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Phillies Should Not SellPosted on July 5, 2012 at 09:11 AM.
Sometimes it is better for an organization to be proactive and recognize failure when they see it. That way, they can maximize their assets, acquire some young talent, and compete again next year. One could excuse the Philadelphia Phillies for thinking like that. Their injury list reads like an All-Star team from 2009 with Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Vance Worley, Jim Thome, and a multitude of others appearing on the infamous list at some point this season. The preseason favorites are sitting in last place in the National League East, 12 games behind the division leading Nationals, and sporting a 37-46 record. With all of the injuries and all of the ground to make up, there is a thought that the Phillies should be sellers. They already gave away Jim Thome for nothing other than cash in return. They have very favorable assets to trade in Cole Hamels, Shane Victorino, and Hunter Pence. Sometimes it is wise to recognize that the season is a failure and fold early. In this case, it is not.
The Phillies entered the season as the prohibitive favorite in the National League East. Despite two key offensive players starting the season on the disabled list in Utley and Howard, the thought was that this was the only 100 win team of 2011 and they were coming back with that vaunted rotation and Jonathan Papelbon added to the bullpen. General Manager Ruben Amaro filled in with veterans like Ty Wiggington and Jim Thome with the hopes that the pitching staff would carry the team until the offense became whole.
It just didnít work as the pitching staff has been a colossal disappointment. Roy Halladay didnít look right at the start of the season and was shelved after just 11 starts and an ERA close to 4.00. Aside from Papelbon, the bullpen has been atrocious, ranking 13th with a 4.65 ERA in just 208 appearances, second fewest in the National League. The rotation has a mediocre 4.07 ERA, but its 3.70 FIP gives a better indication of how it has pitched. Number four starter Vance Worley spent some time on the disabled list, it took Cliff Lee until yesterday to register his first win of the season. Only Cole Hamels has lived up to his preseason billing by posting a 10-4 record along with a 3.08 ERA and 9.0 K/9 rate in his 16 starts. Because it seems unlikely that the Phillies will contend and that Hamels will be re-signed next year, rumors are circulating around trading the 28 year old southpaw.
But, the Phillies arenít the type of team that can get rebuilt quickly. One of the downsides--if there is a downside--of winning and going to consecutive World Series is the need to keep your talent and acquire that ďnext guyĒ to get you the ring. Roy Halladay is signed through 2014. Cliff Lee is under contract through 2016. Ryan Howard will be making top dollar until 2017. Utley and Rollins have another year. In other words, the core of this team isnít changing until at least 2014. Trading Hamels now and possibly Victorino, who is a free agent at seasonís end, wonít net all that much in return. It certainly wonít yield salary relief. And, with the new collective bargaining agreement, it is less enticing for teams to trade their prospects for a half season from a veteran.
Certainly, their minus-18 run differential is awful. Their pitching staff has underperformed and they are a dozen games behind in the division race. They are even 8.5 games behind the Wild Card leaders. But, there is reason to hope.
Legitimate reason to hope.
Without Utley and Howard, the Phillies rank seventh in runs scored. They are third in batting average and rank ninth in OPS. Their 83 homeruns rank eighth in the National League. None of those statistics are spectacular, but the offense is essentially acquiring two all-stars for the second half of the season. Utley is already back and has two homeruns in six games. Howard is already playing in rehab games and should be back soon. With Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz having above average seasons and the track records of Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins to have a better second half, the Phillies offense can expect a large improvement in terms of on base percentage and power.
Even better news comes from Roy Halladay as he is said to be throwing pain free once again. With Cliff Lee due some evening out from some poor first half luck--he hasnít pitched terribly despite the win total--and Vance Worley and Joe Blanton forming a decent back end of the rotation behind Halladay, Lee, and Hamels, the Phillies rotation should return to being a strength. There is too much talent for that not to happen.
With improvement expected from both sides of the ball, is it inconceivable that the Phillies could make the playoffs? A few years ago, the Phillies entered September eight games behind the Mets for the division lead. The Phillies wound up catching the Mets and winning the World Series. And, just ask the 2011 Red Sox and Braves how quickly a lead can vanish. With half of the season left and the Phillies finally having their intended team on the field, they canít just sell. If they went into the season thinking they had a good team, they have to at least give the team a chance.
Competition aside, the quality of return for each player wonít help the Phillies. No team is going to give up multiple prospects for Shane Victorino. Hamels should bring back a good package, but few teams would be willing to part with that kind of value, especially with Hamels intent on testing free agency. So, if Amaro cannot get proper value or the type that can quickly rebuild with the aging core, he should be focusing on putting his best team on the field for the final few months instead of saving a few dollars.
Additionally, the Phillies may be behind, but they arenít chasing any really strong teams. In the Wild Card, they are behind the likes of the Mets, Marlins, Diamondbacks, and Braves. Certainly the lead can be overtaken. At the very least, it is a possibility.
Simply put, the organization cannot improve by trading a few of its players, both now and later. The way the team is constructed and its payroll obligations, Amaro has no choice but to give Halladay, Utley, and Howard a chance. If he does and if everyone is healthy, the Phillies could be the best team of the second half.
BORN: April 17, 1975 (38)
JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 208 days ago)
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JOINED: Oct 26, 2003 (9 years, 208 days ago)
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