As part of our preview series, Eye on Baseball will be picking and choosing some "likes" and "dislikes" for all 30 MLB teams heading into the 2014 season. For this installment, we'll run down what we like and don't like about the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished fourth in the NL East last season ...
Domonic Brown's power: Finally given regular playing time in 2013, Brown delivered in the power department: .494 SLG, 27 homers (13 of those 27 on the road), .222 ISO. At age 26, he's one of the Phillies' only position players who has upside and is still reasonably young. If Brown's healthy, a 35-homer season in 2014 is a distinct possibility.
The front of the rotation: Once Cole Hamels is healthy, he'll slot in between Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett at the front of the Philly rotation. That's a nifty 1-2-3. Hamels has averaged more than 200 innings per season since becoming a rotation regular, and he owns a career ERA+ of 123. Lee, meanwhile, is one of the top command pitchers of his generation and is still going strong. As for Burnett, he brings to the table his groundball-ing ways and a solid two-season run in Pittsburgh.
The job Ruben Amaro has done: I take no delight in impugning someone's work, but Amaro is pretty clearly the worst GM in baseball today. The fact that he has presided over such a post-Pat Gillick decline wouldn't be held against him so strongly if he'd recognize the glaring need for a rebuild. Besides misunderstanding the success cycle, Amaro has handed out some of the worst contracts in recent memory, the inexplicable deals of Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon among them. The Phils badly need a front-office reboot.
The age of the roster: Last season, the Phillies, en route to finishing ahead of only the Marlins in the NL East, had the 14th-oldest roster of hitters in the NL and the 10th-oldest pitching staff. To say the least, the offseason additions of Marlon Byrd (age 36), Burnett (age 37) and Roberto Hernandez (age 33) certainly didn't do anything to move the needle in the right direction. Having an older contending roster can be thought of as a feature rather than a bug in some ways, but being this old while having little shot at relevance? That's not good.
The chances of contention: The forementioned Mr. Amaro has behaved this offseason as though his team has a shot at the playoffs in 2014. They almost certainly do not. They're coming off a 2014 season in which they lost 89 games, finished behind the Mets and got out-scored by 139 runs. Even with two wild-card berths in play, there's little chance that the Phillies find themselves mattering after, say, Aug. 1. This speaks to the larger point, and the larger point is that this organization can't put off the rebuild much longer.