Today, the Phillies are 77-76, and five games out of the second Wild Card. That i'm writing this is kind of amazing. It's surprising that they got back into the playoff hunt, and that they got to .500, let alone three games over on Friday. Unfortunately, it's time to be real- they're not going to play in the playoffs. The Cardinals will probably sweep the Astros this week, and then the Phillies will play a road trip in Miami and Washington that means nothing. That's the simple reality now. The Phillies gave away any real playoff hopes in Houston, and Atlanta ended that discussion this weekend. The Phillies will not make six straight post-seasons. The goal now is 82 wins, which takes a 5-4 finish.
Looking ahead though, there are some real questions to answer. Here's my list of what lies ahead:
- Is Roy Halladay just in need of an off-season, or in decline? If he just needs his lat to heal, the off-time of winter will do that, presuming the Phillies force him to rest. If he's in decline, the pitching staff will not carry the 2013 team like they did the 2011 team.
- Will the infield bounce back, and in what form? So, Chase Utley will probably move to third it seems, opening a spot up for Freddy Galvis at second. Ryan Howard will be back, and one must just hope he'll be closer to 100%. Chooch will be back behind the plate too, though it's hard to expect him to be this good again. Would the Phillies even consider trading J-Roll? Honestly, they probably have more infield questions than they've had since Chase Utley came up.
- Who's in the outfield? I think Dom Brown will get a full season next year to start in a corner slot. After that, it's open. I do believe they will sign a center-fielder, and I think that center-fielder will end up as B.J. Upton or Michael Bourn, though I actually prefer the younger, and probably cheaper, Upton. Bourn would be another 30+, long-term deal. The third spot will be interesting, as they could go sign someone or trade for someone from outside, or they could go internal, with a candidate pool of Nate Schierholtz, John Mayberry Jr., re-signing Juan Pierre, Laynce Nix, or even Darin Ruf. Cody Ross has been mentioned, and I wouldn't completely write that off.
- How many new relievers will they bring in? I don't think there's a lot of safe bullpen slots. Papelbon will be back, and Aumont and De Fratus haven't hurt their case. Horst and Bastardo are likely back from the lefty side. Beyond that, I'm not sure there are safe jobs. I'd pencil Cloyd in the long man's role, and then they'd probably look to bring in an 8th inning "beast" who can get games to Papelbon. The question is, is that one move enough?