Fire Sale Looming
On the train to DC this morning I crunched some numbers and came up with a few thoughts about the Phillies, who seem to be headed nowhere fast following a 4-7 homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and four losses in five games to the Mets.
The Phillies are 9-17 since they were 15-14 on May 4. It’s the worst record in the National League in that span.
They are 24-31 overall. They were 26-29 at this point last year, when they were on their way to 89 losses.
I’m typically one to preach patience during a 162-game season because it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about a team a little more than two months into it. I often remind people about the deficits the 2007 and 2008 Phillies overcame to win the National League East: seven down with 17 to play in 2007 and 3 ½ back with 16 to play in 2008. But those teams did at least one thing very, very well. Those teams had the best offense in the National League. They hit the cover off the ball. They also had a very good bullpen down the stretch in 2007 and a great one throughout 2008. They also played good defense.
But the 2014 Phillies don’t do anything well. You can’t say, “This team has fantastic starting pitching, so if they can just add a bullpen arm and get Domonic Brown going they should be OK.”
There are holes everywhere.
Brown is hitting .206 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 15 walks, 36 strikeouts and a .557 OPS through the team’s first 55 games. It reminds me of Pat Burrell’s 2003 season. Burrell’s struggles were a huge story that year. Fans wanted him sent to Triple-A, like Brown. I got emails from people asking about Burrell’s eyesight or other ailments that might be affecting him at the plate. But through 55 games in 2003, Burrell was hitting .204 with 13 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .751 OPS. Amazing. Burrell’s OPS was nearly 200 points higher than Brown’s is today.
What is even more amazing? Burrell’s .751 OPS would be fifth among Phillies everyday players this year. Only Chase Utley (.895), Marlon Byrd (.807), Carlos Ruiz (.791) and Cody Asche (.771) are higher.
Could Brown be sent to the minors? I doubt it. If this team is headed toward a fire sale, you might want to play Brown, hope he gets hot and make him a trade candidate along with others.
Why isn’t Ken Giles in the big leagues? I understood why the Phillies didn’t promote him four, five, six, seven, eight weeks into the season, but I thought he was getting close. But after this homestand I’m not sure what the rush is.
Why bring him into this environment? It isn’t like he is a savior. It’s not like this team is one arm away from dominance. You might as well keep him in Triple-A, continue to develop him at a good pace and bring him up when he is better prepared. He has eight strikeouts and seven walks in 12 2/3 innings in Triple-A, compared to 29 strikeouts and five walks in 15 innings in Double-A. Things haven’t been as easy for him in Triple-A. Not that he isn’t a better option than some of what is currently in the Phillies’ bullpen, but you don’t want to bring him up before he is ready, have him get screwed up mentally and lose him down the road. He is too important.
I wonder what Utley would say if the Phillies came to him in July with a trade proposal?
But even if that scenario happens – Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently they have zero interest in trading Utley and he reiterated that this morning on 94 WIP calling it a “moot point” — the other issue is the Phillies’ ability to identify talent in trades.
Can the Phillies’ talent evaluators get quality in return for Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Byrd, Antonio Bastardo, etc.? The Phillies have traded Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Jim Thome, Michael Young and Joe Blanton in recent years for a group that includes Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, J.C. Ramirez, Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin, Josh Lindblom, Ethan Martin, Stefan Jarrin, Ryan O’Sullivan, Rob Rasmussen, Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino. Some of those players weren’t going to net blue-chip prospects (Thome, Blanton and Young) and Joseph and Martin could still develop into something. But the Phillies haven’t hit in numerous trades, free agent signings and other personnel evaluations in recent years, including the draft. Would you feel comfortable having the Phillies trade an iconic player like Utley or Jimmy Rollins knowing the recent track record? If Utley and Rollins play for a few more years with the success they are having this year they could be Hall of Fame candidates.
“We have quality scouts. We have good people working for us. I’ve got great advisors,” Amaro said on WIP. “We believe in the decisions that we’ll have to make. Right now, it’s not translating on the field and all of us are part of this. We’re in it when we’re not doing well and we’re all together when we’re having success. But I believe in our staff. I believe in the front office of our organization. If we have to make those decisions we’ll be very prepared.”
The Phillies have less than two months before the July 31 trade deadline. That should be enough time to get ready, barring a dramatic and unforeseen turnaround.