So this morning, I found out that Angel Pagan has been on the disabled list for a while, and it got me thinking about Delmon Young. Don't ask me how I made that correlation, other than well, the Phillies were supposedly in on Pagan this off season, and ended up with Delmon.
No one really knows HOW they ended up with Delmon. But there came a point where they believed he was the best option out there.
To say that the experiment has been a disaster is putting it lightly. Aside from the fact that playing Delmon regularly is forcing Charlie Manuel to use John Mayberry as a late inning replacement in the field, which in turns forces things like Michael Martinez and Steven Lerud to pinch hit late and close, he's sucked.
I mean really sucked.
Through 42 games (remember he missed the entire first month of the season), Delmon Young has done the following.
He's hit 6 home runs, driven in 17 RBI's, and has 8 BB to 35 K's.
That's nothing short of pathetic, and barely rosterable. Clearly, the Phillies made a mistake by not going after a big name free agent, and taking advantage of the glut of Outfield names out there this off season, right?
Well, here are the same numbers for the guys most of us, (myself included) were pining for this off-season:
BJ UPTON: .585 OPS, .145 ISO, .265 wOBA, 62 wRC+, 17 RBI's, 8 HRs 26 BB, 75 Ks in 64 games.
JOSH HAMILTON: .650 OPS, .281 wOBA, 79 wRC+, 24 RBI, 10 HRs, 19 BB, 75 Ks in 70 games.
ANGEL PAGAN: .688 OPS, .303 wOBA, 95 wRC+, 24 RBI, 3 HRs, 15 BB, 25 Ks in 46 games.
SHANE VICTORINO: .687 OPS, 306 wOBA, 87 wRC+, 11 RBI, 2HR's, 13 BB, 21 Ks in 44 games.
Simply put, this team would not be much better right now with any of those guys. They'd simply be carrying more payroll, and possibly paying for declining production every year for the next three or four seasons.
Ironic, but in a lot of ways, the Phillies dodged a bullet.
That said, the real question should be why they were staring down the barrell of the gun in the first place.
Yeah. Chew on that for a minute.
HE WHO HAUNTS RUBEN'S DREAMS in mostly a platoon role, is the 31st ranked OF in baseball, and has more home runs than Adrian Gonzalez, more doubles than Miguel Cabrera, and is sporting a higher wOBA than Pence and McCutchen.
Now granted, its JUNE.
But it's also JUNE, meaning that the trade deadline is right around the corner, and it's not difficult to look at the team, as constructed and realize that Ruben and Co. ended up building a team that could be as easily broken down at the deadline as it could have been right in the thick of it.
That was the plan (if you can call it that).
1. Patch it together
2. Close your eyes
3. Hope that the tail lands on the donkey's ass
4. Slip on the blindfold
5. Swing the stick
6. Pray the candy busts out of the Pinata and you don't whack your sister in the face
So what's the point, Catz?
Well, I think the point is be careful what you wish for. The Phillies are riding the line between being buyers or sellers right now, because they're not good, they're not bad, they just are. They're dangerously close to being in the same boat as last season, and to me, Hunter Pence and HE WHO SHALL NOT BE NAMED both should give the team and organization pause when they decide what to do.
Because here's the thing. When they decided to sell last year, they did it WITHOUT ANY PLAN. That team was put together to win, and all hell broke loose.
Just because trading for Pence in the first place was a mistake didn't mean that you needed to trade him at the deadline last year without a real replacement ready, at least, not unless someone wowed you. They literally got rid of two of their three outfielders, with no real solution and no depth in the system save Domonic Brown, and a kid with no experience past AA who was hitting a lot of home runs.
And there were a TON of free agent options this year.
And NONE of them would have made a difference.
Because that's how the game is changing. The good players are extending with their teams. And you're stuck with overpaid middle of the road players looking to cash in, and overpaid, overhyped superstars.
And the funny part about it all? Not only did they have a guy who they still had control of, in Pence, that would have cost them roughly $5 million more than the guy they likely envisioned getting on the free agent market, they also TRADED him for a guy who, currently, is OUTPERFORMING ALL OF THEM, including Pence, and let him go for free.
The point of all this is not to rant about the would-have could-haves. It's to point out that when things go awry for a team, everything goes awry.
