A lot has been made about what Ryne Sandberg says he wants this off-season. What he wants is a good team. Besides back-end bullpen arms, he basically needs everything to be overhauled. The line-up needs help. The starting rotation needs help. The bullpen could still use depth. The bench needs to look nothing like the opening day 2014 bench. In short, the team can't look like the one they have in 2014, when opening day rolls around in 2015. Questions like, is Ben Revere an everyday player can't be questions we're asking about our better players. If we're that uncertain of the squad we have a year from today, we're probably still a 73 win type of team.
Changing this team substantially isn't really easy, and probably requires the Phillies to do some uncomfortable things. That still beats continuing irrelevance, and declining fan interest though. The Phillies are first hamstrung by contracts they have, which are expensive and given to players who just aren't what they used to be. Ryan Howard always gets mentioned here first, and so I'll give him the obligatory "his contract sucks" sentence, but i'm not stopping there. The Phillies are 14 games under .500, and .272 with 11 homers from Chase Utley next year isn't going to make them much better, nor will .243 from Jimmy Rollins, .255 from Chooch, .236 from Dom, or getting under 100 innings from Cliff Lee. In short, the Phillies can't be sentimental anymore and think they're going anywhere. With the exception of Cole Hamels, frankly they don't have a "great" player.
The Phillies have $143.75 million committed to ten players (three starters including Burnett, two relievers including MAG, five position players), and that's before adding on club-controlled players and arbitration eligible players. Of those ten players, you could call Hamels, Papelbon, Byrd, and Utley solid this season, while you could maybe say Rollins and Chooch were alright. That's a lot of mediocre and bad money.
I'd like to see the Phillies commit to Maikel Franco, Darin Ruf, and Cody Asche getting to play next year, even if that means biting the bullet and committing to getting Howard and Brown out of town. I'd like to see Chase Utley tail off less next year, so I see that as doable, from a playing time standpoint. I'd like to see them go hard to sign Tomas, or another corner outfield bat that can help them. I'd like to see the Phillies concentrate hard on upgrading the pitching staff with a top of the rotation starter this off-season to compliment Cole and decrease the workload on Cliff. I'd like to see the Phillies dump Bastardo and take a chance on a low-risk bullpen signing to provide some depth after Papelbon, Giles, Diekman, and De Fratus. I'd like to see them keep Sizemore around as an often-used fourth outfielder, and build a bench that likewise has more pop in their bats, and more versatility as well. All of this is aspirational stuff for a baseball team. Everyone wants these things.
The real question is whether the Phillies are willing to do it? The Phillies can go out and spend at any level they so choose, and can buy the players they want, if they're willing to do it. They can also buy-out aging players in bad contracts, rather than continue to play them and lose. They can trade failed prospects for pennies on the dollar. They can spend big on international free agents whom they think can play now. They can trade players who they think gave them the best years they possibly could this year, and might disappoint next year. The Phillies can do whatever they want, because they are a big market team, with a huge television contract, and a fan-base that they know will come back if they put a competitive team out there. The division is weak right now, and only the Mets have the financial potential in the long-term to spend with the Phillies, given the interest of the fan bases of the other teams.
Of the Phillies can go 2-5 for the week, as they did this past week. And they can play six meaningless games again next year in the final week of the season. And we can hear lots of talk about how disappointing players will "bounce back" next year.
It's really their call now.