Things That Have to Happen in the Second Half for the Phillies


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About the only nice part about being 29-62 is that there is no pretense that a single game on the field actually matters after the All-Star Break. The Phillies are a basically rotten team, and that isn’t going to change in 2015, regardless of what goes on in the front office. The games are purely there for fun and entertainment, and maybe to evaluate a few players you might bring back. Frankly even finishing with the top pick isn’t a question, because they are that bad.

So what has to happen in the second half? I have a few thoughts.

  • Cole Hamels has to be traded. This may seem a little bit high on my list, but some national writers (Jayson Stark amongst them) have suggested this is not a lock. I’m as torn as any fan about trading Cole, but it’s a must-happen. First off, Cole has three years left on his guaranteed portion of the deal, and the Phillies may not even contend during it. At best, they are competitive in the final year, or possibly two, when Cole is 33 and 34. The risk of injury before then may not be particularly high on this specific pitcher, but it increases every day moving forward into your 30s on any pitcher. When you consider the risk-reward of keeping him, the package of prospects you can get for Hamels just looks better on paper. The best way to pull this team out of 100 plus loss territory faster is to get four prospects for a guy who pitches every fifth day. So why now, and not this Winter? Well, this Winter has a very deep free agency crop of pitchers, arms that you can sign and not have to trade prospects for. Given the way GMs now value prospects, it probably will look better to most front-offices to sign Johnny Cueto, or David Price, or Zach Greinke, or Jordan Zimmermann, or Doug Fister, than to trade away some of your best talent for three years of Hamels. That could mean not getting the package you want, and being forced to wait until next year’s trade deadline, when Cole’s value may have slipped some more, and you’ll have had to get another year of good health out of him. The Phillies should simply open the market, take offers, and then take the best of the offers at this deadline, unless they are truly being undercut.
  • Trade Jonathan Papelbon. I have no problem with his comments, or his paychecks, or his performance in Philadelphia. He’s actually done a very good job here at his job, and the fact that he’s obnoxious is frankly something you deal with, if they’re this good. The issue is that Papelbon is a one-inning pitcher, pitching an inning that rarely happens for the Phillies, making $13 million a year, with a likely vesting option, and he has very good trade value. Given the likely market for relievers (it’s there every year), his track record, and the relatively short period left on his deal, Papelbon is a no-brainer to be dealt. The key here is to trade for prospects, not salary relief. Be willing to keep a significant chunk of this year and next year’s money to get at least one very good prospect for Papelbon. The Phillies have a talent, not money problem.
  • Cesar Hernandez needs to keep playing. Yes, I know, it’s Chase Utley, but with his vesting option unlikely to vest now, you have to think future. Hernandez is younger, and while he may have some flaws, he could be a better short or long term solution than Chase. The Phillies need to find that out. You find that out by playing him. You also don’t give a chance for a $15 million option to kick in on a player who looks like he’s on his last legs. In no way does sitting Cesar make sense.
  • The Phillies need to try as hard as they can to move Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard. Yes, it will be hard to move either contract. No, it will not be impossible. Howard can be a low-cost power option for a team, given that the Phillies will have to eat most of his contract to trade him, and the Phillies should make it clear they are intent on moving the second leading home run hitter in club history now. He is currently owed about $45 million more on his deal, considerably less than they were trying to move last year, and the Phillies could eat nearly all of it to get a player with some upside and move on from Howard. As for Ruiz, he has one more year on his three year deal, and a little less than $12 million left. They should eat some money to move him to a team in need of catching help, and try to free up space to get a look at Gabriel Lino and others. They may not succeed on these two by July 31st, but they are likely to clear waivers, giving the Phillies more time.
  • If there is actually a market for Ben Revere and Jeff Francoeur (there is for Revere for sure), the Phillies should make sure they cash in on those markets and trade minimally one, and preferably both of them. Revere will get one more arbitration season next season, a year where he is likely to make more money than you really want to pay a player of his skill-set on a team as bad as this. Still, he is a .300 hitter who can steal 40 bags, and that has a lot of appeal on teams in desperate need of outfield help, either as a starter or fourth outfielder type. As for Francoeur, he’s surprised me more than I expected this season, hitting enough to make his plus arm and good defensive skills stand up. He has no future upside in Philadelphia, and yet he’s out-played most of the guys who supposedly did. If there is a team that needs a fourth outfielder badly, the Phillies should get Frenchy to another pennant race this year. The goal here is to free up playing time for younger guys obviously. You’d also like a player or two to come back.
  • Shop Ken Giles. I’m not saying you have to trade him, but at a minimum, find out his value. Yes, he has electric stuff in his right arm, and has adjusted well to the 8th inning. That’s fine. The issue again here is that he’s a one inning righty, and that a well run team can find another upper-90s to 100 mph fastball throwing guy with a second pitch, you hope. There are teams who will probably offer a premium of prospects to get this kind of guy, at his low price yet, to pitch their 8th innings. You should see what those packages are, and if perhaps they have more value to a rebuilding team than a guy pitching one inning late in games you lead.
  • There are a number of guys I’d like to see make it to Philadelphia this year, even if on a very limited visit. Aaron Altherr is on top of this list, as he’s had a really great year in AA and AAA this season, and appears ready to help. If Gabriel Lino can continue to play decently in AAA, I’d like to see him get a look this season. Everyone obviously brings up Aaron Nola, and while I’m more split on him coming up now, he certainly should make his MLB debut at some point this season. Though he’s not a long-term piece or prospect, Brian Bogusevic is someone I’d like to see rewarded for good play in AAA, and given a look as a bench piece for 2016. Finally, I want to see David Buchanan and Adam Morgan pitch through the end of the season so the Phillies can evaluate their futures properly.

Those are my essentials for the second half. If the Phillies do those things, they can go 0-71 for all I care. In fact, going 0-71 would be hilarious, though it’s impossible…. right?

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