Tanking isn't a new concept in professional sports, but it's not something you hear about often in baseball and it's certainly not a way to define the Phillies and their 2016 campaign.
December 23, 2015, 4:00 PM EST.
The Phillies are not tanking the 2016 season.
To be honest. I don't even know how a baseball team could tank or what an organization would gain from purposefully putting an inferior product on the field.
Teams retool and rebuild in baseball, but they don't tank.
Organizations strategically decide how to spend payroll on free agents and may play it safe in any given off-season so as to not get locked into an unfavorable contract, but that's a part of the rebuilding process.
Sure, a terrible record assures an organization a top draft slot and additional funds to spend on international prospects, but nothing is guaranteed and it's not uncommon for high profile prospects to fizzle out.
There's an apprenticeship in baseball that makes it unique. Unlike leagues where tanking is common like the NFL and NBA, talented amateur baseball players rarely make an instant impact at the professional level.
As for the Phillies, the club has made 17 first-round picks in the amateur draft dating back to 2000. Of those 17 draft picks, just two - Cole Hamels and Chase Utley - have made a significant impact with the organization. Only 9 of the 17 have reached the majors and seven of the nine, excluding Hamels and Utley, have combined for a WAR of 18.2. If you take Gavin Floyd, who contributed very little to Philadelphia, out of the equation you're looking at a combined WAR of 2.5.
Do you still think tanking for a better draft pick makes sense?
Remember names like Joe Savery, Greg Golson, and Kyle Drabek? They all were considered can't miss prospects at one point and each turned out to become a marginal major league talent at best.
The Phillies are going to have an Opening Day payroll somewhere in the neighborhood of $105-million. Sure, general manager Matt Klentak could go after some free agents to bolster the roster, but that's not where the Phillies are right now in terms of the rebuilding process.
The ownership wants to see what the current crop of prospects can do and fill roster holes accordingly. That makes sense and it's smart baseball; it's rebuilding, not tanking.
Sure, for a team in a situation like the Phillies it may look odd to bring in veteran hurlers like Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton, but Klentak has praised both players for their leadership and he's placing significant value on their clubhouse presence and mentorship.
"On paper, these aren't splash signings," Klentak said. "Both of these guys though bring a positive attitude and a veteran presence and that's the kind of culture we want to foster. They are leaders and that's something we want, especially with a young club."
Admittedly, the Phillies may not win any more games in 2016 than they won in 2015, but that's all part of the rebuilding process. It's not tanking or purposefully putting an inferior product on the field, instead it's the growing pains that go into developing a roster that can compete realistically for a postseason berth in 2017 or 2018.