What can we do to jump-start the Phils? The team is in a funk, centered mostly around a lack of offensive production. The lack of offense is coming from a mixture of injuries and the Phillies playing guys who should either be bench players or minor leaguers. Last night, Sardinha/Valdez/Martinez/Mayberry and Francisco. You could argue that not a single one of those guys would be starting on another contender, and the Phillies had five in there last night against one of the better pitchers in the National League. Throw in the pitcher’s spot and that’s 2/3 of the lineup. They are coming to a gun fight with a Revolutionary War musket right now.
Of course this was a conscious decision the Phillies made. They stacked the deck with pitching. In an off-season where it was believed they’d have little money to spend they found 9-figures for another starting pitcher. It gave them an incredible starting staff, but it did so at a cost to the balance of the team. The belief was that players already on the roster, some unproven minor leaguers and a journeyman or two could plug the gaps on an already declining offense while the Phillies managed a stable of dominant starting pitching.
It was an optimistic approach, and in sports you never like to use the word, “hope,” too much. We hope this guy can do this. Well, that probably means he’s never done it before, or is unlikely to again. Unfortunately for the Phillies they had some guys that had productive spring training performances. Of course, these can be misleading. A steady diet of fastballs, plenty of minor league pitchers and not much spotlight. It was a formula that left the Phillies comfortable with guys like Pete Orr and Michael Martinez on the roster and had them thinking that Ben Francisco might really be more than a 4th outfielder.
Needless to say, those spring training stats have not repeated themselves. It is hardly a plight unique to the Phillies, but along with leaving a hole or two in the starting line up, it left them incredibly vulnerable to injury. When Chase Utley goes down the drop off to his replacement is cavernous. Same with Shane Victorino. Pretty much across the board the Phillies don’t have suitable replacements, except in the pitching department. There, they were ready with 7 starters and an upper minor league system that was sprinkled with promising arms and totally devoid of any bat aside from Dom Brown (also fighting injuries).
So, what is the solution here, patience? Wait for guys to come back, wait for the worst of the slumps to be over? I don’t think many people would accept that. The natives are getting restless and the wild theories are flying. I’ve seen everything from going all the way back to the stealing signs incident(s) to people demanding the Phillies trade Ryan Howard. Pretty much any Phillies staff member in a position of some authority is being ripped. Is patience a reasonable expectation?
The thing getting in the way of the Phillies making a real move is that they aren’t sure what they have. Without Chase Utley, without a decent amount of time starting their ideal lineup every day, they are hesitant to make a move. You can’t go out and get an infielder with some pop now if Utley is going to return at nearly 100%. It’s hard to trade off pitching depth for help in the outfield if you aren’t sure Blanton and Oswalt are going to be able to stay in the rotation. The Phillies are in dire need of some stability. They need their 25-man roster to be the same for about a month straight.
Until that happens they’ll just be biding their time, and trying to get by with what they have. This has worked so far for the most part. The Phils are 9 games over .500, not 9 games under, but they are trending the wrong way right now. When things stabilize I hope that the front office will realize the folly of their off-season plan. They never would have stacked the lineup and entered the season with Blanton/Kendrick/Worley and Drew Carpenter in the rotation, but what they actually did was the opposite and they are seeing that maybe that cannot work either.
What will they be willing to do? That’s the question. How much more could the farm system be pillaged on a team that is aging so rapidly? Is there a starting pitcher (aside from Blanton or Worley) that they’d be willing to move? Would they send Oswalt somewhere, especially if they think he might retire after this season? Prospects or big league starting pitching seem like the only areas of strength to deal from.
My number one target to move would be Worley. I’d try to turn him into J.A. Happ and create a market. I’d try to get him through the league a few times with some good numbers and then use him in a package for some offense. I don’t think Worley is the kind of guy that is going to come back and haunt you, either. But, even if he is, sometimes you have to take those kind of risks. You could definitely get my ear on Oswalt as well if he proves to be healthy, the problem is the Phils have a lot of guys and contracts you can’t trade.
Of course, any major change is probably a month off, at least. In the meantime, I’d resort to voodoo, see if Jobu is available. Perhaps get Wade Boggs in town to preach on the healing power of chicken? Maybe Charlie needs to explode? (Chuck was aggressively out-managed the last two games by the way). Perhaps people are so upset, because they don’t see an immediate solution. I don’t really see one either ( I just don’t think screaming, “we suck, I hate this team, get rid of them all,” is the answer), other than hoping the Phillies have an honest assessment of themselves on the horizon, but there’s that word hope again.