PHILADELPHIA — Phillies president Andy MacPhail says management had to persuade ownership to keep a lower payroll.
The team finished last in the NL East for the third time in four years and hasn’t reached the post-season since 2011, but a slew of talented, young players have created a solid foundation for the future.
"I’m very encouraged by what I’ve seen and I saw a lot of positives," MacPhail said Tuesday.
He cited Philadelphia’s record over the last 70 games (35-35) and winning mark against division opponents (39-37) as part of the reason for optimism. Overall, the Phillies were 66-96.
MacPhail said the ownership group led by John Middleton is eager to win and willing to spend whatever money is necessary to accomplish the goal. The Phillies used to have one of the highest payrolls in the majors, but management feels this off-season isn’t the right time to sign overpriced free agents because of the current composition of the team.
"They didn’t react extraordinarily well to the plan," MacPhail said of ownership’s initial reaction, adding that it’s on board now.
He also made it clear the team won’t pass up an opportunity to add an expensive player if he’s the right fit. But MacPhail said he feels it’s best to allocate financial resources to other areas. The team plans to install a new field, add lighting, improve the speaker system and upgrade the fan experience throughout the ballpark.
Analytics and sports science are major priorities along with increasing the scouting staff internationally and on the domestic level.
"We have to seek competitive advantages, especially if resources are not deployed toward payroll," MacPhail said.
Rookies Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams came up from the minors and energized the offence. J.P. Crawford and Jorge Alfaro showed they belong in the 2018 lineup and Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis are valuable pieces.
"This is as deep an organization as I’ve ever been involved with," MacPhail said.
Hiring a new manager to replace Pete Mackanin will be general manager Matt Klentak’s first priority in the off-season. Improving the pitching staff will be No. 2.
But don’t expect the Phillies to spend big bucks on high-profile free agents like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta.
"My philosophy hasn’t changed," MacPhail said. "There are times you have to dive into that pool, but it’s not my favourite place to be. You don’t want to pay for past performance."