Much speculation is being bandied about with the non waiver deadline less than two weeks away. Here's the problem. For the Phillies, July 31st isn't the real deadline.
On June 28th I wrote This piece in regards to what the Phillies should do at the deadline, provided they were "sort of in it, but not quite out of it. At the time, the team was 7.5 games back of both the division leading Braves and the wild card, with 4 teams between them and the wild card berth.
They had just lost Mike Adams to the DL, and over the next 16 games the also lost Ryan Howard and Ben Revere for 6-8 weeks.
And they put up the second best record in the National league, going 10-6 against the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals and White Sox.
They picked up one game on the division, jumped three teams in the wild card, and now find themselves just a half game behind the Nationals and 5.5 back of the wild card. Even the most pessimistic of fans, the ones who screamed to trade Cliff Lee and Chase Utley and rebuild the team, are having second thoughts about this team right now.
There are still 11 games left to go before the non waiver deadline, but the reality here is that the Phillies really have nine games against the Mets (with two vs. Wheeler and Harvey) and the two central division leaders, Detroit and St.Louis. A lot can happen between now and then, but lets assume the Phillies don't gain ground or lose ground here, and come July 29th, the last off day before the deadline, they're right where they are now (Unless they go 2-7,
What the hell should they do?
Well, they should be realistic.
The problem with this years deadline is that the team likely finds themselves right on the cusp, in a situation where they need the following things to happen to reach the playoffs:
- The Braves and probably the Reds have to play no better than .500 ball out.
- The Phillies need to play close to .600 baseball out
- Even if both those things happen, they have to hope that the Dodgers and Nationals both play 2 games worse than they do.
- They need to get Halladay, Howard, and Revere back sooner than later and productive.
The reality, as much as I want to believe in the improbable, there's as much impossible here to make things very very difficult for the Phillies. And they aren't likely to have any more clarity in two weeks than they do today.
From a front office perspective, you don't want to mortgage the future for a hope and a prayer, but you can't sell off major assets (even if you feel its the right thing to do) and alienate the fan base. So Forget about dealing guys like Utley, or Lee, or even Rollins, and with the bullpen situation as it is, there's no way that, in my opinion, right or wrong you can deal Jonathan Papelbon
before July 31st. You have to approach the non waiver deadline with upgrades in mind, and at the same time be very leery of dealing away the future. That means expendable major league pieces, combined with depth heavy minor leaguers should go.
But I'm not expecting much for one reason.
Take a look at the two weeks immediately following the non waiver deadline.
Atlanta, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles.
12 games out of 15 against the three teams that really define your destiny.
The Phillies could literally mortgage the future and be out of it in two weeks, or be leading the division by the middle of August. Regardless, You have a lot more clarity on August 15th than you do on July 31st.
But the reality here is that the moves they make on July 31st have to come to fruition immediately over the next two weeks. A cold streak to start August and they're done.
IF I'M RUNNING THIS TEAM I DON'T GAMBLE ON THAT.
And thats the biggest reason why the team won't trade Papelbon, or Lee, or Utley. Because all of those guys are likely to clear waivers, or at the most be claimed buy a team that actually wants them. Papelbon will 100% clear. No one is gonna risk his salary. Likely the same with Lee. Utley has a slight chance of getting a block claim, based on his no trade clause.
I hear a lot of talk about the Red Sox
Dodgers deal last year, and I think people forget that that happened on August 30th.
I'm not expecting much in the way of big moves. I don't expect to see Maikel Franco moved for Alex Rios
, I don't think you'll find there's as much interest in Michael Young
as people think (and really, if you look at the biggest offensive gripe about him, the double plays, and realize that nine of them came in a 20 game stretch where he had a 69% GB ratio... Theres a lot of noise there) though I would certainly move him myself...
And as far as veterans go, the only real trade-able asset that likely has to be dealt by July 31st is Michael Young. Hes the only guy that absolutely won't clear waivers.
But Rollins, Lee, Papelbon, Howard, hell, even Roy Halladay
are virtual locks based on their salaries.
The real deadline for this team is August 26th. That's when they face the softest part of their schedule. That's the 6 week mark for Ben Revere, its when Halladay is likely back, and you have clarity on Howard. Its also a month more of baseball with a lot of games head to head against the teams you need to leapfrog.
They might not be able to buy, but they'll be able to sell.
I think the bigger dealing and wheeling happens in August. And that's likely the best course of action the team can take.
It's also when teams are desperate as hell. Maybe desperate enough to take on two bad contracts to get one.
"You want Cliff Lee? You have to take Ryan Howard".
Not saying it will happen but it kind of did last year.
On another note I'm on vacation next week, so don't expect much trade analysis from me until the 29th. Honestly, I don't see many moves being made before then anyway.
But man, August is gonna be INSANE!!
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