First Andy MacPhail snuck past security, and since he managed to find a wrist band that gets him access to the back rooms, he nabbed a couple for his buddies Joe Jordan, Scott Proefrock, Matt Klentak and Ned Rice, all of whom he knew from his time as team president of the Orioles.
Now, the party is starting to include fringe players this crew liked back from back in their Baltimore days. David Lough got a minor league deal just days ago, deepening the Phillies' options in the outfield and getting a free place to stay in Clearwater for a couple of weeks this spring.
Lough's most exposed season was 2014, when he made it into 112 games for Baltimore, hitting. 247 with a .694 OPS. From June to the end of the season, he hit .337 in 74 games (Though he only had 10 AB in July, going 4-for-10 with a walk and zero strikeouts). The O's had nabbed him as he was coming off an impressive rookie campaign for the Royals in 2013, finishing eighth in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. He was able to keep their outfield options deep as well, while providing a steady supply of non-home runs for opposing teams.
The obvious conclusion to draw here is that the Phillies are a season or two away from fully transitioning into the model of the 2007-11 Orioles. Is that good news?
Well, the Phillies were actually doing quite well in exactly that time period, so you could be forgiven for not realizing the Orioles were even a team. When MacPhail took over in June 2007, the O's were not in good shape. Manager Sam Perlozzo was not working out and would wind up losing his job that August, on the same day the team would suffer the worst baseball team loss since 1897: a 30-3 battering at the hands of the Rangers.
The following season, MacPhail had a front line starter to trade in Erik Bedard, a situation many compared to having Cole Hamels as a trade chip on the cusp of a rebuild with the Phillies. His next move was responsible for bringing in two of the team's current stars, as the despondent Bedard was swapped out to Seattle for Adam Jones and Chris Tillman (as well as reliever George Sherrill and two other prospects). From there, MacPhail brought in big pieces like Buck Showalter as the new manager in July 2010, and shipped out veterans like Bedard and Miguel Tejada.
Of course, did the Orioles finish out of last place during any of these seasons? Yes they, did - 2007, when they finished in fourth place, a few games ahead of the Rays. But other than that, no. No they did not. They couldn't even get to 70 wins.
That's because they were rebuilding, which was the whole point. MacPhail was plotting and scheming and assembling for an end product that he didn't stick around to see. After he and Klentak and Rice and Jordan and Proefrock finished finagling with the roster, a result was the 2012 AL East champion Orioles, for whom Dan Duquette was credited as he took over as GM that season (a position for which Proefrock was interviewed).
The team won the division again in 2014, and Duquette was again hat-tipped for his acquisition of Nelson Cruz that supplied the Orioles' offense with the most home runs in the league. But Cruz was added on top of the foundations laid by MacPhail and his crew, though Duquette's work can't be ignored - he also added small, effective pieces like Steve Pearce, Andrew Miller, and (sigh) Delmon Young, as well as David Lough. Even though he wasn't there anymore, some of MacPhail's cronies were still around and would be able to feed him their positive takes today on Lough as a role player for the Phillies.
It's these 2012-14 teams that provide the best look at MacPhail's work. We can't say it was exactly how he'd envisioned them, or that 2012 was an end point to the rebuilding process just because the team was successful, but MacPhail put some players in a room together and, despite his leaving the team, they wound up hoisting off a divisional flag. Team owner Peter Angelos was even supposedly trying to replace his ex-president with an executive of similar make-up, including one of MacPhail's own hires.
"There have been rumors that manager Buck Showalter, who was hired last August, would be the candidate to replace MacPhail and move upstairs. However, he has declined comment on the matter, and there remains growing speculation that Angelos will hire another seasoned general manager/president with a baseball pedigree similar to MacPhail's."
Every organization comes with its own set of complications, so there is no way to tell how exactly everything will turn out, even if the Phillies and Orioles were in comparable positions when MacPhail took over each team. He just seems excited to bring in former co-workers to create an environment akin to one he's felt has worked before, so all we can do is check out how it worked out previously, and the answer is: not bad. Most importantly, MacPhail and his team are into hiring interesting, forward-thinking people, as they did this very morning of a former Google analyst, so you know he's slick and modern.
If the MacPhail regime likes to bring in people with whom they've had solid relationships in the past, may we take a gander at the next few free agent classes to see who in Baltimore we can look forward to wearing red pinstripes? We're looking at Matt Wieters in 2017 and Manny Machado in 2018. Pencil them in now, people; scoot Maikel Franco over to first, drop Machado in at third, slot Jorge Alfaro behind the veteran Wieters, and watch the 2018 NL champs do their thing (Or, don't bring in a 33-year-old catcher on a huge deal when there's multiple catching prospects developing in the farm system, fine).