As we’re fresh off the midsummer classic, it was clear that just about every Philly, excluding Realmuto, viewed the midsummer classic from home as opposed to Cleveland, Ohio. This is because not one Phillies player shined consistently from April to July.
Scott Kingery has had by far his most impressive season so far, proving his worth to the organization, Jay Bruce was electric when first joining the team, but obviously not long enough to be considered an all-star, Segura was on pace early but both a competitive field along with injuries throughout the season ended his chances. Bryce Harper had a rather disappointing first half for his standards (considering this is only the second season in his career he was not given the all-star nod).
Although only having the bare minimum of invitees, while every other team in the NL East sent more except the Marlins, it’s not that bad right?
I am usually not one to pull the panic switch with plenty of the season to go, but there are many eerie similarities from this year and last that need to be addressed. For one, the obvious fact is that the standing in the division mirror last year’s positioning at the end of the regular season.
As of July 21, the Phillies trail the Braves by 7.5 games. They limped to the finish while the Braves continued their championship-like baseball, and the Nationals took control of second place by seriously heating up to end the first half. If the season were to end that day, the Phillies would be facing the Nationals in Washington for the Wild Card, which is an improvement over last year of course, but certainly not the dream scenario.
The reason why I think this current situation is so detrimental, and far worse than last year, is because of how much went into this year’s mediocrity. Klentak showed the baseball world how much he was buying into this season by the eye-opening signings and trades in the off-season, yet the team still lacked in the same categories.
Starting and relief pitching has been the reason for just about every loss this season, and although the offense at full strength is as dangerous as 2008, you still need to record 27 outs every day.
You don’t win that championship without Cole Hamels and Jamie Moyer, or JC Romero and Brad Linge in your pen. The starting rotation currently holds an average ERA of 4.55, while the bullpen’s is 4.07. It is difficult to ask your offense for eight runs a night, and this problem needs to be addressed.
With that being said, the obvious choice would be to command yourselves as buyers for this upcoming trade deadline and focus on picking up another big name. This is something I unfortunately do not foresee happening, and it’s because the Phillies are in such a difficult middle ground.
The terms of buyer vs seller are self-explanatory, but the requirements are not as much. The idea of “if you’re winning and playoff bound, or in contention for a playoff push, buy talent and trade future. If you are losing, sell your talent so they are not wasted and acquire assets.” This thinking is far too cut and dry however, because it is debatable where they truly stand. Eight games out of first and currently in a wildcard spot is always “buyable” for many standards, but why rush now?
Currently, most of the team’s big names are secured for years to come. Segura, Nola and McCutchen are signed until 2023, Kingery is locked until 2027, and Harper is basically signed for life.
The only signs of concern are Zach Eflin, Maikel Franco and Rhys Hoskins, who all have uncertainty coming this off season due to arbitration. Although the Phillies have plenty of control through the arbitration deals, they better give them their deserving money, or it could be costly to the teams future. Regardless, most of the team’s core is not going anywhere soon, unless Klentak has something to say about it.
So, this is why I see the team thinking shorter term, in the idea that winning next year is more important than a win-now strategy. The trade deadline is a time for desperate teams, whether to sell big or to buy October wins. The Phillies spot in the middle ground could be exactly where they stay throughout the deadline, quiet, but listening to offers for their future.
They could shop through the loaded pitching market that should be up for grabs this month, like Stroman or Bumgardner, but that could be a short term fix and they’d be gone next season.
I stated in an earlier article that the if the Phillies could win during the first half, it would make for an even more dominant second half with a complete team on the pitching end. But that is precisely what went wrong, they could not win with the current arms they have.
Although it hurts to say, making a Wild Card appearance or missing the playoffs yet again is not the end of the world for this franchise. The team has significantly upgraded and is trending in the right direction. This is not the NBA, where signing a few big names means instant winning.
There is a reason that teams having 40 man rosters, and work still needs to be done to see who on the current roster is ready for World Series caliber baseball, and more importantly who is not.
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