Unless you've been living under a rock the past few weeks. The Philadelphia Eagles are World Champions. Having dethroned Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady to become the NFL's best team, the city of brotherly love is certainly rocking currently.
Having finished 63-99 (2015), 71-91 (2016) and 66-96 (2017) over their last three seasons, the Phillies have seen the future of their ballclub bloom infront of their eyes. Long Gone are the dark days of being tied to un-tradable contracts with millions committed to ageing veterans such as Chase Utley & Ryan Howard. The future is now certainly sunny in Philadelphia.
Lets start with the rotation and the fact its led by three absolute future studs. Aaron Nola (12-11) was the Phillies top draft pick in 2014 and had a quite incredible 2017 season. On his way to striking out 9.88 batters per 9 and recording a 3.54 ERA he finished third in the majors in ultra-quality starts with 12 in total, only behind Clayton Kershaw (16) and Max Scherzer (14). Not bad company at all. If inning eater Jerad Eickhoff and the power arm of Vince Velasquez can resolve their health issues which blighted their 2017 campaign, then there is no reason at all that these three can't win alot of games for the Phillies.
In 2018, perennial top prospect JP Crawford will become the Phillies everyday shortstop following Freddy Galvis' trade to San Diego. Although maybe not being as defensively sound as the affirmed mentioned Galvis, his ability to get on base (OBP - 0.356 vs 0.309) is a huge upside for this young line up. Off the back of this, it wouldn't surprise me one bit to see JP Crawford emerging as an outside candidate to lead off for the Phill's in the not so distant future.
2017 saw the emergence of Rhys Hoskins who's arrival in the majors ensured end of season attendances at Citizen Bank were as high as possible. Once promoted from AAA, Hoskins hit 18HRs with 48RBI's before finishing fourth in NL Rookie of the year voting. Since joining the ballclub in August, the Phillies have since signed Carlos Santana to a $60m contract which is more than likely see Hoskins shift permanently to left field, a position he played in 30 of his first 57 major league games.
In my view, the signing of Carlos Santana is exactly what this line up needs. The every day bats of JP Crawford, Maikel Franco, Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera despite being exceptionally talented, are all under 27 years of age leaving this lineup incredibly raw and inexperienced. Having hit .259 in Cleveland last season with 23HRs and 79RBI's, Santana will provide a brilliant veteran presence in the line up for the youth of the Phillies to learn from. With the Phillies holding 5 of Baseball America's top 100 prospects, 3 of which being hitters the need for a veteran presence is so much greater making the Santana deal an even better one.
As an outsider looking in on the 2017 Phillies, it very much looks like a free roll of the dice. The talent within the whole organisation is scarily good, but it maybe that this year is a year to early for the Phillies metamorphosis into a a genuine World Series contender. However that said, if the team does get off to a hot first half of the season, which isn't out of the question with road series' against Tampa Bay, Baltimore, San Francisco and two in Miami, then the chances of the Phillies pulling the trigger at the trade deadline on a starting pitcher increase significantly. If there Phillies were to dabble in the trade market, then their ammunition and stock of young assets needed to lure a frontline starting pitcher is certainly there.
Someone who may well attract trade interest in the Phillies pursuit of a frontline starter is Cesar Hernandez. The second baseman hit an impressive .294 with 85 runs and 15 stolen bases in 2017 and would look sure to provide a contender with some solid middle infield depth in the middle of a play off push. This would in-turn allow the Phillies to promote their third top prospect, Scott Kingery to the majors. The second baseman was a former Pac-12 player of the year and should see decent time in the majors this summer.
New clubhouse manager, Gabe Kapler wasted no time in spending $90m free agent first baseman Carlos Santana and relievers Pat Neshek & Tommy Hunter to help the team win games in 2017. GM Matt Klentark has openly admitted that the Phillies will one day return to the era of the mega contract and with the likes of Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew Bailey and Dallas Keuchel all expected to be on the open market next winter, that time may well be coming.
Its more than likely that the Phillies are getting ready to go war and go all in on the 2018 season with whatever is achieved this summer largely a bonus. However that said should the team be in the wild card race at the trade deadline, don't be surprised at all to see this team address the final few pieces sooner rather than later, because its evident both the money and prospects are there to make it happen.
Don't sleep on the city of brotherly love.