I've been a harsh critic of the Schierholtz decision since it happened, but the reality here is that the fault really shouldn't lie in the non tender. The fault should lie in the team trading away a valuable asset, in Pence, and agreeing to take back a guy that they really didn't like that much, in Schierholtz. That made Pence II that much worse. Especially when they knew Schierholtz was a platoon guy, and platooning wasn't in the cards for them. They traded for exactly the kind of player they loathe. He never had a shot.
So why trade for him then?
We're losing! Let's cut payroll and sell and worry about it next year!
Just get the best return we can!
We'll save money, and look at the free agent market!
We better take it now, cause the deadline's over in two hours!
The reality is that unless you have young controllable talent ready to come in, the second you trade Jonathan Papelbon, or Cliff Lee, or Chase Utley, or Jimmy Rollins, or even Ryan Howard, you better damn well know where the guy replacing them is gonna come from. And if you DO decide to trade them, make sure you're getting guys you want, and not doing it to save salary, cause the money don't matter.
Otherwise, you end up guessing between trading for Michael Young or signing Kevin Youkilis. And while that one actually has worked out for the Phillies, it easily could have gone the other way.
And unless you believe that The Phillies opening day lineup contains Hernandez at 2B, Galvis at SS, Joseph at C, Ruf in RF, Asche at 3B with Biddle, Pettibone, and Cloyd following Kendrick and Hamels and Defratus closing, any move they make at the deadline has to be made with 2014 in mind, not just 2016 and beyond.
When Ruben Amaro says that he's not going to blow this team up, I believe him. The Phillies aren't going to suddenly be the Astros, and let the next five years turn into a rebuild. But it's really hard to sell off assets and not do that. Mainly because no one wants the bad assets. That said, they are also in a strange position -- how to assemble a winning team, not a mediocre one.
The Phillies are as much in this mess right now because they sold last summer as anything else. Not because they sold, but because they waited, and did it with no vision. There's no guarantee that the talent will be available in the off-season, or that the moves they make will come to fruition.
If the Phillies are SMART they'll have a plan. They'll identify who to sell (Papelbon) that is replaceable internally or via trade or free agency that has value and they'll care more about eating as much salary and getting the best possible return back, over dumping salary that they'll just end up respending next year. They'll identify who isn't for sale (Lee, Rollins) because he's performing at his value, and the replacement options both internally and on the market aren't close to comparing, unless someone is willing to drastically overpay, and even then, I'm not sure you do it.
They try and shop a few guys that may bring back something (Michael Young) who have capable back-ups in place for this season, who are gone at the end of the year. At the same time, they buy if the price is right, and deal from strength, if it improves the major league club without impinging on the minor league system (think expendable catchers, young fringe pitching, etc...).
But the moves need to be calculated. And the worst thing this team can do is dump salary, and take a lesser return to pay less down the line. Unless that salary belongs to Ryan Howard, in which case you take whatever the hell you can get.
I still believe that the moves the team made in the off season were calculated. Moves made to give them a fighting chance provided Halladay and Utley and Howard came back to form, without sacrificing the future payroll. They knew that everything hinged on Halladay, Hamels and Lee, and you know what? If this team was just 10-12 in games started by Halladay and Hamels, instead of 4-20? They'd be sitting at 41-30, two games back of Atlanta and 1 1/2 off the wild card right now.
Yet as frustrating as it is, it's the whole point. Without KNOWING how Halladay would do, without knowing how Howard and Utley would perform, or whether they'd stay on the field, past this year it would have been very difficult to take a guess on who to commit big dollars to, and even Josh Hamilton wouldn't have been the difference.
This team had as much a chance of being in the lead as they did being at the bottom, or where they are, right dab in the middle.
But now they know. They know what they plan on doing with Utley. They have a good idea on what they want to do with Chooch. They see guys like Franco developing, have a timeline for Biddle,etc... and they will never be in a better position to both build for the future AND still try and compete than they will come July 31st.
And now that they know, they have to have a plan. Who they move, who they keep, who they think they want in the offseason.
No one knows what they should do, what they will do or what they won't do. But I do know this. If we're asking ourselves every three days whether they should buy or sell, so is Ruben, and that can't happen. Otherwise you end up with the Pence deal and the non-tender all over again, with different bodies. This is a .500 team as constructed, and they need a lot of luck to make it to the postseason this year. But that's got nothing to do with building a better team for this season and next however they can.
They have to decide now. They can't wait until the deadline and grasp at straws like they did last year. Build to win, or rebuild to win later, just don't build as you go, hoping to strike lighting in a bottle.
Otherwise, you end up with Delmon Young. Middling along towards mediocrity.