The trade deadline has come and passed, and I think it’s safe to say the Phillies are not an elite MLB team. If I just had to name teams off the top of my head who are clearly better, I could start with the Astros, Dodgers, and Yankees, none of whom do I think the Phillies can beat in a seven game series. The Phillies are seven games out of first, so they’re probably not catching Atlanta either. If I were a gambling man, I wouldn’t bet on the Phillies against the Nationals, Cubs, Brewers, Indians, Red Sox, or Athletics in a series either.
Alas, the Phillies are in a three-way tie for the Wild Card and would be in a playoff game if the season ended today. They’re also a better team than they were before the deadline. Laugh at Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly, if you’d like, they present actual, tangible upgrades at the second and third starter spots than the slop the Phillies were throwing- in fact, steep upgrades. Mike Morin and Blake Parker don’t make the Phillies bullpen into the “Nasty Boys,” but combine them with moving starters into the bullpen and you reduce the sting of David Robertson being done for the year. As for Corey Dickerson and his .924 OPS, even if you don’t think he’s Hank Aaron, he can play. By every measurement, the Phillies got better with every move.
And yet it didn’t really feel like it. It felt like a collection of bit moves from a team unable or unwilling to make a big move. And you know what? That’s kind of true. The Phillies did not have the kind of package that Houston traded to get Greinke. They weren’t willing to part with some of their top prospects anyway. And so here we are. They’re a playoff team today. It really feels like there are at least six teams better than them in the NL though. It’s a strange state for a team.
Success for the 2019 Phillies has been redefined as getting into the Wild Card. In the pre-season I predicted the Phillies winning the first Wild Card and then the National League. That’s still perfectly possible. It just doesn’t feel probable. Hopefully we’re about to witness the first chapter in the legend of Bryce Harper in Philly.