I stepped away from the Phillies for a while today, since there wasn’t anything really new to write about. Yes, the offense has some bad games, especially against sinkerball pitchers and guys who … well … can actually pitch. And yes, the pitching wasn’t good last night – Brett Myers was probably hurt; Jack Taschner probably isn’t long for the 25-man roster. We know all these things.
Then the news about Myers grew worse, and now it looks as if the longtime Phillie won’t finish 2009; moreover, he might not even don a pair of red pinstripes again.
So now the question becomes: What now? Suddenly the Phillies have lost their best pitcher (statistically), leaving one bonafide ace (Cole Hamels), a probable mid-rotation seesaw (Joe Blanton), a still-unproven mid-rotation lowballer (JA Happ) and an aged veteran who hasn’t shown to be worth his weight (Jamie Moyer). Suddenly they’re – at best – a three-man staff.
It’s no secret the Phillies have been the most ambitious of gentleman callers this season. They’ve inquired about the following pitchers: Jake Peavy, Brandon Webb, Roy Halladay, Doug Davis, Erik Bedard, Cliff Lee, Aaron Harang, Brad Penny, Chris Young and Jason Marquis. The names range from the elite to the broken, and everything in between. For once, though, the Phillies have the talent leverage to pull a deal. Names teams are salivating over include Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Taylor, Dominic Brown, Freddy Galvis, Vance Worley, Kyle Drabek and Antonio Bastardo. Ah, the benefits of finally having a top-shelf farm system.
But considering the circumstances of both the major league rotation and the potential dearth of pitching prospects, the Phils might need two starters via a trade. It might mean Jason Marquis now, Jake Peavy later. Or the Phillies could call up Carlos Carrasco or Vance Worley. Or they could play it safe with Kyle Kendrick or Andrew Carpenter (safe, meaning, they don’t mind making the offense score seven runs per game).
Of course, one problem the Phillies now face is every team in baseball knows the Phils need an arm, so the Phils carry no value leverage. A multiple prospect deal (say Marson, Worley and Bastardo) for a Young is very possible.
So should the Phils point their guns at a big-time pitcher right away?
I think it’s best the Phillies work with what they currently have, at least for a little while. Yes, there is only one goal: Win a world championship. There is no selling to be done. There is no resting on their hands. They must show a commitment to winning. But jumping that gun and trading for a mid- or top-line starter right away wouldn’t be wise. Instead, give Kendrick and Carrasco their chances. Yes, Kendrick has struggled, but his average against with runners in scoring position remains strong (.170, almost 100 points less than his standard average against). That seems like the old Kendrick.
Meanwhile, despite Carrsaco’s faults he remains a high-strikeout pitcher capable of going undamaged in five-to-six inning starts. Start him on a major league track now – force him to make adjustments and see if you can ride him for a few starts. If so, you’ve saved some money and gained some leverage.
Of course, it’s still possible Myers might eschew surgery and risk his hip, pitching the remainder of 2009 without surgery. That’s not wise, but if he feels okay about it, it’s his call. That said, the Phillies can’t be reactionary. They’re already naked to the rest of the league; if they can prove they have more clothes than others think, they can gain some leverage and, ultimately, help themselves out in the long run. Not just in the short term.