Being blinded by the captivating sunset and completely overlooking the edge of the oncoming cliff leads to an obvious outcome.
That is what happened to the Philadelphia Phillies over the last four seasons. Their front office, led by former general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and his mission to make his faulty plan look like a genuinely wise one, found itself at a peak and believed it to be a plateau rather than the top of a steep drop. Winning 102 games in a season can do that, but it was the job of Amaro's construction team to project the future and see the fall coming.
He—and, in turn, the Phillies—did not. So rather than selling high and getting optimum returns on players who still had some value, the Phillies plummeted to the tune of 358 losses over the last four seasons. The reality of the situation smashed the organization in the face, as many of its former stars lost that value and aged rapidly, and Amaro's tenure came to a deserved end in September.
By that time, though, the Phillies had recognized the fault in their ways. Ace Cole Hamels had been traded, as had closer Jonathan Papelbon along with others. And this offseason, with new GM Matt Klentak running things, the Phillies, in a shift from the previous regime, actually sold early on a player, dealing back-end reliever Ken Giles to the Houston Astros.
Now, finally, the Phillies are fully rebuilding. No more foolishly patching holes. No more clinging to the dream that aging players will suddenly resurrect their careers. Now, there is again hope in Philadelphia.
The Phillies traded Byrd, Rollins, Papelbon, Hamels, Revere, Utley & Giles for 16 prospects. Ten are ranked as team's top 16 prospects.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) December 10, 2015
The Phillies started this only a couple of seasons too late, as it is difficult to sell a plan that includes trading away stars months after the team wins 102 games in 2011. Still, after a .500 finish in 2012, the writing on the wall was clear and legible.
Taking so long to move veterans Hamels, Papelbon, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins was a bad look. It was equally as bad, if not worse, for the club to not rid itself of veterans like Carlos Ruiz or Cliff Lee when they still had value and the losses were already stacking.
Alas, the mistakes were made. What the Phillies have done since, including with Amaro still as an employee, has been impressive.
Sure, maybe they could have gotten a much bigger haul for Hamels had they dealt him sooner (the same could certainly be said for Utley). But what they did end up getting back for Hamels before last season's nonwaiver trade deadline was a solid haul.
The team was wisely willing to pay down some of Hamels' contract in return for a better package of prospects because in the end, they have the money. They needed the players.
Preseason Baseball America rankings: RHP Jake Thompson No. 2 #Rangers prospect, C Jorge Alfaro No. 3, OF Nick Williams No. 5. All to PHI.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2015
Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 30, 2015
Earlier this month, Klentak struck another big trade. He moved Giles to the Astros, a club with a win-now window. Giles had a 1.56 ERA over the last two seasons, but a team challenging to lose enough games to get the top overall pick in the 2017 draft has no need for such a bullpen weapon. So Klentak traded him for a load of pitching promise.
Mark Appel, the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, could eventually be the prize of the group. He had not lived up to expectations in the Astros organization, but he is only 24 years old and still possesses a live arm and plus stuff.
"We talked in the last two months about the importance of augmenting our pitching and maintaining balance in everything that we do," Klentak told reporters. "And with these trades...we feel like we made our club better, both in the short and the long term. It improves our pitching up and down the system."
The Phillies have more talent in their system now than they did since Utley/rollins/Burrell were there. And it's close to MLB ready.— John Stolnis (@FelskeFiles) December 23, 2015
The Phillies had the seventh overall pick in the 2014 draft, and that selection, right-hander Aaron Nola, has already debuted for the big league club. They had the 10th overall pick in the 2015 draft, will have the first pick next June and are the front-runners to have the top overall pick in the 2017 draft.
You see how the Phillies are stockpiling young talent to go with players like Nola, Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera and Cesar Hernandez. You see they are positioned to get impact players in the coming drafts. And finally, you should see that the team's television contract is worth more than $2.5 billion, giving it the financial flexibility to push its payroll beyond $200 million soon enough.
And just in time for a free-agent class after the 2018 season that could potentially include Bryce Harper, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, Manny Machado, Dallas Keuchel, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson, Jason Heyward, David Price and Clayton Kershaw.
The Phillies have $0 on the books for 2019. They are in an incredible position going into what should be the best free agent class ever.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 12, 2015
No longer are there cries about the Phillies' failing rebuild. Amaro is gone, and the false hope he saddled the organization with for too long is gone, too.
Philadelphia baseball has a new wave of hope. The rebuild is underway, finally. And the promise is blinding in a way that nobody has to worry about falling off a cliff anytime soon.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired first-hand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.