Just a few short months ago, things were going absolutely swimmingly for the fightin’ Phils. Under GM Matt Klentak, they executed one of the most masterful offseasons in recent baseball history, not only nabbing all-star batters Jean Segura and J.T Realmuto, but landing the crown jewel of free agency in superstar slugger Bryce Harper as well. Smiles and celebrations abound as the Phillies flexed their muscle financially and set the table for what seemed destined for a championship year.
Their good fortunes continued to begin the regular season as well, as they stormed the gates with surprisingly stellar pitching and an expected abundance of offense to begin the year. The Philly-based franchise was everything they were expected to be, boasting a record well over .500 whilst pacing the competitive NL East. But as a leery consumer questioning the authenticity of a sketchy sales pitch would say, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Injuries began to mount for the once-dominant Phils- Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, Scott Kingery, Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, and Seranthony Dominguez have all spent extensive time and/or are currently on the injured list- and before long the almighty Phillies started to look human again. With a return to normalcy came a fall in the standings and now the Phillies find themselves third in the division- trailing the rival Braves and Nationals.
Although there is still plenty of Baseball to be played and the fat lady hasn’t quite tuned her voice yet, it’s fair to wonder if the Phillies will even make the playoffs at this point. The red-hot Braves are practically running away with the division and if the Phils don’t turn it around soon they may well force themselves out of the wild card hunt as well.
The one saving grace is that the trade deadline is still a couple of weeks away and the Phils could still try to load up for a second-half run. While I’m a fan of both spirited comebacks and never-say-die-attitudes, I don’t think the Phils should be buyers at the deadline. In fact, I think they should punt at the deadline and let the chips fall where they may. Let me explain why.
For starters, I don’t think there is a player on the trading block that is talented enough to not only quell the Phillies issues, but catapult them back amongst the upper echelon of the MLB. Are there players to be had that could improve the team? Sure. Help them win a few more games? Of course. But I don’t think the 2019 season savior is just floating around waiting to be had- which leads me to my next point.
Let’s assume there was a season savior out there. Maybe you’re of the belief that someone like Marcus Stroman, Madison Bumgarner, or Robbie Ray could serve that role. That’s all fine and well, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the Phillies simply don’t have the quality or quantity of prospects it would take to land one of the premier trade options after depleting their farm system in similar endeavors for the better part of a decade.
While landing Stroman, MadBum, or Ray would certainly give the fightin’ Phils a boost and improve their playoff odds, it would still, in my opinion at least, be a short-sighted move made to actualize unrealistic expectations set in the winter. Adding one of these players (or someone else in the same talent bracket) would undoubtedly make the Phils more competitive, but it wouldn’t improve them into World Series contenders again. After suffering through a slew of injuries, the Phillies have too many areas of need and simply don’t have the prospects to flip to fill one hole, let alone multiple.
Instead of foolishly making a big splash at the trade deadline in hopes of fulfilling outlandish expectations- depleting the farm system in the process- the Phils should just try to get healthy and make as deep a run as they can with the current group. It likely won’t result in a parade on Broad Street, unfortunately, but neither will acquiring anything less than a bonafide superstar, which they can’t afford to do.
The season hasn’t gone the way the team expected, but there’s no reason to go all-in this year with their title window still wide open with Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola in town for the foreseeable future.
Here’s to a successful second half of the season in Philly, one that will hopefully not include a splashy move at the deadline.
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports