An Early Look at 10 Realistic Moves Phillies Could Make at the Deadline
Call it a reverse black cat. Call it anything you want. But this Phillies team, which is four games out of first place, is not only not making the playoffs.
They are not going to finish .500.
So many things had to go right for the Phillies to contend this year. For the most part, it is just not happening.
True, Chase Utley has had a bit of a resurgence, still leading the team in both home runs and runs batted in. But he never had a ton of range at second base. Now, his knees just don't let him go where he wants to go. With five errors and a .972 fielding percentage, he had better hit.
All the other "must haves" for this team are little more than wishes unfulfilled.
Roy Halladay needed to be an elite pitcher again. You can forget about that.
Carlos Ruiz needed to come back from suspension and be a .300 hitter again. So far, he is hitting .200.
Ben Revere needed to be a table-setter and a run-scoring machine. All he has done is proven the age-old adage that you cannot steal first base.
Michael Young needed to be a run-producing right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. Somehow, despite hitting .310 thus far, Young has nine runs batted in. Slugging .395 as a third baseman is pretty sorry.
It would be great to have this piece be Exhibit "A" when the Phillies are leading the National League East by five games in late September.
Failing that, though, these are the moves the Phillies will need to make at or before the trade deadline.
Trade Chase Utley
Look, everyone wanted Chase Utley to be retire and be enshrined at Cooperstown as a Phillie.
He is going to have to settle for the Phillies Wall of Fame. That is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is too bad that his legs would not let him continue to play at an elite level. He was special to watch when he was healthy.
At this point, though, the smart thing for the Phillies to do is to imagine what they would do with a 34-year-old second baseman putting up Utley's statistics in the last year of his contract if his name was Joe Smith.
That's easy. They would trade Joe Smith, like, as soon as they got a good offer.
If the Phillies really want to bring Utley back in 2014, they can re-sign him as a free agent.
But having him waste away on this sinking ship is doing Utley no favors, particularly if he can help an American League contender this season.
Trade Jimmy Rollins
Whereas Chase Utley has little-to-no chance to reach the Hall of Fame, Jimmy Rollins is a lot closer than you might think.
Rollins is a near-mortal lock to finish 2013 with more than 200 home runs, 2,100 hits and 1,200 runs scored. He already has stolen more than 400 bases.
He has won a Most Valuable Player Award, four Gold Gloves and one Silver Slugger. He has made three All-Star teams.
If he somehow scrapes out 2,500 career hits, it would be virtually impossible to keep him out of Cooperstown.
Unfortunately, keeping Rollins here as the team rebuilds around Cole Hamels and the few young players worth keeping would not be smart business.
Trade Michael Young
It is not like either the Phillies or Michael Young were ever going to get really attached to one another.
Young is only here because the Texas Rangers were willing to pay more than half of his 2013 salary in the last year of his contract. And everyone knows that if this Phillies team does not win in 2013, the rebuild will start after Game 162.
Young is hitting .310, and the Phillies are 18-21 as of this writing. He is doing all he can. But it is not enough.
Young will have trade value at the deadline. Veteran players who can still get a hit against good pitching are attractive commodities to contending teams.
Trade Mike Adams
In the opening slide, where all the things that had to go right for the Phillies were listed, it might also have said that Mike Adams needed to be absolutely lights-out in late relief.
Adams has been significantly better than what the Phillies had last season in the late innings. But he is still 1-3. He has served up three home runs in only 15 innings pitched. That he has only surrendered five earned runs in that span is thus partially attributable to good fortune.
Regardless, a proven setup man is of precious little value to a team that is likely to be well out of the race by mid-July.
Trade Carlos Ruiz
Carlos Ruiz is another beloved alumnus of the 2008 title winners whose last act in Philadelphia is not going as planned.
Ruiz stood tall last season as all the other regulars around him limped to the disabled list. Unfortunately, it appears that he needed some illicit assistance to do it, since he started this season by serving a 25-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance.
Chooch is back now, but whether it is rust, just a slow start or some sadder truth, the bottom line is that the 34-year-old Ruiz is slowing down.
Ruiz has a great deal of postseason experience and had some eye-popping postseason hitting numbers in the Phillies' pennant runs in 2008 and 2009.
Given the dearth of quality catching, some contender might be willing to part with value to bring Ruiz on for a pennant chase of its own.
Keep Cliff Lee
Admit it. You did not see that coming. You thought "Trade Cliff Lee" was on this list.
It is not, though, because it probably does not make sense to do it.
Whereas Utley, Rollins, Young and Adams are all in the last or, in Rollins' case, the second-to-last year of their respective deals, Lee is signed through 2015 at $25 million per season with a reachable vesting option for 2016.
Any deal the Phillies are likely to get for Lee, then, would either bring very little in return and/or would see the Phillies eating a ton of Lee's money.
There is no use in paying anyone else to let Lee pitch for them. With Cole Hamels and Lee in the rotation, Phillies fans at least have two games out of five to tune into and attend.
Moreover, Lee is less apt to break down (as Roy Halladay has) due to wear and tear. Lee has pitched fewer than 2,000 major league innings; Halladay is over 2,700.
Lee seems a safe bet to pitch reasonably well, at least through 2014.
Trade or Release Chad Durbin
The Phillies and their fans will be forever grateful for the shift Chad Durbin put in for the 2008 world champions.
Durbin was 5-4 with a 2.87 earned run average. Pitching so often in Citizens Bank Park, Durbin still managed to surrender only five home runs in 87.1 innings pitched. That was quite a feat.
Smash cut to 2013, though. Durbin has given up three home runs in just shy of 12 innings pitched. His ERA is over 6.00.
Durbin is 35 years old. He is not part of this team's future. The Phillies are only stunting the development of younger arms in the system by running Durbin out there now.
Release Raul Valdes
It is a bit jarring to look at the Phillies' statistics and see that Raul Valdes has outpitched Roy Halladay this season.
Then again, every pitcher on the staff has outpitched Halladay so far this season. And Valdes is behind everyone else on the staff except for Halladay.
The soft-tosser's earned run average is a full, round 7.00. Like Chad Durbin, the presence of Valdes on the roster just keeps the Phillies from finding out anything about the younger, more powerful arms they have at the major league level and in the minors.
No plans the Phillies have beyond the next month or two could seriously involve the 35-year-old Valdes.
Play Freddy Galvis Every Day
Because Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins refuse to go away, Freddy Galvis has had to bide his time as a utility player for this Phillies team.
That has to end soon.
If Galvis is the future at shortstop, or at second base, that would be wonderful to find out quickly.
The same timetable is preferable if Galvis is nothing more than a really good extra man.
For a team in the transition phase the Phillies are headed for, deciding what they have in Galvis should be Job One.
Dismiss Charlie Manuel
When the bottom drops out of this season (and it will), there is little reason to compel Charlie Manuel to go down with the ship.
Manuel has served long and with distinction for the Phillies, who did him no favors by installing his likely replacement, Ryne Sandberg, on the bench next to him all season.
Would Manuel like to stay on and sign another contract in Philadelphia? Probably, because the market for a manager who will turn 70 in January is probably not going to be that robust.
But that cannot be the Phillies' main concern.
Whether it is Sandberg or someone else, the Phillies have to find the next manager capable of winning a World Series.
Because it does not seem like Manuel will ever do it again, at least not in Philadelphia.