The Phillies are 41-34 and in second place in the NL East. They lead the Wild Card race on June 25th. In their last four series, they’ve won two of three from Colorado, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Washington, all teams considered to have playoff aspirations. The Yankees come in next for three games in a good measuring stick series. Phillies fans should be getting excited.
If you listen to some though, the team still isn’t very good. What about the batting averages? Do we trust the pitching? The bullpen stinks! Why does the batting order keep changing? Gabe Kapler over-manages and doesn’t know what to do with the bullpen!
There’s some truth to all of that. It’s all overkill couch-quarterbacking on talk radio too. The Phillies basically are what they are, a good team with flaws, a playoff contender who could make noise, if they can overcome their flaws. If General Manager Matt Klentak can make some moves to improve them, he should do so. He also shouldn’t blow up his minor league system, or young team, unless he can make some high impact moves. Klentak could make this a great team, but he should be cautious about doing too much- this team may organically grow into what we hope anyway.
If I was the GM, here’s what I’d do before the deadline, in order:
- Get the bullpen some (left-handed) help. This is the biggest need this team faces. Sure, Kapler refuses to manage like a human being and assign roles in his bullpen, but the truth is that he also doesn’t have a great bullpen. Some of his best guys- Dominguez, Ramos, and Arano, in particular- are super young and learning on the job. He’s trotted out Adam Morgan, Hoby Milner, Zac Curtis, and Austin Davis as his lefty specialists to get out Bryce Harper and Freddie Freeman, just in our division. In terms of just in-game impact for this season, someone of the caliber of Jake Diekman to be the go-to left-handed reliever in this bullpen would really stabilize things. I’d even argue the Phillies should go for two relievers if the outlook on Pat Neshek isn’t good. Placing all of the leverage situations on a couple of young, talented arms could overwork them, and encourages the mismanagement of the bullpen that Kapler has shown this year.
- Get the rotation a (left-handed) high end starter, if affordable. You never have enough pitching. I think the Phillies need more relief pitching, but another high end of the rotation starter, preferably a lefty, wouldn’t hurt. Cole Hamels name will get tossed around a lot, and I’d definitely consider him. I don’t think the prospect package will be anything near what we got trading him away, that contract is almost over, and you know he’s comfortable here. He’s not the only guy I’d look at though. J.A. Happ is a less flashy version of the Hamels option, and is pretty effective at what he does. Madison Bumgarner, if everything’s working, is money for a stretch run. There are plenty of options, and that’s even assuming there’s no way we could land one of the Mets couple of aces.
- Get another power bat, if affordable. I’d obviously like to get Manny Machado, and sign him long term. I don’t consider this to be our top need though, at least not this Summer. I also realize it could be hard to trade for him and get an extension done, as he seems to want to test the market. Even so, if the price/long-term impact/need for a deal match up, he would wildly improve this line-up, and I’d want him. Or someone like him. Preferably we’re looking for a shortstop or third basemen here.
I wouldn’t go crazy and sell off the farm for anything less than a star that I can either immediately extend, or control beyond this year. This team’s development is far from complete, and they’re only going to get better. While many fans are down on JP Crawford’s bat this season, I wouldn’t rush to trade him- he’s actually considerably younger than the rest of this young line-up. I still think he’ll end up fine. I’m also seemingly higher on Nick Williams and Nick Pivetta than some of the other young guys on this team and would like to keep them.
We’re at the end of June and these Phillies look like the real deal. Matt Klentak could go put them over the top, in the post-season with baseball’s elite, this year. While he should be thoughtful about how, I don’t think he can afford to be timid. C’mon Matt: Make the Phillies Great Again.