Don't count out the Phillies

Re-signing Chase Utley was a clear sign the Phillies are not rebuilding. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

At the end of July 2012, two of the most successful franchises in baseball in recent years stood wounded. Between them, they had appeared in four World Series over the previous decade, winning three. But they now stood near or at the bottom of their divisions, struggling for relevance as baseball entered the homestretch.

Fast-forward a year and the stories of these two teams diverged, with one team taking a champagne bath after winning the World Series, the other watching the postseason after winning 73 games, the team's fewest since 1997.

The first team is, of course, the Boston Red Sox and the latter team is the Philadelphia Phillies, both team's 2013 fate set into motion by decisions made during and after down 2012 seasons.

You can't say much good about Boston's 2012, but one of the key decisions that got them to where they are right now was the so-called surrender trade, sending Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and their big contracts to the Dodgers for payroll flexibility they used to make major upgrades last winter.

The Phillies, on the other hand, chose a different path, stuck between retooling and rebuilding. The team made their own summer trades in 2012, sending Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino out of town, but when winter came, GM Ruben Amaro decided to essentially do nothing, adding only the ineffective Michael Young and Delmon Young.

A rebuilding team would have shopped Cliff Lee, the most valuable trade commodity, and possibly move on from the aging (but still valuable) Chase Utley. So, if the goal is a return to playing meaningful September games, it's going to require an aggressive push this offseason, not just useless tinkering around the edges. With negotiations ongoing for a new TV contract that could increase their TV revenue by a factor of six, the Phillies are set to get a major influx of cash, and they have the ability to vault themselves back into contention with a strong winter.