Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On the Eve of the Deadline...

'Twas the night before trading, 
When all through the (club)house
Not a rumor was stirring, 
Not even Manny Ramirez.

In all fairness, the Phillies did fill their biggest need in patching up the rotation with Joe Blanton, but for a team in a three-way division race, it's surprising that there's nothing happening on the trade front. There was talk about an outfield bat such as Casey Blake, Matt Holliday, and very briefly Manny Ramirez, and also about acquiring a left-handed reliever such as Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay, or Damaso Marte. At the same time, the team has one of the most potentially devastating lineups in the majors, the best bullpen in the majors, and they dealt with their rotation as best they could. They made their second-half starting pitcher deal and all that remains to be seen is whether they can repeat the second half success they've had in the past year. So it begs the question: should they make a deal or not? Looking at both sides of the argument...

The team needs something to get it going. They ended the first half on the slow side and they've been mediocre starting the second half. They've looked slightly better in the last few games, with the offense coming through when it needs to rally and an encouraging start from a recently recalled Brett Myers. If the team is starting to warm up, this would be a good time to add another piece and build the momentum. There isn't a specific piece that the team needs; they filled their one gaping hole with Joe Blanton, though it remains to be seen what to expect from him. But imagine improving the bullpen that is already the best in the majors, or adding a bat to an already nasty lineup suffering from inconsistency. 

At this point in the season, the Phillies have been unable to separate themselves from the Mets and the Marlins and now is the time to make an addition to create that divide. If they could acquire a great right fielder, that'd be a good move, though most of the outfielders available would hurt the defense, already hurt by Pat Burrell. Acquiring another utility guy would make a lot of sense if Feliz is going to have some trouble, to spell Bruntlett, and if they get a guy with speed, he could take the place of So Taguchi, who has not been particularly useful this season. Another left-handed bullpen pitcher would also be a nice move. They don't necessarily need to tinker with the bullpen, but it would be nice not to be stingy with J.C. Romero for fear of overusing him as the sole lefty in the pen. With Chris Coste slumping offensively, and Carlos Ruiz doing nothing offensively, even getting a catcher would be a decent idea. Whatever it is, the team needs to make a move in order to boost the team and reestablish themselves as, in Jimmy Rollins' words, the team to beat in the NL East. 

Or, as my good friend pointed out to me today, "Everybody likes deals."

The biggest problem with the Phillies making a trade is figuring out what they have to give up. Their farm system is not particularly strong and they already used two of their major chips to acquire Joe Blanton. Their most highly sought-after prospects, Carlos Carrasco and Lou Marson, are a part of the Phillies' near future and they could both help the major league club as early as this year. They have a few intriguing prospects lower in the system, such as Jason Donald and Greg Golson, but to acquire a supplementary piece with one of those guys would be a waste. Does it really make a lot of sense to trade shortstop Jason Donald for left-handed reliever Ron Mahay? In a year or so, Donald could be a major trade chip. 

Bearing that in mind, what position would the Phillies acquire that would justify giving up one of their few good prospects? The team solved its one major issue in the Joe Blanton deal, and if that doesn't work out or Myers doesn't work out, they could give J.A. Happ another crack at a starting slot, and see if Adam Eaton or Kris Benson prove themselves rotation worthy in the minors. They already have the best bullpen in the majors and will be getting Tom Gordon back at some point in the season which, if he's healthy, would be just as good as getting any pitcher they could acquire at this point. So Taguchi has been a little better of late, and once Pedro Feliz comes back, he should be better in theory, and quite frankly he's been exactly what the team was expecting him to be when they signed him: a great fielder with a little bit of power. In September, they'll probably call up Lou Marson or Jason Jaramillo to help with the poor production at catcher, though there was never a lot of talk about them getting a catcher anyway. 

Lastly, with the team's reputation for having better second halves in recent years, the fact that they were far better in the first half than they had been the past couple years, it's worth it to see what they do with an improved roster from the division winning team last year. 

It might be worth it to get a supplementary player, but it's highly unlikely that they'll make a deal. They don't have the trading chips to make it happen in a way that would be truly worth it. But if either the Mets or Marlins make a deadline deal, the team could be fighting an uphill battle.  

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