This will be the first you hear of "subtraction by addition." Hopefully it's the last.
Brace yourself for this one:
The Phillies shouldn't make a move. Nothing. No trades, funneling players in or shuttling them out.
I'm talking Dr. Alan Grant in front of a snarling prehistoric reptile.
For all the talk that a right-handed bat or a closer might plug its only holes, the Phillies don't need help. They need to learn. They need to learn initiative and accountability and reliability.
Outsourcing, you could argue, gashes more problems and deepens old ones.
Here's a best-case hypothetical:
Let's say the Phils land Dodger and 2010 triple crown candidate Andre Ethier, and pick this apart from the beginning. Bringing Ethier in would mean shoving Vance Worley the other way through the rotating door—not to mention cleaning out the rest of the cupboard for prospects that would sweeten the deal to Frank McCourt's taste.
Given what he's done in the Dodgers' Nintendo wall-less eternity of a ball field, Ethier's .318 average would translate in Citizens Bank Park, and 40 RBI compensate for the small-ball the Phillies can't play (check).
Should the Phillies trade for a right-handed bat before the deadline?
The most sensible spot for Ethier seems fifth, behind Jimmy Rollins (No. 1), Placido Polanco (No. 2), Chase Utley (No. 3) and Ryan Howard (No. 4), the most comfortable slotting for everybody. Trot Shane Victorino in at No. 6, to ensure Ethier still sees pitches, and minimize change for everyone else (check).
But does Ethier make a profound an impact enough to justify the sacrifices: prospects and chemistry?
Save for Howard, who'd see better pitching with Ethier behind him than, say, Raul Ibanez or Dom Brown, Ethier can't improve situations batters one-through-four, the most influential four-ninths of the lineup. Not to mention the guys struggling so badly you're considering mortgaging the kids away for Ethier in the first place.
And that glosses over the fact that Ethier hasn't hit fifth all year. Neither has Utley, who's success is too tenuous to slide him from teh three hole, where he's hitting a barely breathing .284. Nobody else batting before Howard can—Polanco tried, and crashed and burned.
So, to optimize top-to-bottom productivity, you bat Ethier No. 5. Any later and you've wasted your time and Worley.
Wonder how Shane would feel about that, playing (sixth) fiddle to a rental...
And that's the tech-heavy talk. Beyond baseball, there's the psychology of the matter, bringing in the white knight, Panacea and one last push-to-pass to try and push Philly over the edge.
Remember what happened the last time Ruben Amaro Jr. tried to bolster the team beyond beatability? That was rounding out baseball history's best staff with Cliff Lee, who you could argue beget the mess by lulling batters into complacency.
At least that was the argument in 2010, when Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels combined for 16 starts with one run of support or fewer, from the team that scored the second most runs in the National League that season. They didn't hit because they (thought they) didn't have to.
Divvying the pressure also distributes accountability, to the extent that a move might coddle the Phillies into impotence. (Again.)
All those considerations, of course, assumes that Ethier, Hunter Pence or other must-haves are obtainable. What if they're not? Is that mess really worth it? Is Michael Cuddyer? Or Josh Willingham?
And it ignores the likelihood of injury (high) to any or all impact Phillies, and their propensity to cool off in the playoffs, a contagion Ethier won't be immune from. What happens if someone goes down, or the bats go quiet, what buckled the 2010 preseason World Series champs before it ever played a pennant-clinching game?
What this team needs, frankly, is some stones. Some gamesmanship. Some embrace of the big moment. I'll stop short of killer instinct—it's a farce, and a joke when we presume players (even Jordan) can simply will greatness into being.
But you'd like to see intent before relent.
Especially from Ryan Howard, who nets $25 million per year. Especially from Rollins, whose hand is extended for three years, $39 million for a twilight deal. Especially from Victorino and Utley, who've played out the chronic overachiever card.
You'd like to see addition without addition.