The Phillies started this season as the chip leader, so to speak. Nearly half-way through, they are short-stacked and have a tough decision to make. The Phils can tightly hold onto the rest of our chips hoping they don’t get blinded away, or they can push their chips all-in.
Sorry for the poker reference, it just seemed to fit. This has not been an easy week for the Phillies, and instead of bashing them I took some time to try to rationalize the best way to solve this problem.
The Phillies went from the NL favorite and two consecutive WS appearances to a 3rd place team in a hurry. Is that such a bad thing? In the short term, it certainly seems that way. But..when you factor in that they had a very similar record at this point, and that the players we are missing will eventually return to the lineup, I think there is more hope than we can see at the moment. Four games out of first place and two games out of the wild card are certainly manageable numbers for a team missing this much talent from it’s lineup.
It seems like it is becoming en vogue to start thinking of the Phillies as potential sellers at the trading deadline. It has also been discussed heavily that the Phillies could benefit from a pitcher like Dan Haren and an infielder to fill in at second base or third base. I agree with both of those theories, but the only way to determine which is correct is to put your chips in right now (4 weeks before the deadline). The regret of not trading a player like Werth for what could be projected to be a nice prospect or 2, would be far outweighed by the regret of falling a few games short of making the playoffs. How is this accomplished?
A) Become a buyer right now. Domonic Brown is not touchable. Anyone else is. This team is too damn talented to ruin the somewhat shrinking window they have, by worrying about 2014. Players like Howard, Utley, Halladay, are once in a generation, and if their window is only a few more seasons, the Phillies can’t ruin one-third of that window by not being aggressive. It’s easy to say that if they held onto Cliff Lee they wouldn’t have to make a move, but that doesn’t help us out right now. I’m certainly not a GM so I don’t know what it would take to get any of these players, but here are 2 hypotheticals in this scenario:
Trade 1: Cosart, Mathieson, Rizzotti, Low Level Player for Dan Haren
Trade 2: Bastardo amd mid-level prospect for Jose Lopez
This immediately provides a boost to the lineup, and after Polanco/Utley return gives them a very nice player off the bench. More importantly, the Phillies would have a pitcher in Haren who is not only insurance against which Cole Hamels is going to show up, but it deepens the rest of the rotation knocking out Kendrick (assuming Blanton returns to normalcy).
B) The clubhouse is too damn comfortable. This team won previously because guys were fighting for AB’s and fighting to win. Vic and Werth were unproven, Dobbs was fighting for a roster spot, etc. Here are a few moves to shake up the clubhouse:
Move 1: Release Greg Dobbs
Move 2: Promote Domonic Brown
Move 3: Sign Chan Ho Park
If there are 6 games per week and 3 OF positions and each OF averging 4 plate appearances per game, that is 72 plate appearances per week. Werth can take 21-22 and sit occasionally against a tough righty. Victorino can take 21-22 and sit occasionally when he is in a hacking slump (like right now). Brown can take 15 per week and sit 2x per week or so against tough lefties. That leaves about 7 or 8 plate appearances for both Ibanez and Francisco to split– not counting pinch hitting duties. My point? There are plenty of at-bats up here for Brown and he doesn’t have to be exposed to tough lefties. Here are a few lineup possibilities to shake things up:
Lineup 1 Rollins, Victorino, Brown, Howard, Werth, Schneider, Lopez, Valdez
Lineup 2 (if Ruiz is back) Rollins, Ruiz, Brown, Howard, Werth, Victorino, Lopez, Valdez
If Brown proves he can play, once September 1st hits and the injured big guns are back, the Phillies lineup would be back to normal, but would include Brown over Ibanez
Rollins, Polanco, Utley, Howard, Werth, Brown, Victorino, Ruiz
That is a World Series lineup right there, which is a primary reason that I think now is the time to buy 2 players and shake up the chemistry to keep this team on top.
Your rotation would be Halladay, Haren, Hamels, Moyer, and Blanton. That is deep and talented.
Now– if this failed. If July 28th or so came along and you are 7 games out and you find that the chances of making the playoffs are slim, you then, and only then, become a seller. This will enable you to get some prospects back to replenish what you gave up to get Haren, but also keep your team competitive for 2011 and beyond. Ruben could trade:
* Werth: If he’s not coming back next year, a contender will pay heavily for him. Look at what Holliday returned last year as an example. A top hitting prospect (Brett Wallace) and 2 lower prospects. So they can expect less than we paid for Haren, but still a quality haul in return.
* Madson: He’s not a fan favorite at the moment, but he’s valuable. If he comes back before the deadline and throws a few innings and looks healthy, teams will pay for him. The middle of the Phillies bullpen is actually deep, so I think it would be more valuable to sell Madson for prospects then to have him in 2011.
These guys would at least get the minor league system a few players back. It would also give the Phillies 2 more competitive years of Haren to go along with the rest of their stars that are locked up contractually. But in my opinion, the sooner the better. You can’t wait to buy, and then realize your team isn’t going to make it and lose these players for no return. And even worse, you can’t take a team that has appeared in back-to-back World Series’ and watch them fall just a few games short of the playoffs because you didn’t supply them the ammunition they needed in July.
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