Patience is difficult when the Phillies are on pace for their sixth straight losing season. But is the long-term outlook as grim as it appears right now? I decided to study how the Phillies' rebuild stacks up against teams in relatively similar situations.
Here are the criteria I used to define teams that are in "rebuilding mode."
1. Haven't made the playoffs in the last two years
This eliminates 14 of the 30 teams right off the bat: the Nationals, Mets, Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Indians, Royals, Rangers and Astros.
2. Haven't spent $100M on another team's free agent in the last four years
It's one thing to re-sign your own players like Joey Votto or Giancarlo Stanton before they hit the market. It's another to go out and sign Robinson Cano or Zack Greinke. This eliminates the Tigers, Mariners and Diamondbacks.
3. Don't have Mike Trout
You're not in rebuilding mode if you have the best player in the sport, who's still only 25 years old and signed through 2020. You either try to win with him or eventually bite the bullet and use him to jump-start a rebuild. This eliminates the Angels.
That leaves 12 teams currently in rebuilding mode, including the Phillies. Eight of those 12 are in the National League, so the Phillies will have plenty of competition trying to climb the ladder over the next few seasons.
I decided to rank the teams 1-12 in three categories: talent at age 30 or younger at the MLB level, potential impact talent in the minors and payroll flexibility.
To judge the minor-league talent, I'm using Baseball America's most recent update of its top 100 prospects. The number in parentheses next to each prospect's name represents his place in that top 100. Let's see where the Phillies stack up:
White Sox (Overall rank: 1st)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (4th): OF Avisail Garcia, 1B Jose Abreu, SS Tim Anderson, LHP Jose Quintana, RHP Derek Holland, LHP Carlos Rodon
• Impact talent in minors (1st): 2B Yoan Moncada (1), RHP Reynaldo Lopez (23), RHP Michael Kopech (24), RHP Lucas Giolito (40), C Zack Collins (51)
• Payroll flexibility (2nd)
Garcia is having a breakout season at age 25, while Abreu is under team control until 2020. Quintana will be a tremendous trade chip if the White Sox decide to cash in on him. Moncada is the consensus top prospect in the game right now, a dynamic combination of power and speed who was the centerpiece of the trade for Chris Sale. There's also plenty of high-ceiling pitching on the way.
The contracts of Melky Cabrera and Todd Frazier come off the books next season with very few long-term contracts remaining. If the White Sox want to spend, they'll have the resources to do it.
Rockies (Overall rank: 2nd)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (1st): 3B Nolan Arenado, OF Charlie Blackmon, OF David Dahl, 2B D.J. LeMahieu, SS Trevor Story, OF Gerardo Parra, C Tom Murphy, RHP Jon Gray, RHP Jeff Hoffman, RHP German Marquez, LHP Kyle Freeland, LHP Tyler Anderson, RHP Antonio Senzatela
• Impact talent in minors (7th): SS Brendan Rodgers (12), RHP Riley Pint (42), OF Raimel Tapia (45)
• Payroll flexibility (3rd)
Arenado is a true two-way superstar and gives Colorado the top ranking in young talent already at the MLB level. Blackmon is an underrated star while Story and LeMahieu are an above-average MLB double-play combo.
The Rockies have invested heavily in young pitching and those efforts are finally bearing fruit.
Rodgers is one of the top shortstop prospects in the game, and Tapia could be ready to take impending free agent Carlos Gonzalez's spot next season. Arenado is in line for a $200M-plus payday, but the rotation is young and cost-controlled.
Braves (Overall rank: T-3rd)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (8th): 1B Freddie Freeman, SS Dansby Swanson, OF Ender Inciarte, RHP Mike Foltynewicz, RHP Julio Teheran
• Impact talent in minors (2nd): 2B Ozzie Albies (8), LHP Kolby Allard (28), RHP Mike Sororka (44), RHP Ian Anderson (60), OF Ronald Acuna (62), SS Kevin Maitan (71), LHP Sean Newcomb (72), LHP Luiz Gohara (96)
• Payroll flexibility (4th)
Freeman is the star the Phillies don't have on their roster. Swanson is having a very good May after a dreadful April and is still just 23 years old.
The Braves have a slew of potential impact players in the minors, especially on the mound. They've got quantity and quality.
