Charlie and Ruben disagree on the team's biggest need
The Philadelphia Phillies rolled into the official halfway point of the season with a major league leading 51-30 record. They hold a 4.5 game lead in the division and lead all of a baseball with a 2.98 ERA.
One could say life is good at Citizens Bank Park these days.
However, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has recently suggested that there is room for improvement in the second half of the season. He cited injuries to Chase Utley, Joe Blanton, Roy Oswalt, and half of the team's bullpen as evidence that the Phillies could improve further.
On top of that, he has been very vocal in his desire to acquire another right-handed bat for the lineup while general manager Ruben Amaro seems interested in acquiring more depth for the battered but effective bullpen.
This is a list of five moves the Phillies could make to bolster their roster for the second half of the season.
Some are rather insignificant, others larger.
These moves, however, are not being made in a vacuum—since the Phillies have to deal with pesky things like depth, the 40-man roster, and payroll limitations, these suggestions will take those into account as well.
Get this pitcher on the 40-man roster!
Now this may not seem like much right now since I am not specifically calling for him to be added to the big league roster... yet.
However, Schwimer for a second straight year has been downright dominant in Triple-A. Come September, he deserves a call up to audition for the possibility of making the postseason roster.
It is important to note that he has been absolutely devastating when facing right-handed batters—they simply cannot touch him.
Left-handed batters are a different story—they hit him pretty well.
When brought up, Schwimer needs to be used almost exclusively in situations against right-handers.
If used properly, he is a strikeout, ground-ball machine.
He is one Hawaiian too many on this roster.
Dane Sardinha actually did a fairly admirable job his last time up in Philly, although while he did manage to post a .419 OBP, it was in only 39 PA.
In all likelihood, if Sardinha were given any future playing time, the Phillies would see that number regress to his career standard of .243.
Enter Eric Kratz.
Kratz appears to be something of a late bloomer at catcher—something Phillies fans may know a thing or two about (see Coste, Chris). So far this season, Kratz has combined 10 HR and an .860 OPS with what has by all accounts been very good defense behind the plate.
Should there be another calling for a catcher in Philadelphia, the Phillies would be much better served to let Kratz fill the void than to bring up Sardinha and watch him do his best Rod Barajas impersonations while failing to block the plate.
For that reason, Kratz should be occupying a spot on the 40-man roster instead of Sardinha.
When you are being out-hit by multiple pitchers on your team... it may be time to go.
On June 19th, Cole Hamels was on the mound against the Seattle Mariners. Because this game was played in the AL the Phils used Raul Ibanez as the DH and gave Michael Martinez the start in LF.
Fans this year have often used hyperbole, joking the Hamels and Cliff Lee are two of the best hitters on the team—after all, they both do hit well for pitchers.
However, on this day, that was actually a true statement.
Martinez entered the game with a .480 OPS. Hamels entered the game with a .568 OPS.
This example just goes to show that Martinez really has very little to offer the Phillies. Yes, he can play the entire infield and outfield. Yes he is reasonably fast. But that is all he can do.
He is useless at the plate.
As Martinez was a Rule 5 draftee, the Phillies will need to put him on waivers to send him down to the minors. Should he pass through waivers—which I would expect him to do—he then has to be offered back to his original team, the Washington Nationals.
At this point I would also suspect the Nats have little use for him. If they reject him, the Fightins can stash him in Triple-A.
The Phillies instead need to first call up Pete Orr. Orr is faster than Martinez and can hit better, as well. Wilson Valdez is capable of filling in as the fifth outfielder, a role currently reserved for Martinez.
Bolstering the bullpen could be a help.
The bullpen has performed admirably this year despite a glut of injuries.
The Phillies are currently down to their fourth-string closer and have a bullpen mostly consisting of players from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Players like Michael Stutes and Antonion Bastardo have been godsends but have been playing over their head and are unlikely to completely sustain their current levels of performance.
In the coming weeks, as players get healthy, one by one the bullpen should get stronger.
The big questions will be Jose Contreras and Brad Lidge.
The Phillies seemed to have indicated that the closer role is Madson's for good. Can Lidge adjust to another role? Can he repeat his 2010 performance or will the team get the 2009 Lidge? Is there a contender in need of bullpen help that might be willing to take a chance on him? He could be an attractive trade option as he will cost virtually nothing in terms of prospects.
Contreras was dominant as the closer in April—he did not give up a single run this year until returning from the DL. However—after a few shaky outings—he ended up right back on the DL. At his advanced age, it is tough to bank on him returning fully healthy and staying that way.
With J.C. Romero out of the picture and Bastardo fortifying the back of the bullpen, that leaves the Phillies in the need of a lefty specialist. If they pick up a back of the bullpen arm it would free Bastardo up for use earlier in the game and/or as a lefty specialist.
He is affordable, very effective.
However, he has a full no-trade clause and has said it really has to be the perfect situation to get him to leave Chicago.
An opportunity for the World Series just might be that opportunity.
As good as Wood has been, Adams has been better—right now he is blowing away his more notable bullpen partner, Heath Bell.
Adams also has an affordable contract and is under club control next year, as well.
He will take more prospects to acquire than Wood, but he may well be worth it.
This is a bit of a dream scenario as there hasn't been any indication that the Cubs would be willing to deal the dominating lefty.
He would be exactly the type of left-handed arm the Phils need, but would also cost the most in terms of prospects.
Cuddyer could be the perfect fit.
It is no secret that the Phillies offense is lefty heavy.
In the past the Phillies have always performed well against left-handed pitching. While the team sports a 16-7 record against lefty starters, that is almost entirely due to strong pitching performances by the Philly staff.
Ben Francisco has underperformed while Raul Ibanez remains his streaky self—when hot, he handles all pitching, regardless of which arm is throwing the ball; when cold, he can't touch any one, once again regardless of which arm is throwing the ball.
One option would be to discard Francisco for Mayberry.
While Mayberry struggled towards the end of his time in the bigs, he has always shown a propensity to hit left-handed pitching and plays far better defense than Francisco. Francisco does have options left, so he could conceivably be optioned to Triple-A.
Right-handed power bats are a premium and tough to come by. It is unlikely the Phillies would be able to acquire someone like Hunter Pence just because the price will be too steep.
Instead look for a platoon player—someone who can rotate with Ibanez while he is cold and spell Brown for a few games as well.
Here are some potential candidates for that role:
The former Met and Brave is your classic platoon split right-handed batter—he has always been able to handle lefties and has always struggled against right-handers.
Francoeur still thinks of himself as an everyday player; however, most of baseball knows better now.
He helped the Rangers down the stretch last year as a platoon bat and—as much as I hate to say it—could do the same in Philadelphia.
Cuddyer is someone who can crush left-handed pitching while playing adequate against right-handers. He would fit nicely into left field moving forward, although he is a free agent after the season and will likely be seeking a long-term deal.
The biggest concern in acquiring him is the money remaining on his contract this season.
Blake is now a third basemen, although when he was with the Indians, he played a little bit of everywhere.
Acquiring Blake would mean acquiring a third-base/left-field hybrid.
Currently Polanco is mired in a two month long slump. Ibanez is also slumping. At least when Ibanez slumps he still gets extra base hits and walks. If Polanco isn't hitting, he is virtually useless—he barely walks and really only hits singles.
Upgrading with Blake would give the Phillies flexibility at second base, third base, and the corner outfield.