The Phillies sent Sam McWilliams -- a prospect in Rookie-ball -- to the Diamondbacks in exchange for Hellickson. Hellickson hasn't panned out fully since getting drafted by the Rays, but he has been worth around one-win in each of his four full seasons. While he still needs to work on some things, the Phillies could rely on the 28-year old heavily going into next season.
Reasons to Worry
Despite all the good moves the Phillies made, Klentak still hasn't found a suitor for Ryan Howard and his $25 million price tag. If his club option doesn't get picked up, Howard will cost the Phillies $48 million by the end of 2017. If the Phillies do decide to part ways with Howard, he will be owed $35 million thanks to a $10 million buyout included in the deal.
Reasons for Hope
A rebuild should be dealt with patiently. And just because Howard is still likely going to platoon at first base, doesn't mean the Phillies will suffer in the long run. Howard has been a below replacement level player for the past two seasons and could actually help ensure better future draft picks.
Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco, and Aaron Altherr look to be relatively promising tokens, and having full-season contributions from them could be a glimpse into the future for Phillies fans.
Furthermore, their prospect system is shaping up wonderfully. J.P. Crawford is the second-best shortstop prospect and fifth-best overall prospect according to MLB.com. In fact, including Crawford, six of the Phillies' top prospects rank in the top 100. While it could be a while until they compete, Klentak seems to have the Phillies on the right track.