In mid-July, while participating in events at Major League Baseball’s All-Star FanFest, I injured my back. The injury was eventually diagnosed as a herniated disc, and if you’ve never suffered such a malady, I do not recommend it in the least. The ensuing weeks have been filled with painful days, sleepless nights, and an assortment of medications that have varied in their effectiveness.
Before you go “Cool story, bro,” and move on to another article, I just wanted to point out that the past month and a half has not gone well for me. Unfortunately, it hasn’t gone much better for the Phillies or general manager Matt Klentak either. Wins have grown scarce, the team has fallen out of first place, and it seems like the more moves Klentak makes, the worse the team performs.
I’ll give Klentak credit for recognizing that his team was flawed, and for actively attempting to improve the squad. However - and I say this with the caveat that there’s still a month left in the season, and anything could happen - not many of his moves have been overwhelmingly successful.
It should also be noted that technically, there is no trade deadline. All teams are still able to make trades, only the players that they obtain would not be eligible for postseason play. As a result, it is highly unlikely that we see any high impact moves made for the rest of the season.
Manny and Asdrubal: The Road Not Taken
For most of the first half, the Phillies used rookie Scott Kingery at shortstop. There were two major problems with this:
- Kingery was mired in a season-long hitting slump.
- He doesn’t have much experience playing shortstop, and may not have the necessary range for the position.
The Phillies needed an upgrade, so it seemed serendipitous that the Orioles had their star shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado on the trade market. The Phillies have been rumored to have interest in pursuing Machado in free agency this winter, so it made sense that they’d also be interested in trading for him before then.
Unfortunately, other teams also realized that Machado was a talented player who would provide an upgrade, so the price was going to be high. There was lots of talk about which prospects were untouchable, and whether or not trading for Machado would increase their chances of signing him in free agency.
Ultimately, the Phillies’ best offer wasn’t as good as the Dodgers’, and Manny was dispatched to Los Angeles. Undaunted, Klentak took a look at the rosters of other non-contending teams and decided that Mets second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera would make for a fine consolation prize. The Phillies sent pitching prospect Franklin Kilome to the Mets, and Cabrera became the team’s new shortstop.
There was once a time when Carbrera was a good fielding shortstop. There was also a time when I could sleep comfortably through the night without the use of pain medication, but that time is not now. The rationale was that since Kingery had performed poorly on both offense and defense, getting a guy who would only perform poorly on defense was a net gain.
To his credit, Cabrera hasn’t been quite as bad on defense as the metrics would indicate. While he has absolutely no range at the position, he has been relatively adequate fielding balls that have been hit within a foot of him in either direction. Unfortunately, he hasn’t provided the offensive boost that the team expected. He’s batting a robust .234 since his arrival in Philadelphia, and unlike some of his teammates, he hasn’t supplemented that low average with a healthy walk rate either. He did provide one moment of heroism, but moments like that have been few, and far in between.
On some days, the Phillies still use Kingery at shortstop when they want to use what Gabe Kapler considers his “good” defensive lineup. This is similar to how I now consider six hours of restless sleep to be a “good” night’s sleep.
It seems doubtful that Manny would have made that much of a difference, especially considering that the Dodgers haven’t lit the world on fire since his arrival. It would have been heartbreaking to surrender prospects of note and still see the team collapse. Unfortunately, Cabrera certainly hasn’t been the answer. He hasn’t produced with the bat, and the team has struggled since his arrival.
Thrown for a Loup
Another weakness of the pre-deadline Phillies was that none of their relievers were adept at retiring left-handed batters. To counter this weakness, Klentak traded for Blue Jays reliever Aaron Loup. Loup’s overall numbers were not great, but he was considered a decent option when used strictly against lefties.
In his first appearance with his new team, Loup faced one batter and hit him with a pitch. In his second appearance, he actually recorded an out...along with giving up two runs. He managed to pitch effectively in his next two appearances, only to suffer a forearm strain and have to go on the disabled list. His date of return is unknown, and nobody seems all that anxious to see him return.
Loup was bad, and the Phillies then had to make another trade to replace him, leading to...
Lefty 2: Electric Boogaloo
With Loup on the shelf, the Phillies traded for White Sox lefty reliever Luis Avilan. He’s been used strictly as a LOOGY, facing one batter in three of his five appearances.
It’s hard to get much of a read on him, since Gabe Kapler doesn’t seem to trust him in big spots. At the very least, Kapler is terrified to ever have him face a right-handed batter in a close game. There has been at least one situation when bringing in Avilan seemed like the logical move, but Kapler chose not to use him, for fear that a righty pinch hitter would be subbed in.
What good is a reliever if the manager is scared to use him?
Hey Mr. Wilson!
Jorge Alfaro may eventually become a top flight catcher, but he still has some developing to do. In order to shore up the position, Klentak traded for All-Star Wilson Ramos, basically getting him for nothing but cash. Seems like an easy win, right?
There was just one catch: Ramos wasn’t healthy. He was on the disabled list, and there were mixed reports as to when he’d return. To everyone’s surprise, he came back sooner than expected, and made a great first impression.
Unfortunately, Ramos is still far from 100%, and is dealing with a lingering hamstring issue. As a result, he can’t exactly run at a fast pace. If anyone was feeling nostalgic for the days of watching Ryan Howard amble around the bases, watching Ramos meander his way towards third base should stir up some fond memories.
I can’t come down too hard on Ramos for his lack of hustle there. If I had run at a similar pace at FanFest, rather than going all out in the 30 yard sprint, I might still have a healthy back.
The base running blunder aside, Ramos has provided some positives. By default, that makes his acquisition the most successful move of the deadline.
Years Later, Howard Eskin Was Right
After the 2013 season, sports radio personality Howard Eskin floated the rumor that the Phillies were interested in trading for All-Star Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, and the package would be centered around the Phillies’ emerging superstar Dom Brown.
#phillies GM Ruben Amaro deep in serious talks w #bluejays to acquire OF Jose Batista. Can also play 3rd. Phils would deal OF Dom Brown plus— Howard Eskin (@howardeskin) November 13, 2013
Like most of Eskin’s reports, not much came of this. Bautista stayed in Toronto and had several strong seasons, while Brown...did not.
Five years later, Howard was finally proven right: The Phillies traded for Jose Bautista, and they didn’t even have to give up Dom Brown to do it.
What does “Joey Bats” bring to the table aside from name recognition? He can pop the occasional dinger (although I think his days of hitting 50 in a season are over), he doesn’t hit for a high average, but he does walk at a decent rate. He’s also a poor fielder. It’s a good thing that the Phillies traded for him, because they certainly don’t have enough guys who fit that profile.
In case you were curious what happened to ol’ Dom, he ironically did make his way to the Blue Jays system in 2016. Much like beloved former Indians catcher Jake Taylor, he’s currently bouncing around the Mexican League, hoping for another shot at the majors. And good news, for anyone who wants to relive the glory days of June 2013: Dom Bomb shirts are still available!
While the actual impact on the team may be minimal, if a trade can remind me of Eskin’s bufoonery and the glorious two months when Dom Brown was good, it gets a passing grade from me. Also, Bautista had a big hit in a game last week, so that’s something.
Overall Grade: C
Most of Klentak’s moves haven’t worked out very well, but considering the price for Manny Machado, I’m not sure if there were any true impact players they could have added (with one notable exception). At the very least, I can say that Klentak tried, and I suppose that counts for something.