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MLB Trade Deadline: Phillies Adding a Relief Pitcher vs. Phillies Adding a Bat

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Part One by Matt Babiarz

Part Two by Joe Vallee

Matt's take: Phils need pitching

The Phillies obviously have a finite number of prospects and dollars with which to pursue trades. With that being said, the bullpen is the place where they could more greatly improve their chances for another World Series. Here‘s why:

1. Not many of the available right-handed bats are better than what they already have.
With the exception of Carlos Beltran, not many of the names being floated as potential right-handed trade options would provide a boost to the starting lineup. Raul Ibanez hovers around .250 with18 doubles, 13 homers and 48 RBI. That production is better than that of Ryan Ludwick (.238,14,11,56) and Josh Willingham (.244,13,12,46), and similar to that of Melky Cabrera or Michael Cuddyer. As for Beltran, he would certainly be an upgrade over Ibanez or Domonic Brown. But at the moment, just about every playoff contender has an interest in Beltran and his price tag is likely to be unreasonably high.

2. With greater availability of relief pitching options, there is better value.Mike Adams of the Padres. Photo: sports.espn.go.com
While the Phillies would likely have to “reach” for a hitter due to a thin supply of quality right-handed bats, the relief pitching pool seems to be much deeper. That could make the asking price for relievers a bit more reasonable, as supply will be in line with demand.

Heath Bell is getting the most ink, but the Padres’ Mike Adams is considered by many to be the best set-up man in baseball and has a great contract. The Rockies are rumored to be listening to offers for Huston Street and the Nationals may make Tyler Clippard available. Some other relievers that could be available include Royals closer Joakim Soria and Oakland’s Andrew Bailey. Any one of these players would significantly improve the Phillies’ ability to win their typical low-scoring battles.

3. Pairing the Phillies’ dominant starters with an elite bullpen is the best hope for a title.
The first 100 games of this season have proven that the Phillies’ offense is destined for mediocrity. There are simply too many low-average, no-power hitters in the lineup, and that will not be fixed by a trade deadline deal (even one for Carlos Beltran).

Adding a top-flight relief pitcher like Mike Adams or Heath Bell, however, gives the Phillies the ability to choke teams out in the game’s final three innings. If the Phillies learned anything from the San Francisco Giants last year, it was that elite starting pitching backed up by an equally elite bullpen can beat any opponent, even those with the most intimidating offenses.

4. Approaching the playoffs with the current bullpen could be playing with fire.
The Phillies have gotten through the first 100 games of this season with three effective relievers. Two of those three (Stutes and Bastardo) are rookies who, come October, may be feeling the effects of the longest seasons of their baseball lives. Brad Lidge is expected to return this week, but it is too risky to count on him for meaningful work down the stretch. Combine that with a cloudy outlook on Jose Contreras and the realization that Juan Perez is unreliable, and the Phillies must get some help for Madson and their two youngsters.

Joe's take: Phils need a bat

First off, if anyone watched the first game of the Cubs series, they would have to be absolutely out of their minds to think this team doesn’t need another bat. As far as the second game went, Chase Utley doesn't look like his old self even when he gets hits, and if this team is relying on Michael Martinez  to get the big hit, there's a big problem here.Carlos Beltran could actually be a pretty logical fit for the Phillies in 2011. He is 34 and not the player he was when he singed that contract for the Mets in 2005, but Beltran seems to be over his knee problems that have plagued him the last two seasons. Oddly enough, he is now playing right field.

Never in all of my years of watching baseball have I seen a team which all eight members of its starting lineup has the same approach to hitting: an absolutely abysmal one.

You see your starting pitcher (Roy Halladay) absolutely GASSED in the dugout like he was Monday night, and you are hacking away like you are playing MLB 2K11 for Playstation 3. Ibanez should have been fined for swinging at the first pitch. In his next at bat, he strikes out on three straight pitches with runners on base.

