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Should Phillies stock up on pitching? (Heath Bell), or solidify the offense (Carlos Beltran) at the trade deadline?



The Philadelphia Phillies are close.
I mean this close, to possibly winning their second championship in four years.
After all, this is a club who has (more often than not) lost its ability to swing the bats, their second baseman (Chase Utley) is less than 100 percent, had inconsistent production from their corner outfielders all year, their All-Star third baseman (Placido Polanco) is sidelined with a back injury, their All-Star center fielder (Shane Victorino) is on the disabled list with a thumb injury, their top pinch hitter (Ross Gload) is playing with an Utleyesque hip injury and wouldn’t be able to score on an inside-the-park home run if you tied bricks to the outfielders feet, and their fourth and fifth starters are on the DL with severe back issues (Roy Oswalt) and possible season-ending arm issues (Joe Blanton), respectively.
I’m not done. I was already drawing a fine line between an explanation and a run-on sentence.
Their primary closer (Brad Lidge) hasn’t thrown a pitch all season, their second-in-command closer is fighting an arm injury (Jose Contreras), their third closer (Ryan Madson) just recovered from a hand injury.

Yet through it all, the Phillies still lead the majors in victories. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me. And you know what would be even more impressive? If they had any semblance of a consistent offense, nobody, and I mean nobody in the world would beat this team. Their pitching is that great. Well, that and maybe on more bull pen arm for safe keeping.

So why not throw caution to the wind and just go for the whole thing come July 31st?

Easier said than done. When Cliff Lee was signed last December, GM Ruben Amaro made no secret that the Phillies would have very little flexibilty when the time came to making some possible mid-season deals. And the Phillies are standing pat on this.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal has said that Amaro is informing all general managers he has talked to in passing that the Phils can’t go above $2 million to their estimated $175 million dollar payroll. The limit of the luxury-tax threshold is $178 million.

Damn. That is close.

Now maybe that’s not the wisest thing you should tell people whom you’re trying to trade with. Wouldn’t that show your hand?


Help Joe Vallee win 97.5 FM The Fanatic Dream Job by 'liking' and 'commenting' on his rant!

As I’ve previously said, I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Phils would turn down a good deal for Carlos Beltran: You know what he can do. Photo: www.longislandpress.comCarlos Beltran or Heath Bell if the deal was right. If you get Beltran, the Phils’ offense looks devastating. Not as good as their pitching, but this staff might be among the best of all-time, so that’s a tough act to follow.  

Any of those trades would be a gamble, and the Phils are always conservative from that standpoint of not getting rent a players. Sometimes that’s good (like anytime a GM asked for Ryan Howard or Utley around 2004). And sometimes it changes the destiny of a team (1993: The vetoed Randy Johnson for Tyler Green trade. Need I say more?)

The Mets would want prospects for Beltran, which the Phillies have. But how many more prospects can you ship out before system is bare? The Phillies aren’t depleted, but remember back in the day when there were no prospects to trade? Exactly. At least they have some to give. That’s what happens when your team gets good. You’re in a position to do this!

Keep in mind other teams are going to want Beltran as well. The Red Sox, Giants and Braves have expressed interest in Beltran, and that’s not good. The only other right handed hitter around is Jeff Francoeur, but the Royals are trying to dangle Melky Cabrera. Who are YOU more afraid of in a lineup? Ryan Ludwick? Josh Willingham? or Beltran?

The defense rests. I’m sick of talking about Beltran. I’ve written two articles on this guy. One in May, and the other just last week.

Bell and his Padres teammate Mike Adams are interesting cases, and go deeper than just a simple deadline deal (and I’m proud to say I possibly saw this coming).  Although very consistent, the Phils’ pen has been a revolving door this year. Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes have been life savers.


However, Stutes’ last two outings have been pretty rough, and Bastardo got hit a little bit on Sunday against the Mets. It could be nothing at all, or maybe these guys are showing signs of fatigue. Contreras’ time table for his return is uncertain, and who knows where the team will use Lidge when he rejoins the team. That’s a lot of question marks for a team with championship aspirations.

When healthy, Madson has been great. However, can he close in the playoffs? You don’t know if Bell can either. It's hard to believe that the Phils would turn down a good deal for Carlos Beltran or Heath Bell if the deal was right. Photo: www. angels.ocregister.com  Unlike Madson however, Bell doesn’t have an agent named Scott Boras, and nobody likes going to that party. The Phils could possibly lose Madson, and then where would they be? The Phillies had been rumored to be the main team in the running for Bell, but now the Rangers have gotten in the mix.

Adams is just nasty, but the Padres have set the price very high for him. His contract is appealing to the Phils, as he is only getting paid $2.5 million in 2011.

Bottom line:  Imagine a first round rematch of the NLCS between the Giants and Phillies in the first round of the playoffs in October. What has changed since last year? The Phillies got Cliff Lee, who the Giants beat last year twice in the World Series. With three main contributors from their championship team either gone (Edgar Renteria, Juan Uribe) or lost for the season (Buster Posey), the Giants offense has lost some important pieces, but their pitching is a strong as ever. Beltran detractors say he is not the player he once was, and he’s not: he’s a line drive hitting outfielder who hits doubles, which is exactly what the Phillies need (taken from RP Downs Ltd.). Ryan Howard, who didn’t have a single RBI in the 2010 post season, would benefit greatly with the addition of a power-hitting, right-handed (or switch hitting) bat behind him.

The Phillies could also go another route and try to acquire Bell or Adams and stock up on pitching. If you ask me, I say you go for the bat. The Phillies starters are great, and their relievers aren’t too bad either. When you break it down, that offense is what really needs a boost. You’re probably not going to get both. It might be one or the other, but I guess something is better than nothing.

Stay tuned.


In the meantime, Keep On Phightin'


Joe Vallee is a lifelong Phillies fan and former Phillies batboy. Joe has claimed to have seen about 98% of every Phillies game since the early 1980's.

Contact Joe at jvallee@philly2philly.com

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Bell photo: www.uweblogsports.blogspot.com

Article photo and thumbnail: Photo: www.angels.ocregister.com

Beltran photo: www.longislandpress.com




10:43 AM
Mon Jul 18 2011
I'm with you, Joe. Good

I'm with you, Joe. Good analysis, and while a Bell or Adams would look great, I trust our bullpen (even with all the newbies, injuries and uncertainties) more than our lineup (as constituted) to get it done in October.