It is clear that the Phillies had one of the best offseasons in the MLB this past winter. Ever since Harper became a lifetime resident of Philadelphia, Phillies spring training games have become cannot miss events. But it was not just this slugger who transformed the lineup. Every signing from J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, David Robertson, and others have completely bolstered the lineup that use to just include Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. The only complaint is that Philadelphia’s Achilles Heel would be their lack of depth in the starting rotation.
After their ace Nola, both Arrieta and Velasquez have been far too inconsistent, and their final two slots of Piveta and Efflin were decent at best last season. Although this is already an obvious issue for the club, it seems that there will be no more moves before Opening Day, which in my opinion is for the better.
With the hopeful thinking that Arrieta and Velasquez will return to their expected talent level, and that the bottom of the rotation can either include young faces in the farm system like Adonis Medina and Jojo Romero, or Pivetta and Efflin can have .500 seasons. This is preseason speculation of course, which heavily relies on the Phillies offense greatly helping their weak starting rotation. But in my opinion, the team would only have to deal with this current string of starters until July 31st, thanks to a change in the MLB rules for this season.
The MLB has announced that they are taking away the August 31st trade deadline, combining waiver and non-waiver trades to the July 31st date. In other words, July 31st will be the last day for any player to be traded. This is a necessary move that makes trading much simpler, and more intense when the end of the summer month comes. It seems like a small change towards the 2019 season, but it could be big enough to make or break the Phillies season.
Everyone assumes that the Phillies will at least be contenders for the NL East, and worst case scenario for a NL Wild Card spot. If this is so, then Klentak will have to be just as aggressive as he was this winter come the deadline for another big name starter. This of course would have been the necessary advice whether or not the rule had changed, but with this being the first year with the combination of deadlines, it could drastically alter the trades made.
Think about it logically, there was already an abundance of commotion when July 31st was not even the last day possible to ship bodied to new cities. Some GMs could be contacting half of the teams in the league in a span of a normal business day, especially if they are selling with high-commodity names on the line. Now that there is one day, one chance for every team to either complete the puzzle piece for a World Series picture, borderline division champs that want to buy in on a playoff spot, or middle to bottom tier teams looking to bolster their farm systems. And without the sense of security, the decisions between teams could be more lopsided than ever before.
I only believe that this will last for the first season, solely because aggressive owners can use the new format as leverage in contract negotiations. They can speed the process along by raising the intensity over a deal that may not be made with more time to digest the offers. Klentak showed this offseason he is a patient negotiator, but now he will have to use the lack of time to his advantage. It all depends on the state of the teams come July, and most importantly, the immediate successes of the Phillies.
Philadelphia will have to start running out of the gate with one of the weaker rotations in the MLB, in arguably the hottest new conference in all of baseball. The Nationals lost their star, but look more complete than ever. The Braves kept their youthful lineup and look to reclaim the title. The Mets got key new parts and are always a mystery on if they are World Series bound or bottom of the division bound, and the Marlins, well, are still a team (sorry Derek Jeter, you are still my favorite player of all time).
The Phillies will need offensive efficiency, especially in their 55 matchups against NL East teams before July 31. Without early success in this season, this tactic to get another big name starter will not be successful. And with opening day finally about a week away, the speculations for this season can finally come to a close.
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