I am a Ryan Howard fan, but I can see why he is aggravating every now and then. I’ve never seen such an extreme of someone with such talent in one at-bat looking like they’ve never seen a baseball in the next at-bat. With two strikes, Howard is only hitting .168. Ouch. Cubs starter and former Phillie Rodrigo Lopez only got to ball three on one hitter Monday night! Rodrigo Lopez?! The same Rodigo Lopez who went 7-16 in 2010.

Any starting pitcher who doesn’t throw the Phillies a steady diet of breaking balls should also be fined.  If they come across a Shaun Marcum type pitcher in the playoffs, forget it. The word is out that the Phils can’t hit breaking pitches for quite some time. Yes, offense is down in baseball, but the Boston Red Sox didn’t get that memo........

Charlie Manuel doesn’t want his hitters to get too laxed at the plate and he wants them to be aggressive. Well guess what Charlie, your pitchers usually end of throwing 40 pitches after 3 innings, while the opposing pitcher is usually around 15. I am beyond frustrated with this team from a hitting standpoint. If I were Halladay, I would definitely speak my mind about this. Although I was having Kevin Millwood flashbacks from September 2003 Monday night when I watched him pitch, Halladay is the most important player on the team, and he’s earned the right to get vocal.

The Mets have recently reported that they will pick up Carlos Beltran’s salary for the remainder of 2011 if he is traded.  But now there is talk that Placido Polanco is not ready whatsoever to come off the disabled list because of his aching back, so the Phils might need to find a replacement. A back injury (and I’ve had plenty) is never good. You hurt your back, you hurt everything.

The Phils are rumored to be the most aggressive in landing Beltran. He is the ONLY difference maker out of any of the others you mentioned. Melky Cabrera? All his power is from the left side. But then again, so is Beltran's, who is only hitting .232 from the right side. If the Red Sox get Beltran, you shouldn't exactly give them the trophy, but I don't know if any team can beat them, and then I have to go on another rant for 97.5 about it!

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

As far as relief pitching goes, Huston Street? The same Huston Street who coughed up Game 4 of the 2009 NLDS? The same Huston Street who gave up Magglio Ordonez's pennant-winning home run while he was with the A's? What road did the Phils take to get to the 2009 NLCS? Huston Street. Not interested. Heath Bell or Mike Adams? Now you're talking. If the Phils don't sign Madson, Bell could be an option, and Adams will be under contract anyway.

Here is my take on this: The Phillies bullpen might be getting some reinforcements if Contreras returns. Lidge's role on this team will be a mystery. He is not a seventh or eighth inning guy and everybody knows this. Are the Phils' relief corps of Bastardo, Madson, and Stutes are strong enough for a World Series run? It's gotten you this far, but Stutes is unproven, and Bastardo, despite leading all NL relievers in ERA, is still young. Because this is still to be determined, it might be wise to get one more veteran for the pen.

But then you look at this Phillies offense, and I just cringe. You can stock up on pitching all you want. You can make every game a six inning game, but that means nothing when your relievers shut the opposing team down for the duration and you lose 3-0 or 2-1. No matter who comes back for the Phils, I think their pen is strong enough to where you can win. Mark it down: This team will NOT win the World Series if they don't get another bat in right field.

However, it seems the tides have changed over the last day or so. Throughout the season, there was talk that the Phils were pretty adamant that they can't go over the luxury tax threshold. Fortunately, it seems they might be changing their tune a bit. Many insiders now expect the Phightins to make a big move, as they should. This ownership team isn't stupid. They know the time is now. The Phils will still be competitive in 2012, but anything can happen during a season. All of their ducks are lined up for 2011. As you said in your last article, Matt, about three of those 11 total prospects Amaro traded for Halladay, Lee, and Oswalt have been nothing more than average or servicable. Josh Outman could be a Hall of Famer when it's all over, but Joe Blanton helped the Phils win it all in 2008.

In a perfect world, the Phils will get a bullpen arm and a bat.

But if you held a gun to my head, I would unquestionably say a bat.

 

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section.

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net 

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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