On Wednesday, The Good Phight published a spirited piece regarding the Phillies and the upcoming trade deadline. In it, Joe Catz argues that right now fans should stop being so concerned with what the future holds for the franchise if it is precluding you from enjoying day-to-day success. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you do.
Essentially, his argument boils down to the fact that, right or wrong, the Phillies are not going to have a major overhaul of their roster via a late July fire sale. The reason being an ownership group that won’t allow a full-on rebuild. They’re constantly in win-now mode, and that means tearing it down just isn’t an option.
I’d like to go on record and say I agree 100% with Catz. As a fan, you should never stop yourself from enjoying a team’s success on a given night because you’re worried it may affect an impending rebuild. Baseball is supposed to be fun, and when you can’t even allow yourself the joy of your favorite team’s successes, what’s even the point anymore?
But there is something about his prediction that this team absolutely won’t sell that I find troublesome: Even if they’re constantly in win-now mode, selling may be the best course of action not only for down the line, but for next season. To Catz’s credit, he says himself that he’s not arguing that selling is the wrong move. Simply that it won’t happen.
Let’s assume he’s right, and they aren’t going to sell off all their assets. Where does that leave this team next season? Even if they make the playoffs–and that’s a big if–chances are they won’t be winning the World Series. That’s a cold, hard truth, and it would mean another season of failure from this core group of players. At that point, the Phils can either bring back the big names whose contracts are expiring–Utley, Chooch, and possibly even Michael Young–or they can let them all walk, replenishing the holes via free agency or with farmhands.
The former leaves them with the same group of players, only they’re one year older. The latter leaves them to choose from a free agent crop that includes a fair amount of 30 year olds looking for one final sizeable contract, or turning to youth, where they have very few position players that look like they’ll be ready next season. Maybe Maikel Franco is, but going from Single-A to the Big Leagues in a calendar year is very rare, so it seems unlikely.
A lineup full of not quite ready first-year players isn’t becoming of a team that’s in win-now mode. Restocking entirely through free agency straps the organization for cash for another few years.
If the Phillies want to win next season, they should explore trading away some of their assets. Players like Ruiz and Young likely won’t be back next season anyway, and Utley is a question mark. If you play your cards right, you may get back some guys who can help out next season (Like Nate Schierholtz last season, only you don’t make the mistake of letting him walk for nothing). At the very least, you’re putting yourself in a position where you can begin to formulate a core of young talent to build upon. With the money coming off the books, you have the luxury of signing one or two solid free agents, but not having to break the bank.
That future looks much brighter to me.
As for the pitchers who have been rumored to be on the block, Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon, Ruben Amaro should listen to offers for both, but not necessarily pull the trigger. In the instance of Lee, if you want to win next season, you shouldn’t trade him unless you’re blown away by an offer. He pitches above the value of his contract and has shown no signs of wear and tear. His low-effort delivery is conducive to, as Sarge would say, continued success. As for Papelbon, it makes sense to be more open to dealing him and unloading the exorbitant salary for a position that can be replaced, especially if a team like Detroit gets desperate.
If the Phils truly are in constant win-now mode, they should consider selling some of their veterans. It’s time to look towards moving on from a group of players that aren’t long for this team anyway, as difficult as it will be to watch them go.