The Braves are locked into big deals with Matt Kemp (through 2019) and Freeman (through 2021). But if the talent in the minors proves to be as good as advertised, they'll have the money to pay a couple of veterans to fill in the gaps.
Phillies (Overall rank: T-3rd)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (10th): C Cameron Rupp, 1B Tommy Joseph, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS Freddy Galvis 3B Maikel Franco, OF Odubel Herrera, OF Aaron Altherr, RHP Aaron Nola, RHP Jerad Eickhoff, RHP Vince Velasquez, RHP Zach Eflin
• Impact talent in minors (3rd): OF Mickey Moniak (13), SS J.P. Crawford (19), C Jorge Alfaro (32), RHP Sixto Sanchez (61), 1B Rhys Hoskins (88)
• Payroll flexibility (1st)
How many of the guys on the current roster will still be here when the Phillies are ready to contend?
Franco and Herrera have regressed badly, while Rupp, Joseph and Hernandez have possibly more talented prospects behind them. None of the young starting pitchers have been consistent enough to be counted on long-term.
Of the prospects, Hoskins is probably the readiest to contribute in the majors right now, but he's currently blocked by Joseph. Crawford has turned it around after a horrendous April and his on-base skills should eventually earn him a spot in the Phillies' lineup. However, he looks less like a sure thing than he did a couple of years ago. Alfaro has star potential as a middle-of-the-order bat at catcher. Moniak and Sanchez have huge talent but they're still a long, long way from Citizens Bank Park.
The biggest factor in the Phillies' favor is they have big-market money and there's no reason to believe they won't spend it at some point. The real question is can they get superstar-level free agents to take their money?
Brewers (Overall rank: 5th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (7th): 1B Eric Thames, 2B Jonathan Villar, 3B Travis Shaw, SS Orlando Arcia, OF Keon Broxton, RHP Jimmy Nelson, RHP Wily Peralta, RHP Chase Anderson, RHP Corey Knebel
• Impact talent in minors (4th): OF Lewis Brinson (20), LHP Josh Hader (31), OF Corey Ray (36), RHP Luis Ortiz (73), Brandon Woodruff (74), SS Isan Diaz (87)
• Payroll flexibility (5th)
Thames has come back down to earth in May after doing his best Barry Bonds impression in April. Still, if he's even just a decent offensive player going forward, he's a good bargain signing for the next two seasons.
Villar has regressed after a breakout season in 2016, but he's still just 26. Arcia has become the everyday shortstop at 22.
Brinson and Ray are both high-ceiling outfield prospects with the chance to become stars.
Even with Ryan Braun's contract, the Brewers have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball. Don't count on big-time free agents going to Milwaukee, but the club will have money to spend.
Twins (Overall rank: T-6th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (3rd): 3B Miguel Sano, 2B Brian Dozier, OF Max Kepler, SS Jorge Polanco, OF/DH Robbie Grossmann, RHP Jose Berrios, OF Byron Buxton, LHP Hector Santiago
• Impact talent in minors (10th): SS Nick Gordon (47)
• Payroll flexibility (6th)
Sano has been one of the best offensive players in the game this season and he just turned 24. Dozier has hit at least 33 doubles and 23 HRs in each of the last three seasons. He's a free agent after next season. Kepler and Buxton both have exciting potential in the outfield.
There's not a ton of high-ceiling talent in the minors because they've brought so many young players to the majors.
On the payroll front, Joe Mauer is still owed $23 million this season and next season, while Phil Hughes doesn't come off the books until 2020.
Don't expect the Twins to target big-ticket free agents. It's not how they do business. They'll go bargain-shopping in those next couple of tiers.
Pirates (Overall rank: T-6th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (5th): RHP Gerrit Cole, LF Gregory Polanco, CF Starling Marte (currently serving 80-game PED suspension), 1B Josh Bell, RHP Ivan Nova, 2B Josh Harrison, OF Andrew McCutchen, RHP Jameson Taillon (battling testicular cancer), OF Adam Frazier
• Impact talent in minors (6th): OF Austin Meadows (4), RHP Mitch Keller (18) SS Kevin Newman (50)
• Payroll flexibility (8th)
The Pirates have had some extremely bad luck over the last couple of years. McCutchen seemingly fell off a cliff and they missed their window to deal him for what would have been a massive return a couple of years ago. Their best young player, Marte, is suspended for PED use, casting doubt on his true talent level.
