The Phillies are close, so they will buy, exceed the luxury tax, and try to Win Now.
God bless them.
Me? I’d trade Andrew McCutchen, Brad Miller, Héctor Neris, Archie Bradley, as well as Matt Moore and Vince Velasquez, if anyone would take them. And I would trade them before dinner time tonight, because one bad game from any of them depreciates their value like a scratch on a Bentley; but, of course, none of them is a Bentley. I’d save money and replenish my barren farm system. I’d pursue Cubs star Kris Bryant in free agency this winter. I would not try to win a worthless National League East title in hopes of luring fans back to Citizens Bank Park for the rest of this season and all of the next.
But I am not the Phillies’ president, Dealin’ Dave Dombrowski, who told NBC Sports Philadelphia on Tuesday that “we are in this,” and he’s going to buy, his 47-47 team somehow lingering 3½ games out of first place with 68 games to play and the trade deadline approaching July 30.
Of course he’s going to buy. That’s why John Middelton hired him in December.
Fine, then. No half measures. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes; after all, Dombrowski and Admiral Farragut share a Roman nose. So burn all the boats, lads, because the Phillies might not have this chance again this decade.
You don’t hire Dombrowski, who is 64, for a 10-year rebuild. You don’t sign Bryce Harper in 2019 for $330 million, Zack Wheeler in 2020 for $118 million, and J.T. Realmuto in 2021 for $115.5 million unless you’re ready to roll, even if you’re not really ready to roll. Their latest series of horrid draft classes leaves the Phillies largely unable to bolster Harper, Wheeler, and Realmuto, but with the Mets, Braves, and Nationals moving backward, the Phillies see 2021 as a one-year window to play October baseball — no matter how brief their involvement.
If they Phillies are going to buy, buy big. Spend stupid money, to borrow owner John Middleton’s unfortunate, unfulfilled phrase from 2018. No one costs too much. No asset is sacred.
Alec Bohm for Byrant? Done — as long as you plan to extend Bryant about 20 minutes after his plane lands, even if his agent, Scott Boras, has said he wants Bryant to test the free-agent market after the season. Turning down, let’s say, six years and $170 million might be hard for Bryant to do, considering the disappointments free agents like Realmuto experienced last winter. Remember how he wanted $200 million at one point?
Bohm has ability, and he one day might be a power-hitting corner infielder, but for now he’s a struggling, ham-handed third baseman coming off a COVID-19 infection. Bryant, meanwhile, is 29, has an .883 career OPS, plays all three outfield spots well, plays both corner infield positions well enough. Significantly, Harper, who successfully stumped for Realmuto, now wants Bryant, a fellow Las Vegan.
Spencer Howard for Craig Kimbrel? Yes, please. Howard, 24, projects as a short-innings, back-of-the-rotation lifer if he stays healthy — not exactly a prospect worth hoarding. Kimbrel, 33, is enjoying a renaissance this year with the Cubs; he looks like the stud who went to seven All-Star Games in eight seasons (2011-18) with a 1.97 ERA, averaging 42 saves per season.
The Phillies will have to pay the remainder of this year’s $16 million salary, and will have him next season at the same cost. That’s OK.
Combine Kimbrel with current closer Ranger Suarez, Neris, the former closer, and terrifying lefty Jose Alvarado, and the Phillies might have something worth having in the bullpen for the first time in a decade or so.
If Cole Hamels, who is 37, has any remaining bullets, pay him what he wants and let him start recording those 5-inning, 90-pitch starts. Dombrowksi said the Phillies are “interested” in Hamels, whose workout last week earned him several suitors, and there’s nothing quite like a reunion.
Also, Hamels, Bryant, and Kimbrel all have World Series rings. If you think that doesn’t matter, then you forget the transformational effect Aaron Rowand had on the 2007 Phillies when he arrived from the World Series-winning White Sox. He introduced the accountability and focus that helped the 2008 Phillies win their second title.
Maybe piggyback short-distance starters Moore and Velasquez as your fifth starter, and suddenly you have a less laughable rotation.
Would these improvements win a World Series? Of course not. It wouldn’t be close to what the Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, Rays and Astros roll out every night.
But that’s the wrong question.
Is this enough to win the East? I don’t think so — the Braves and Nationals have more talent and are due to get hot — but the Phillies brass thinks it’s enough. At least, they’ll tell you they think it’s enough, and you’ll believe them because believing them provides hope. Hope is why we watch.
They’re selling this hope so they can sell tickets because tickets generate revenue.
Me? I’d sell.