Last offseason Philadelphia Phillies owner John Middleton famously said his team was planning to spend money, and "maybe even be a little bit stupid about it." That led the Phillies to Bryce Harper, who inked a 13-year contract worth $330 million. The end result was an 81-81 season and an eighth consecutive October spent at home rather than in the postseason.
Harper did his part -- he smacked 35 homers with approached 5 WAR -- but ultimately the disappointing season cost manager Gabe Kapler his job. The Phillies replaced him with veteran skipper Joe Girardi, the surest sign the team is ready to win and win big. You don't sign Harper or hire Girardi when you're going through a rebuild. Those are win-now decisions.
"I am truly excited to be here. This is a special place," Girardi said at his introductory press conference. "... I know the importance of winning here. This is what we all want to accomplish. We want to win here."
The .500 record and fourth place finish suggest the Phillies need more than a few tweaks to contend for an NL East title next year, or even just a wild-card spot. They do have a strong core in pace though, and that's a good start. Here's a primer on Philadelphia's upcoming offseason.