They do have a potential star on the way in outfielder Meadows. Pittsburgh consistently has a bottom-third payroll and should be able to deal Cole for a nice return if the team isn't contending.
Marlins (Overall rank: 8th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (2nd): OF Giancarlo Stanton, OF Christian Yelich, OF Marcell Ozuna, C JT Realmuto, 1B Justin Bour, 2B Dee Gordon, RHP Dan Straily
• Impact talent in minors (11th): RHP Braxton Garrett (80)
• Payroll flexibility (9th)
The young talent already in the big leagues is the envy of most teams on this list. However, there's not much pitching and the minor-league system is barren.
Jeffrey Loria's gamble on Stanton becoming a perennial MVP candidate isn't looking good, and Stanton is owed $285 million over the next 10 seasons. We'll find out if the money will be there to build around Stanton when a new ownership group finally takes over.
Rays (Overall rank: 9th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (6th): CF Kevin Keirmaier, RHP Chris Archer, RHP Alex Cobb, DH/OF Chris Dickerson, SS Tim Beckham, RHP Jake Odorizzi, OF Steven Souza, Jr.
• Impact talent in minors (5th): SS Willy Adames (7), RHP Brent Honeywell (22), RHP Jose De Leon (38), OF Jake Bauers (64), 1B Casey Gillespie (69), OF Jesus Sanchez (96)
• Payroll flexibility (12th)
The Rays have some nice young players, but nothing close to a true star to build around. They've been unable to replicate the kind of Evan Longoria-Carl Crawford-Ben Zobrist-Scott Kazmir-David Price core that went to the World Series in 2008. Now they are stuck in a constant cycle of trying to trade young veterans for prospects.
Archer could be the next player to go as they try to find more young, cheap talent.
The Rays have ranked in the bottom three in payroll in each of last four seasons. They don't have anything close to an Arenado-level talent that demands a big contract.
Reds (Overall rank: 10th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (9th): 3B Eugenio Suarez, CF Billy Hamilton, OF Scott Schebler, OF Adam Duvall, C Devin Mesoraco, 2B Jose Peraza, RHP Anthony Desclafani, RHP Raisel Iglesias, RHP Brandon Finnegan
• Impact talent in minors (8th): 3B Nick Senzel (6), LHP Amir Garrett (63)
• Payroll flexibility (7th)
The Reds are in an interesting spot with Votto. He's still incredibly productive, but he's 33 years old and is still owed an astonishing $157 million.
If they eat some of that money, they might be able to get a couple pitching prospects to go with their young hitters.
Suarez and Schebler are having true breakout seasons and Senzel is close to major league-ready.
They're in a similar situation as the Marlins with good, young position players and very little pitching. However, Votto may be easier to trade than Stanton, especially to an AL team where he could possibly be a David Ortiz-type designated hitter.
Padres (Overall rank: 11th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (12th): 1B Wil Myers, OF Manuel Margot, OF Hunter Renfroe, 3B Ryan Schimpf, C Austin Hedges, RHP Trevor Cahill, 2B Yangervis Solarte
• Impact talent in minors (9th): RHP Anderson Espinoza (29), 2B Luis Urias (59), RHP Cal Quantrill (78), LHP Adrian Morejon (91)
• Payroll flexibility (10th)
The Padres are paying Melvin Upton, Jr., James Shields and Hector Olivera more money not to play for them this season than they're paying any player on the current roster.
This team is going to try and build from within over the next couple of seasons before it thinks about adding any significant payroll.
Myers and Margot are a nice start, but there's still a long way to go for San Diego.
Athletics (Overall rank: 12th)
• 30-or-under MLB talent (11th): OF Khris Davis, RHP Sonny Gray, 1B Yonder Alonso, 1B/DH Ryon Healy, OF Mark Canha, RHP Jesse Hahn, RHP Kendall Graveman
• Impact talent in minors (12th): LHP AJ Puk (79), 3B Matt Chapman (95)
• Payroll flexibility (12th)
Oakland has very little impact talent either in the minors or the majors.
Davis hits home runs but does little else. The young pitching is good, not great.
Billy Beane has basically put together a beer league softball roster that is terrible defensively. He also probably missed his window to trade Gray for a good return.
Ryan Madson is their highest-paid player. Yes, that Ryan Madson. Expect a bottom-five payroll going forward.