Ed Wade’s firm hand has guided the Astros to a 31-64 record. Hard to believe it is the same franchise that had a reputation for high-priced rentals like Randy Johnson and Carlos Beltran. Those Astros teams took their shot, and I always respect teams that show that kind of aggression. The Brewers have adopted that formula. Load up for a run and then hope for the best when it’s over. Their acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez was the first major move of deadline season and proof that they may be on the verge of losing Prince Fielder and having their rotation blown up, but they will be going down swinging. I know it was a move that registered on the radar of some Phillies fans. Milwaukee stabilizing a weakness in the bullpen makes them a bigger threat, and I think that will be theme of the trade deadline. How much better do the other guys get?
I just don’t see the Phillies acquiring someone who will make a big impact on the roster. I always assume Ruben Amaro is lying about his intentions, the payroll flexibility, injuries, well…pretty much anything he says, but there aren’t many guys available that would make this Phillies team significantly better. If you think Josh Willingham is the key to this team turning into a force on offense, it’s time to get your head checked. I think Phillies fans suffer sometimes from an “anyone but who we have,” syndrome. Josh Willingham? I had him on a fantasy team I didn’t pay attention to in 2008. He’s right-handed? Sold!
If you asked most fans if they could tolerate a corner outfielder who hit 22 homers and knocked in 83 runs, they’d probably begrudgingly accept. Better than what we’ve got! Those are Raul Ibanez’s projected numbers. I know the mere sight of Ibanez infuriates some people at this point, but Josh Willingham’s numbers are shockingly similar to Raul’s. He does hit right-handed, but he’s certainly no defensive whiz, he’s on pace for 137 K’s in 120 games and he’s hitting .232 against left-handed pitchers. The Josh Willingham category of outfielder is not going to help the Phils.
That isn’t to say there aren’t impact players out there. I just don’t know that they’ll end up in Philly. To the people who just blindly assume that the Phillies will get Michael Cuddyer, or that Ed Wade is going to ship off Hunter Pence in exchange for a nice bouquet from Edible Arrangements, I’d say–I hope you are right. I really do. But, I’m not sure it’s going to happen. I’d love to have Cuddyer, but he’ll have over 4 million dollars left on his contract at the deadline. And, the Twins are only 5 games out of first place in the putrid AL Central.
I’d trade a lot to get Hunter Pence. I’d happily wave goodbye to Dom Brown. I’d neatly package Clearwater arms as far as the eye could see. What are the chances on those guys anyway? 5 to 1? 10 to 1? If Hunter Pence was hitting 5th for the Phillies you’d probably see skipping around town (parasol optional). Pence can run a bit, has a cannon, hits .300, is on pace for 40 doubles. He’s like a right-handed Chase Utley from the glory years, and plays with that kind of hustle as well. I just don’t understand how the Astros can trade a 28-year old player who isn’t making a ton of money and expect to sell one ticket next year. Is Ed Wade really taking this thing to zero? And, even at a somewhat modest 6.9 million, that’s still a chunk of remaining salary for the strapped Phils to take on.
We’re talking about a lot of guys who aren’t even likely to be dealt. What about guys like Carlos Beltran, Heath Bell, Ubaldo Jimenez, Jose Reyes? While the best case scenario for the Phillies might be picking up Hunter Pence or Michael Cuddyer, it may be just as important another team doesn’t significantly strengthen their cause. The advantage the Phillies have is that while their offense is inconsistent (still going pretty strong in July–don’t jinx it), offense on the whole in the National League is terrible. Teams will just not score on the Phillies with any consistency. The Cincinnati Reds lead the NL at 4.7 runs a game. That’s just a breath better than what the Phils have averaged since Chase Utley’s been in the lineup. The teams the Phillies are most worried about? The Braves score 4.07 runs a game, and the Giants score 3.65 runs a game. While the Phillies don’t score often, the other contenders don’t score against anyone.
It’s why Heath Bell could be the best move for the Phillies. Take a great strength and make it even better. Don’t add a middling right-handed bat that might help you lose an important game 4-3 instead of 4-2. As I watch what happens before the end of the month, I’m most concerned about keeping Carlos Beltran (or any other significant offensive upgrade) out of San Francisco. You see the number up there. The Giants score 3.65 runs a game. Awful. But, they’re going to make the playoffs. I want to believe that Beltran is mostly a dog, but he does have 11 homers in 22 post-season games. He’s playing for his contract, and we know what he did with the Astros the last time that happened. If there was any way the Mets would move Beltran to the Phils, I’d even suggest picking him up just to block another NL contender, but I don’t think the Mets will be that desperate.
So, to come to a circuitous conclusion here, at the deadline it’s about where people don’t go. Don’t bring Josh Willingham here, and don’t let Beltran get to San Francisco. Just for the record, I don’t want to sound too panicked about that. The Giants will stink on offense with Beltran, they’d just be slightly less putrid, so might as well avoid it, if possible.
I think it’s time for a Five Tickets to Allentown: Victorino is coming off the DL again Edition.
- Danys Baez
- Drew Carpenter
- Ben Francisco
- Pete Orr
- Juan Perez (They’ll realize he hasn’t thrown a strike yet soon enough)