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Although the starting rotation hasn't been the Phillies' biggest concern, it has been far from their biggest strength.
Better results were expected from a rotation consisting of aces Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. With an ERA of 4.02 this season, the Phillies' rank 16th among starting staffs in the majors.
Part of the team's rotation struggles can be attributed to injury, as Roy Halladay's and John Lannan's struggles led to their placement on the disabled list this season.
However, both were also ineffective prior to their injuries. Hamels joins them in that regard although he often has lacked run support. Probably the biggest disappointment on the Phillies, Hamels sits at 2-11 with a 4.58 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, leading the majors in losses.
Lee, on the other hand, has been stellar and is a possible NL Cy Young Award contender, but with an inconsistent Kyle Kendrick and possibly slumping Jonathan Pettibone rounding out the rotation, an upgrade is necessary should the Phillies be buyers.
And no, it shouldn't be Carlos Zambrano.
Depending on the front office's position, the Phillies may be more inclined to pursue a younger pitcher under team control for a longer period of time or a proven veteran under contract for a year or two. Luckily, both types of pitchers are bound to be available, but it's up to the Phillies to decide which route they will take.
Should the Phillies go the younger route, one option would be Houston Astros pitcher Bud Norris, who has a 3.60 ERA in 16 starts this season and has posted decent K/9 rates (6.25) and BB/9 rates (2.94). He'd be under team control through 2015 and is making just $3 million this year as the Astros' most expensive player on their roster.
If the Phillies chose to go with a veteran starter, Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo could be an interesting fit.
While he hasn't been at his best in 2013, posting a 6-7 record with a 4.20 ERA, FanGraphs' advanced pitching metrics suggest he's been better, equating to a 3.93 FIP and 3.74 xFIP. Gallardo has also posted a 7.30 K/9 and a 3.28 BB/9, which would bode well for the Phillies.
He's also not overly expensive. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Gallardo is owed $7.75 million in 2013 and $11.25 million in 2014 with a $13 million 2015 club option and a $600,000 buyout. Cot's also shows that Gallardo has a 10-team no-trade clause, so if the Phillies were to be listed on it, Gallardo going to Philly may not be a possibility.
Someone else in the mold of Norris or Gallardo would be ideal for the Phillies, but even so, a rotation upgrade isn't a must. With prospects waiting in the wings to man future rotations, it wouldn't be in the Phillies' best interests to pursue a starter under team control for more than two years.
Buying can be a complicated position at the trade deadline, so if the Phillies were in a contending position come July 31, they may have a few questions to think about concerning their so-so 2013 rotation.
Other Potential Trade Options: RHP Scott Feldman, Chicago Cubs; RHP Ivan Nova, New York Yankees; RHP Carlos Villanueva, Chicago Cubs; LHP Joe Saunders, Seattle Mariners.