- To be sellers, the Phillies would have to fall further behind the Mets and seemingly out of contention.
- To be buyers, they would have to win most of their upcoming series versus the Mets, Devil Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles and remain firmly in contention for the division lead or a WC slot.
The likelihood of the first scenario coming to pass increases daily as the starting rotation remains largely in disarray. Any time speculation grows that the Phils might even be thinking of recalling Gavin Floyd from Scranton you know this club is in trouble. Even Eude Brito’s name is being mentioned, but he cannot be recalled in the short term having been just optioned last week. The rule states that at least ten days must pass before an optioned player can be recalled. In Brito’s case, ten days would be insufficient to help him discover a major league out pitch. Meanwhile, back at CBP, when a club is counting heavily on a pitcher with exactly three big league starts and one trip to the Disabled List under his belt, they might be getting just a little ahead of themselves, especially when said pitcher thinks he knows better than anyone else what pitches to throw in certain situations. You want more? Speculation is growing as to precisely when a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery will make his return to the big leagues. This is not the staff of legends.
Starting pitching is not the only problem with these Phillies. They need a catcher desperately. They could also use a third baseman who can hit for power and at least one corner outfielder who can catch the ball regularly, but those spots can wait until the off-season.
If you can believe it, the second scenario is even a little more complicated than the first. First, of course, is the small matter of beating those teams mentioned above. Thus far this season the Phils have had little success against the Mets or Red Sox. Then there is the question of who would be available to help the Phillies should they actually remain in contention. A quick look at the available starting pitching does not look encouraging. Some have speculated the Phillies would be able to land Dontrelle Willis in a multi-team swap. Don’t believe it. The Phillies don’t have what Florida wants, namely, cheap talent ready to step in and play for the Marlins now. There are a few guys at Reading who might be ready a year or two from now, but even Jeffrey Loria’s AAA team masquerading as a major league team in Miami does not have the luxury of waiting that long. As for the Barry Zito rumors, he isn’t coming to CBP to ply his trade any time soon. This is not a park built for the likes of him. And with free agency looming after this season, Zito would be an expensive short-term rental. The Phils have been there and done that many times in recent years, always with disastrous consequences.
No other pitchers mentioned in trade rumors would help this club. They are better off holding onto their own prospects, something they have failed to do in the past.
At the start of the season GM Pat Gillick hinted more than a few times he thought the Phillies didn’t have enough pitching to make up the five additional games he believed were necessary to get them into the playoffs. Nothing has changed since then. So, who could the Phillies offer to other clubs in contention as a step toward making up that difference?
Most speculation focuses on Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. Bobby isn’t going anywhere. As far as the Phillies are concerned, he remains their most reliable OBP guy on a team that shows precious little patience otherwise. As for his fielding misadventures, I have to believe no one in the Phillies organization was fooled by last year’s Gold Glove award. What they see this year is basically what they have seen every year.
Burrell’s is a much more complicated situation. He is a proven RBI man. He is also one streaky hitter. He cannot run and he can only field his position adequately. He also has a big contract and a no-trade clause. On the plus side (if you are peddling this commodity), Burrell would probably love to escape Philadelphia, where he has always seemed uncomfortable if not unhappy. The most likely scenario would see him move to the American League where he could DH and play in the field occasionally. The Yankees remain a good possibility as they continue to struggle with injuries to their corner outfielders. The question remains, however, what do they have to offer? Perhaps more significantly, would Burrell be happy playing in the largest media town given his distaste for this smaller one?
Neither scenario – buying or selling - would seem to offer much promise in the short term. The prediction here: the Phillies will stand pat until the off-season.