Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Changes That Must Be Made to Rejuvenate Team
It’s getting to be crunch time for the Philadelphia Phillies.
Following a regular-season first half that saw injuries and poor play combine to keep the team in last place in the National League East, the team must now decide whether they will become buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.
If they become buyers, chances are any additions will not resemble the major midseason acquisitions of past seasons.
If they turn into sellers, the Phillies may be on the other end of those big-name deals that they have been a part of in recent seasons.
Either way, at 14 games back in the NL East and 11 games back in the wild-card standings, the Phils must undergo some changes if they are going to make a run in the second half.
Here are five changes that must be made to rejuvenate the team.
Sign Cole Hamels to a Long-Term Extension
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In a season in which a number of players, whether due to injury or poor performances, have played below their career averages, one player has provided the team with the same type of All-Star numbers that they are accustomed to receiving.
Well, a player other than Carlos Ruiz.
Since the season began, the debate has continued as to when the Phillies will sign Cole Hamels to a long-term extension. As the trade deadline started to draw nearer and Hamels remained unsigned, the speculation surrounding him intensified.
And now, it’s sizzling.
At 11-4 with 125 strikeouts and a 3.07 ERA, Hamels has continued with the success that he’s had for much of his career. The three-time All-Star currently ranks in the top 10 in the National League in wins and strikeouts.
Although Hamels hasn’t ruled out the possibility of being traded and signing with the Phillies in the offseason, according to CSNPhilly.com's Leslie Gudel, a trade would likely mean the team is setting themselves up for future seasons rather than improving on this year.
However, after all of the trade speculation, the Phils could provide their clubhouse with more certainty if they were to sign Hamels to a long-term extension.
Closer Jonathan Papelbon provided a quote in a recent article by Jim Salisbury on CSNPhilly.com on how the clubhouse would feel if Hamels were to be traded.
I don’t necessarily know if our clubhouse would take that too well. But, also, at the same time, everyone knows it’s a business. Sometimes things don’t go the way you think they should go because you don’t run the business; you work for the business. That’s it, man.
Trading Hamels could give the Phillies’ farm system multiple prospects who could contribute at the major league level in the future.
Signing Hamels to a long-term extension, however, would rejuvenate the team, this season.
Trade Shane Victorino
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After Hamels, the majority of the trade speculation among Phillies’ players has centered on Shane Victorino.
As Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com recently wrote, whether at the trade deadline or during free agency, Victorino is likely to be switching teams.
Meanwhile, one characteristic of the Phillies this season has been inconsistency. However, with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back and Roy Halladay set to join them, the team could soon have the roster that they envisioned having prior to the start of the season.
Which is why, if Victorino is not likely to return to the Phillies next season, a trade could help the team fully move forward in the second half.
If the Phillies plan on trading Victorino, the more the trade deadline draws closer, the more the trade speculation will increase.
Victorino is currently batting .245 with eight home runs and 38 RBI. Despite posting numbers below his career averages, Victorino still has trade value should the Phils decide to move him prior to the trade deadline.
If the team can acquire a relief pitcher in a trade, they will be able to improve one of their major weaknesses on the season.
With their three and four hitters back and Halladay also set to return, the Phillies will soon have a chance to find the consistency that they have lacked all season.
But if the team is forced to wait and see who will be traded and who will not, it could take even longer to find that consistency.
Improve the Bullpen
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The Phillies have used 14 pitchers in a relief role this season.
Only two have ERA’s under 4.00.
Between injuries and rookie pitchers who have had difficulty at the major league level, the Phillies bullpen currently has the second-highest ERA in the National League.
As the Phils begin the second half looking to climb back into the playoff race, one way to rejuvenate the team would be to add veteran relievers to the bullpen.
As Ben Nicholson-Smith on mlbtraderumors.com recently outlined, a number of right-handed relief pitchers could be available through a trade at the deadline.
After Papelbon, the Phillies right-handed reliever with the lowest ERA is Michael Schwimer, at 4.79.
The Phillies bullpen’s ERA has increased each month so far this season. And with an offense that got off to a slow start and a starting rotation that has been hit by injuries, a solid bullpen is crucial.
Unfortunately, the Phils’ bullpen has struggled for the majority of the season.
The addition of one or two relievers, especially a veteran right-hander, could rejuvenate the Phillies bullpen and further help the team find consistency in the second half.
Trade Joe Blanton, Call Up Tyler Cloyd
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Blanton is currently 7-8 with a 4.98 ERA and 95 strikeouts this season.
However, despite his ERA, the soon-to-be free agent has drawn some interest at the trade deadline.
As Ken Rosenthal recently explained in a video on msn.foxsports.com called Full Count: Go Get Greinke, the Baltimore Orioles may be interested in Blanton following an injury to starter Jason Hammel.
If the Phillies trade Blanton, they would not only have a better chance at avoiding the luxury tax threshold this season, but they would also have an opening in the starting rotation.
And current Triple-A pitcher Tyler Cloyd could get a chance to fill that spot.
After originally being sent to Double-A to start the season, Cloyd was named to the Triple-A All-Star team after going 8-1 with a 2.01 ERA in the International League.
Between Double-A and Triple-A this season, Cloyd is 11-1 with 80 strikeouts and a 1.96 ERA, while holding opponents to a .215 batting average.
The former 18th-round pick has held right-handed batters to a .164 batting average at Triple-A this season.
With Blanton and Hamels currently set to become free agents, the Phillies will likely need to add at least one starter to their major league rotation next season, if they decide to keep Kyle Kendrick in the bullpen.
Cloyd has emerged as a candidate to fill that spot and could rejuvenate a starting rotation that had its struggles in the month of June.
Call Up Domonic Brown
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Phillies’ left fielders currently have the fourth-lowest RBI total in the National League.
John Mayberry Jr., the player initially used as the starter in left field, is batting .234 with six home runs and 23 RBI.
Juan Pierre, meanwhile, has batted .316 with 77 hits and 18 RBI, while also playing left field for the Phils.
However, Pierre is signed to a one-year deal and has trade speculation surrounding him, as well, according to a tweet by ESPN's Buster Olney.
With Mayberry putting up numbers lower than last season’s and trade speculation surrounding Pierre and Victorino, the Phils may need to add an outfielder to the roster at some point.
Meanwhile, as Kevin Czerwinski on CSNPhilly.com recently wrote, Domonic Brown is batting .579 in 19 at-bats during his current rehab stint.
Prior to suffering a knee injury last month, Brown was batting .266 at Triple-A with four home runs and 22 RBI.
Brown has yet to find consistent success at the major league level. However, with the Phillies potentially in need of another outfielder, especially in left field long-term, now could be a good time to give him another shot.
The Phillies will also be getting Laynce Nix back from injury during the second half.
Between potential trades and a long-term left fielder needed, the timing is right for Brown to try and find success in the major leagues.
If he can, the Phillies could get a fresh burst of offense added to their lineup and depth to their outfield.