When the Philadelphia Phillies begin play Friday evening at Citi Field, they'll be embarking on an 11-day, 10-game journey that could fundamentally alter the state of their franchise.
The Phillies went into the All-Star Break 48-48, a perfect 25-man representation of the word "meh." They are a half-game behind the Washington Nationals for second place in the National League East, six games behind the Atlanta Braves for the lead in the division and 5.5 out of the one-game wild-card rodeo.
Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love and the home of the shruggable losers. At least it is for now.
With boundless injuries and an overwhelming sense of mediocrity from the roster, the Phillies are teetering on the edge of buyer and seller at the July 31 trade deadline.
Ryan Howard was placed on the disabled list earlier this month and is expected to be out six to eight weeks with a torn meniscus, his contract becoming more Procellariidic by the moment. Considering Howard's injury history and what knee problems can do to a power hitter, the latter seems like it's painting a rosy picture at this point.
Outfielder Ben Revere breaking his foot (h/t USA Today) after hitting it with a foul ball only added to the team's chaos. Revere is the only Phillies regular hitting above the .300 mark and is the team's only baserunner that's a step up from passable.
Those injuries leave Philadelphia's lineup with a core of Domonic Brown, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Michael Young. While those last three have all been stars, past injuries have sucked Utley from the ranks of the elite, and Rollins has a WAR of 0.8 and has been a minus defensively for the first time since his second full major league season.
Couple that with a mediocre rotation outside of Cliff Lee—their starters rank 11th in WAR and 15th in xFIP—and a wretched bullpen, and the Phillies' playoff push isn't exactly flowing.
With 10 games to go until the deadline, Philadelphia will have some time to see where it stands and assess the best course of action.
“Everybody acts like it is tomorrow but it is two weeks away,” Phillies CEO David Montgomery said in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News' Marc Narducci, alluding to the team's deadline plans.
Mitigating circumstances point to the team being closer to seller than buyer.
Rival teams will certainly hope that's the case. The Phillies became a deadline seller a year ago, shipping Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence to the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, respectively. Both became key pieces for contending National League clubs, brought back prospect help to a Phillies system in desperate need and were overall fair trades.
With an abundance of similar players on Philly's roster—guys who can help a contender but not create one—it's thought to be a perfect seller candidate.
The name that keeps popping up is Young, the Phillies' major acquisition last winter. Young came over after playing parts of 13 seasons with the Texas Rangers, waiving his no-trade clause to have a more defined role.
While some saw the move as another example of shortsighted thinking—the Phillies adding another aging veteran past his prime, one who wouldn't push them to the top—the move might wind up working out in the long term.
As pointed out by Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, about a dozen teams have inquired about Young's availability.
The 36-year-old third baseman has returned to slightly above replacement level after a dreadful 2012, hitting .288 with six home runs and 28 RBI. He's also been a steadying veteran presence in the clubhouse, buoying the reputation he garnered in Texas as a consummate professional.
That's all well and good.
But the true impetus for teams looking to acquire Young is more about the lack of right-handed bats on the market. Outside of South Florida, rampant fire sales have become less and less prevalent throughout Major League Baseball, with teams choosing to jettison their assets in a more piece-by-piece fashion.
Massive deals like the Boston Red Sox trading their whole team to the Dodgers last August will still happen every once in a while, but those mega-deals are always more anomaly than a sign of rampant impending chaos.
Philadelphia moving Young would be one of those small moves as part of a larger movement. Young is a free agent after this season, and while he has a no-trade clause, it's one he would likely waive in order to play for a contender.
What's more, the Phillies stand to lose Young without compensation this offseason. It's unlikely they would tender Young a qualifying offer worth the average of this year's top 125 salaries, which the new collective bargaining agreement requires them to if they want draft-pick compensation.
The Yankees and Red Sox have both expressed interest in Young, each looking to add a veteran for their playoff push.
Boston sent vice president of player personnel Allard Baird to watch the Phillies play before the All-Star Break, per Rosenthal. New York and Boston are the type of media markets that could appeal to Young and allow him to return to the American League. Mark Feinstand of the New York Daily News noted the Yankees may try enticing the Phillies with a package centered around Joba Chamberlain.
Rosenthal did not disclose the other 10 or so teams that had interest.
The rub that comes with trading Young is finding a replacement. The Phillies' farm system is one of the worst five to 10 in the game depending on which expert you want to cite—Baseball Prospectus had them 24th in spring training—and they have no immediate fit at third base unless they plan on bringing up a prospect before he's ready.
That matters if Philly is still in the playoff hunt in a week-and-a-half. If the team manages to gain a game or two on the NL Central mob, then it might be smart to hold onto Young and move a surplus player for some bullpen help.
But considering the Nationals' prodigious talent makes them a constant contender and none of the NL Central clubs look primed for a downfall—no, not even the Pittsburgh Pirates—finding October will be awfully difficult.
This short sample size for the Phillies will tell a ton about their immediate future—Young's included. But if things go as expected, standing pat shouldn't be an option.
All advanced metrics are courtesy of FanGraphs.
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