Sinking Fast, Phillies Still Have Options To Right The Ship – Phillies Nation
Analysis

Sinking Fast, Phillies Still Have Options To Right The Ship

Cliff Lee isn't the only one hanging his head in the Phillies dugout these days after a frustrating 31-37 start has the team nine games out of 1st place. (AP)

The 2012 version of the Phillies has so far been unrecognizable. The team has lost its swagger, and they’re playing poorly in all facets of the game. Suddenly, a team that never lost late, never faced a deficit it couldn’t overcome, has become an unintimidating bunch of louts who make mistakes in the clutch.

However, the season is still early, and hope, though diminished, should not be entirely lost.

The team needs a shake up, something to light a spark. They need something to get people feeling good, not only for the team today, but also for the team tomorrow.

Here are three potential moves the Phillies could make to get the ship righted not only for this season, but for seasons to come:

1) Forget Youkilis, Trade For Chase Headley:

Trading for Kevin Youkilis seems to be all the rage these days. But the Phillies shouldn’t buy into the hype. Youkilis is on the decline and owed a lot of money. He may bring some value, but he’d be a short-term gain at the cost of more prospects in a depleted farm system.

If the Phillies are going to once again dip into their minor league resources, they must acquire someone who will make this team better short-term and long-term. Padres third baseman Chase Headley would do that.  According to a report from Ken Rosenthal, trading Headley is doable for the Padres.

Headley is currently 28, under team control for two more seasons after 2012, and, with a contract valued at $3.48M, would come at about a quarter the cost of Youkilis. He would give the Phillies a switch-hitting third baseman with excellent plate discipline, and, because he can play left field, Headley would provide Charlie Manuel the option to play him and Placido Polanco in the same lineup once Chase Utley returns.

Headley’s power and patience numbers compare favorably to Phillies left fielders, making the idea of playing him there feasible. Take a look:

  • Headley:  32 R 62 H, 7 HR, 31 RBI, 8 SB, .261/.372/.416 124 OPS+
  • Phillies left fielders:  34 R, 87 H, 4 HR, 33 RBI, 12 SB .313/.352/.417 114 OPS+

While Phillies left fielders have hit for a higher average (mainly because of Juan Pierre), Headley has hit more home runs and has a higher on-base percentage. Those power numbers would only increase moving out of spacious Petco Park. He could conceivably hit 20 home runs playing at CBP.

Because he’s primarily a third baseman, Headley wouldn’t force the Phillies to remove Pierre from the lineup entirely either. He could slide to third on days when Manuel wants to get Pierre in the lineup.

There’s only one caveat to trading for Headley: The Padres aren’t in a position where they need to trade him, so they’d have the power at the bargaining table. Still, it’s an avenue the Phillies should pursue if they want to add a bat to the lineup.

2) Acquire A Right-Handed, Late-Inning Reliever:

Since June 1st, the Phillies have gone 4-12. Most of the team’s struggles this month stem from the pitching, which has a 4.69 ERA in the month of June (26th in baseball). While the starting pitching hasn’t been great, most of those guys have proven track records and can be expected to bounce back. Where there’s real concern is the middle relief, which is desperately lacking a right-handed reliever to bridge the gap from the starter to Jonathan Papelbon. Solidifying that area would help the Phillies immensely. Here’s two options:

  • Grant Balfour, Oakland A’s: (2.94 ERA, 4.17 xFIP, 7.22 K/P, 79.3 LOB%) Balfour has been really good out of the ‘pen for the A’s this season. But relief pitching is a strength of Oakland’s and they can afford to trade him in a season that is quickly slipping away from them. The cost for acquiring him wouldn’t be exorbitantly high as Oakland would be happy to see the rest of his $4.0M salary off the books.
  • Jonathan Broxton, Kansas City Royals: (1.69 ERA, 3.74 xFIP, 6.75 K/9, 83.8 LOB%) Most Phillies fans remember Broxton as the guy the Phillies torched during multiple save opportunities while he was with the Dodgers. But look at those numbers again. He is dominating hitters for Kansas City right now, and they’re are looking to deal him because they won’t be able to re-sign him. Broxton would potentially give the Phillies two capable closers in the back of the bullpen, and make both the eighth and ninth inning shut down innings.

Either of these guys, who both play for teams looking to sell, would help the Phillies middle inning woes. Some of those late-inning losses could be turned into wins with their presence.

3) Trade Joe Blanton:

– There are a lot of names being tossed around as potential trade options should the Phillies be sellers this July. No matter what else they do, there is one move the Phillies can make whether they end up buyers or sellers. That is trading Joe Blanton, whose contract expires after this season.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Who in their right mind would trade for Joe Blanton?” And believe me, I understand. But hear me out on this one.

Since 2005, Blanton has amassed at least 175 innings pitched in all but one season (last season when he missed nearly four months due to an elbow impingement).  From 2005-2010, he averaged 199.1 innings per season, and he’s currently on pace to throw 200 innings this season. He’s got a career 4.36 ERA, has traditionally been a second half pitcher, and has experience pitching in the playoffs. Tell me that’s not a pitcher a team like the Indians, White Sox, or Red Sox–all teams still in the hunt–wouldn’t mind adding to bolster the middle of their rotation. Nobody would trade a top prospect for Blanton, but teams would be willing to offer a bundle of middle-tier prospects for a three month rental.

The deal works for the Phillies because Blanton is expendable. Roy Halladay is expected to return sometime in July, and he could slide in and take Blanton’s spot in the rotation. Trading Blanton would also free up some salary if the Phillies wanted to make a move, and provide the Phillies a way to restock the farm system, while not declaring the season a bust.

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