While two teams that did not win 90 regular-season games in 2014 played to the conclusion of the World Series, the Phillies huddled at their facility in Clearwater, Fla. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. unveiled The Phillies Way, a handbook distributed to all baseball personnel - coaches, scouts, athletic trainers included - during the team's organizational meetings this week.
The Phillies are not the first team to draft such a manual. Amaro planned it, well before the franchise shifted to a rebuilding phase, and decided this was the ideal time to affirm the team's direction.
There is a clearer course, at last, but the daunting application of said plan will require patience.
"We want to make sure we're implementing the things we've decided are important in the organization," Amaro said. "We're just looking to try to move forward."
Free agency starts Tuesday, and the Phillies will not be players for the major targets. The one exception, 24-year-old Cuban slugger Yasmany Tomas, is coveted by numerous clubs and could command $100 million. Beyond Tomas, Amaro will seek stopgap players on short-term deals.
The embattled general manager's "main priority" is to inject youth into his roster. The Phillies will attempt to do that by trading some of their veterans, just as they tried to do to no avail in July. How will a match be completed in the winter?
"A lot of it depends on the needs of the clubs," Amaro said. "A lot of it depends on the flexibility that we have - and can have - as far as dollars and cents are concerned. And our priorities. Our priorities now are a little different than they were in July. We made the decision, it's time to make a shift."
The Phillies have straddled the notion of contending and rebuilding for three seasons with the hope of striking it lucky like the Giants or Royals, two teams that did not win their divisions and emerged at an opportune time. Their admission of a new strategy coincided with the ascension of Hall of Fame executive Pat Gillick to interim team president. Industry rumblings peg Gillick, 77, as a force behind it.
Amaro is under contract through the 2015 season.
"More than anything else, we're trying to get younger first and foremost," Amaro said. "That's the main priority. We're trying to have a shift, a process where - whether you want to call it rebuilding, or redevelopment, or whatever you want to call it - it's time for us to change gears and look for younger, more controllable players we think can help build us a new core and move it forward."
Amaro identified Cody Asche, Maikel Franco, Darin Ruf, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown as players to build around. He wants to foster a better developmental environment at the major-league level.
"Those are all younger players who need to be surrounded by quality people and players who can help us develop them as players and people," Amaro said.
Hence, the expedited one-year signings of outfielder Grady Sizemore and righthander Jerome Williams. They are the kind of fringe players a contending team adds in January, but ones a rebuilding team locks up in October.
Williams is not guaranteed a job in the rotation; the team views him more as a sixth starter/swingman type. A.J. Burnett has until Monday night to exercise his $12.75 million player option. Cliff Lee's status remains uncertain because of a troublesome left elbow. So adding rotation arms is one task for the winter.
"We're going to try to find as many pitchers as we can that fit the mold of short-term deals that can provide some depth," Amaro said. "That's kind of the plan."
Amaro declined to discuss Tomas, who was declared a free agent Oct. 2. The team's interest in him is logical; Amaro described The Phillies Way as a focused effort on best practices for player development.
Said Amaro: "The thought process is to design our decisions around rebuilding and identifying a new core of players that we can look to more on a long-term basis."