Fans of the Philadelphia Phillies could be forgiven for adopting a pessimistic outlook given the way that their club has drifted through the off-season when it comes to recruitment.
Sure, Caleb Cotham has been hired as pitching coach, but after a disappointing 2020 campaign that does not seem to do much to improve things. For most of the last month, the Phillies have looked like an outfit that lacks direction and purpose, especially when compared with their rivals.
Divisional rivals Atlanta Braves have signed left-handed pitcher Drew Smyly to a one-year, $11 million contract. They have also signed former Phillie Charlie Morton, a right-handed pitcher with a fine record at Philadelphia, to a one-year, $15 million deal.
Klentak yet to be properly replaced
General manager Matt Klentak also left the Phillies in October, after it looked likely that he would keep his job throughout 2021. A proper replacement for Klentak has not been named, with Ned Rice currently filling the role on an interim basis.
The position of team president Andy MacPhail has also been in some doubt. MacPhail has confirmed that he will be stepping down once a replacement for him can be found, which is likely to be before the end of the season.
That kind of uncertainty reinforces the sense of drift at the Phillies, with Managing Partner John Middleton needing to get a grip on things. The team recently made a push to sign JT Realmuto, according to manager Joe Girardi, but that trail looks like going cold too.
Snapping up a new general manager would seem to be a good idea for the Phillies. MLB.com recently reported that the club was moving ahead with interviews for the role, and there is at least one big name among the candidates.
Jeff Kingston, current assistant general manager of the World Series champions Los Angeles Dodgers, is apparently in the frame. His acquisition would be a major step forward for a team that is currently finding recruitment for 2021 tricky.
There are a few reasons for Phillies fans to be cheerful, though. Some of the players already at the club certainly performed well in 2020, and they could yet help to take the team to the next level.
Bryce Harper is one of those reasons. While the right fielder has not exceeded the high expectations placed on his shoulders, he has at least met them. After two seasons of his 13-year deal, Harper is marginally better offensively with the Phillies than he was while at the Washington Nationals.
He has a .518 slugging percentage and .903 OPS as a Phillie compared to the .512 and .900 he achieved while with Washington. He has only just turned 28 and could yet reach his professional peak with the Phillies.
Keep an eye on Abel
The Phillies also have 19-year old pitcher called Mick Abel, a player that is coveted by other clubs in the MLB. He was the first high school pitcher selected in the 2020 draft, and is known for his fastball. Abel has been compared to Justin Verlander.
But if the Phillies want to do better in 2021, they will need to add more reinforcements to the ranks. There is still a shortage of the kind of quality they need to improve. Perhaps once the off-field situation looks more solid, the playing staff will receive a recharge too.