A year ago, the Philadelphia Phillies won 73 games, and they had the oldest team in the National League. This is generally not a great combination, as old and bad rarely reverts to old and good. Based solely on those two pieces of information, rebuilding might have been in order for the franchise.
Instead, general manager Ruben Amaro doubled down on veterans this winter, signing a 37-year-old hurler (A.J. Burnett), a couple of 36-year-old catchers (Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves), a 36-year-old outfielder (Marlon Byrd), and a 33-year-old starting pitcher (Roberto Hernandez). The Phillies added experience, and are hoping that last year's struggles were simply an aberration and not Father Time's influence taking over.
It's probably not going to work. The FanGraphs playoff odds page currently forecasts the Phillies for 77 wins, 11 games behind the Nationals in the NL East and six games behind the Giants for the second wild-card spot.
And it isn't just the forecast distance, but also the quantity of teams that they would have to leap over to get back to the postseason; the Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks, Padres and Rockies are all in line behind the Giants and ahead of the Phillies. Their calculated 5.3 percent chance of winning their division ranks 10th in the National League, and their 6.7 percent chance of making the wild-card game ranks 11th in the NL. Only the Brewers, Mets, Marlins and Cubs come out as less likely playoff contenders according to our forecasts.
Plenty of assets to deal
Projections are not infallible, of course -- we didn't have the Pirates as playoff favorites before the 2013 season began, for instance -- and the Phillies have enough talent that a playoff run isn't completely out of the question. But they also have enough flaws that a crash-and-burn season is significantly more likely, and with Cole Hamels probably beginning the year on the disabled list, the Phillies' season could be over before it really begins. And that's why the Phillies need to prepare for the possibility of a big-time fire sale this summer.