We'll start this afternoon with a point of reference:
The first major trade of 2008 came on July 7, when the Indians shipped CC Sabathia to Milwaukee in exchange for top outfield prospect Matt LaPorta, lefthander Zach Jackson and righthander Rob Bryson.
But it is never too early to start talking trade deadline, so I caught up with Ruben Amaro Jr. to get a general feeling of where the Phillies will be looking over the next couple of months. The Phils do not discuss specific trades publicly, so you aren't going to get any names out of Amaro. But generally speaking, the Phils will be looking to upgrade.
The organization's philosophy over the past few seasons has started with a simple dictum: you can never have too much pitching. As my esteemed colleague Paul Hagen pointed out in a story two days ago, the Phillies added Kyle Lohse in 2007 and Joe Blanton in 2008, and both players submitted key contributions to the team's ensuing playoff run. This year is different in years past in that the Phillies do not have a glaring opening in the rotation. That might seem counterintuitive, given Phillies starters' struggles during the first couple months of the season. But Cole Hamels is not going anywhere, and Jamie Moyer received a heavy investment from the club in the offseason, and Blanton is coming off his best start of the season, and J.A. Happ pitched well against the Yankees, and Brett Myers spot is safe as well.
Now, a lot can change over the next month. Myers is having an MRI on his ailing right hip today. If he is lost for any extended period of time, that would seem to drastically alter the Phillies' motivation to add another starter. Similarly, if Moyer or Happ or Blanton has a rough June, that would increase pressure to add another arm.
My point is, right now, it is difficult to gauge exactly how badly the Phillies need another starter.
The same can't be said about their need for another bat on the bench. I would be surprised if the Phillies don't find a way to add a right-handed bat over the next couple of months. Right-handed pinch-hitters are just 6-for-35 this season with two RBIs. Currently, the final spot on the bench is occupied by a player - John Mayberry - whom the team still feels is better served by getting regular at-bats in the minors.
The Phillies' quest for a right-handed hitter has been a long one. They tried to convince Ty Wigginton, Nomar Garciaparra and Gary Sheffield to assume the role. They looked at Kevin Millar and Andruw Jones. Problem is, it was impossible to convince a free agent to sign with the team with the number of potential at-bats that appeared to be available. Rare is the player like Matt Stairs who is happy with three or four pinch-hit at-bats a week and an occasional start.
When it comes to trades, however, players don't have much of a choice. So it would seem that the Phillies best chance at adding such a hitter will come over the next couple of months. There will be plenty available. Who, exactly, is on the block will become clearer as teams realize they have fallen out of contention over the next month. The point is, though, that the Phillies will be monitoring their options closely.
Again, it is early, too early to identify a hitter or pitcher who will be a realistic target of the Phils. But their wish list is pretty apparent: a right-handed bat with power or speed, and a starter.
The Phillies are hitting .277 with runners in scoring position this season, thanks in large part to the addition of Raul Ibanez to the line-up and the rejuvenation of Carlos Ruiz and Pedro Feliz.
So it's tough to give the team too much grief for its performance last night. But their struggles with men on base were a big reason why they weren't able to overcome Myers' three-run sixth inning.
Three times the Phillies had a runner on third base with less than two outs. And three times they were unable to drive him in with either an out or a hit.
All told, they were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.