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Past-their-prime Phillies head into offseason trying to reshape high-priced roster

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PHILADELPHIA — A franchise-record payroll didn't help the Philadelphia Phillies win many games.

The Phillies spent more than $184 million on a roster that finished last in the NL East for the first time since 2000. They were 73-89 for the second straight year, posting their first back-to-back losing seasons since 1999 and 2000.

Change is coming.

"I think there's definitely some changes that are on the horizon," slugger Ryan Howard said. "What all those changes are, I don't know. I don't make all those decisions. But I'm sure there will be some."

Trying to trade Howard, the 2006 NL MVP, will be one of the priorities. However, the Phillies will likely have to pay most of the $60 million left on his contract for the next two seasons. Still, there isn't much of a market for a soon-to-be 35-year-old first baseman who hit .223 with 23 homers and 95 RBIs while striking out 190 times.

Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz, three other holdovers from the team's five-year run of dominance that ended in 2011, are also getting paid for past performances and were part of an offense that struggled mightily.

"I feel like we lost a lot of close games this year where if we had an extra run or two, we would be victorious," Utley said.

Manager Ryne Sandberg, who replaced Charlie Manuel in August 2013, is expected to return along with general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. Pat Gillick, the acting team president, has said both are safe. Amaro fired assistant general manager and amateur scouting director Marti Wolever on Friday night, so it doesn't appear a major front-office shake-up is imminent.

That means most of the same people who made the decisions that put the Phillies in this mess will be responsible for rebuilding the team. It starts with finding some hitters.

PHOTO: Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels throws against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)
Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels throws against the Atlanta Braves in the first inning of a baseball game Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/H. Rumph Jr)

"The lineup and the offense is something to be addressed in the offseason," Sandberg said.

Rollins and Utley are probably staying put because they have no-trade clauses and don't want to go anywhere. Ruiz also is likely to be back. Third baseman Cody Asche and corner infielder Maikel Franco both should be in the 2015 lineup, too. Center fielder Ben Revere tied for the NL lead in hits and right fielder Marlon Byrd hit a career-best 25 homers, but they're not locks to return.

"Things are going to be different," Rollins said. "How much and who? We don't know. We can't even begin to try and answer that question."

There are no certainties in the starting rotation. Cole Hamels had a career-best 2.46 ERA, but only was 9-9. He is the team's most tradable player so the Phillies have to consider moving him for a valuable return.

"I understand the situation," Hamels said. "All good things come to an end. I understand the organization and what they have to do. I know they have to make some changes. I can't say or tell them what to do, I'm just one piece."

Cliff Lee's health is a question mark after he made only 13 starts. Kyle Kendrick and Jerome Williams will be free agents. A.J. Burnett, who lost 18 games, has a mutual option for $15 million or a player option for $7.5, but is considering retiring. David Buchanan, who had a solid rookie year, is a strong candidate for one of the five spots.

The bullpen was Philadelphia's strength. Rookie Ken Giles emerged as a dominant setup man and provided a solid lefty-righty combo with Jake Diekman. Closer Jonathan Papelbon converted 39 of 43 saves, but wore out his welcome. He'll be gone if the Phillies find a taker for his hefty salary — $13 million next season with a vesting option for $13 million in 2016.

"We have the makings of a good bullpen going forward. The bullpen was solid," Sandberg said.

The rest of the team, that needs fixing.


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