The Phillies are depressing. Really depressing. Forget to take your Zoloft for two weeks and watch Requiem for a Dream for 24-hours straight depressing. For all the money spent on this roster, all the talk about postseason dreams and championship hopes, it’s never been more obvious they’re not a well-constructed team.
They’re not healthy, they’re not hustling for their lenient, players-first manager, and key members are playing way under potential to think this team could even make it into October.
But then again this is baseball. They’re clinging to the final Wild Card spot like Angelo Cataldi clinging to the last garlic knot at Ponzios. The Phillies are brutal now, but next month they could be surging into the playoffs. It’s baseball. Crazier things have happened.
With the trade deadline just a little more than two weeks away, Matt Klentak is going to have to resist the urge to curl into the fetal position and flop-sweat his way through the rest of the season. Decisions need to be made to see if it’s even possible to salvage this garbage year of Phillies baseball.
But what can be done? The Phillies are in a murky, gray area where either direction could be the correct direction. Yes they were humiliated last night by a far superior team, but there’s still 68 games left. Do you make a splash and trade away prospects for a top of the line starter? Could you pry Madison Bumgarner (a rental player) or Marcus Stroman (young and effective, but likely to be highly coveted) away for someone like Alec Bohm? Would the Giants or Mets even do that? Or do you stand pat and hope the team somehow plays up to their abilities, their payroll, and off-season expectations?
Klentak would be out of his mind to part with anything of value for this team right now. He can’t. With one reliable starting pitcher in Aaron Nola and four other retreads in Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta and Vince “I’ve already thrown 74 pitches in three innings and given up five earned runs by the time you read this” Velasquez, there’s not much that can be done mid-season.
Klentak decided to roll with the same rotation this year that showed promise in the first half of 2018 and completely imploded in the second half. Sound familiar?
But do you trust Klentak to add to this team without subtracting any major talent? The Phillies are 48-46, tied with the Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot, with seven other teams within 3.5 games. They’re two games back from the Nats, one of the hottest teams in baseball who mushed the Phillies face into their own shit over the weekend.
They’re technically a playoff team right now, but the division is already out of reach. They’re 9.5 games out and looking up at two rivals in the division that have KILLED them in the last two months. The Phillies are 5-9 against the Nationals and 5-4 against the Braves, but since their three game sweep against Atlanta in the first three games of the season they’re 2-4 and have been outscored 61 to 48 in the series overall. Both teams are trending in the polar opposite direction of the Phillies and both sit ahead of the Phillies for two potential playoff spots.
So do you mortgage your future for a chance at the one-game wild card playoff? Are you going to trade a talented prospect for your thin minor league system to guarantee one more game with the second wild-card? Sure, it would technically be a postseason appearance, but if you lose game 163 you’re shit out of luck.
Klentak hopefully understands this. Trading Bohm for Stroman or Bumgarner or whoever is far too risky for this season. He needs to be Pat Gillick for the rest of the seson, which may be hard for the young GM to do when he’s feeling pressure for his job. He may feel like he needs to make a big splash for a big time player.
He can’t be that stupid, right?
Klentak needs to realize that the best chance this team has now and for the future is to hit the lottery with below the radar, inexpensive moves, and make a run that way (if this team even has a run in it). Klentak needs to put the noose down and look at this team carefully. The blueprint for what he needs to focus on is playing left field every night in Jay Bruce. Klentak acquired Bruce for the equivalent of a bag of rocks and Bruce has smashed 10 home runs and 29 RBI in 31 games. Make moves in that vein, Matt, don’t be an idiot.
Remember, in 2008 Gillick didn’t make a play for C.C. Sabathia or Manny Ramirez at the deadline. Stand Pat countered with Joe Blanton and Matt Stairs. How the hell were the Phillies going to compete with Joe Blanton and Matt Stairs when their National League rivals acquired two of the most talented players in baseball?
Blanton went 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in the postseason that year, including a six inning win against the Brewers, and the Phillies rocked Sabathia in game one. Stairs ripped one into the night for one of the greatest Phillies home runs ever against the Dodgers in a crucial game 4 win in Los Angeles.
Jamie Moyer, a waiver wire deal in 2006 from Seattle for the immortal Andrew Baldwin and Andy Barb, was a high value acquisition for two absolute nobodies. JC Romero was a free agent signing during the 2008 season. Scott Eyre was acquired from the Cubs for Brian Schlitter (who left baseball after 2015, but actually pitched 4.2 innings for Oakland this season). None of these acquisitions cost the Phillies any valuable pieces, they weren’t big names, but they all played indispensable roles for one of the greatest Phillies teams ever.
The Phillies made big splashes in 2009, 2010, and 2011 at the trade deadlines. They gave away valuable pieces. They flamed out in the postseason.
This team isn’t close to any of those teams. A big splash isn’t going to get them close. Find the bargain bin pieces, Matt, fill in the holes with below the radar guys, hope you catch fire and make a run, and don’t give away anything that could be important for a team with championship aspirations in the next five years.
Or maybe Klentak, Andy MacPhail, and John Middleton should set the stadium on fire for the insurance money to get something out of this dreadful year.
After last night that might be the fan favorite option at this point.