Phillies officials believe they have a three-year window to win another World Series with their current nucleus. They may not say this explicitly because there is little value in setting limits, but, trust us, it is what they believe.
Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge, despite his rough start to the 2009 season, are elite talents in their prime years. Behind that front line is a second tier of talent that many teams would love to have. It includes Ryan Madson, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Brett Myers and everybody's favorite newcomer, Rauuuuuul Ibanez.
The Phillies' window for winning this year inched toward the closed position with some sobering news yesterday.
Myers, a huge part of the team's starting rotation, needs surgery to fix fraying and tearing in the labrum of his right hip. He will have the surgery. It's just a matter of when. If he has it now, his season might be over, though he holds hope of being back in September. If doctors tell him he can pitch through the injury and have the surgery over the winter, he will do that. But if Myers goes that route, you have to wonder how effective he will be, especially given the struggles he has had this season, which could very well be related to the injury he said has been plaguing him "as long as I can remember. I just never knew what it was."
He learned what it was in an MRI exam yesterday.
Now, some might scoff at this potential loss and say, "Big deal, it's just one pitcher with a 4-3 record and 4.66 ERA." But here's the reality: Myers is a big-league pitcher who on any given night can beat the best lineups in baseball. (Witness last Friday in New York.) He's a guy who will make 33 to 35 starts and give his club 200-plus innings. You don't just call up craigslist and get one of those guys.
The hunch here is that Myers will have surgery sooner rather than later.
And the Phillies will miss him.
And one of their "window years" will be adversely affected.
Unless, of course, first-year general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can clutch up and replace Myers' innings.
Some thought Pat Burrell was Amaro's first big test as GM, but in truth the organization's baseball people favored cutting ties with him and making a run at Ibanez as far back as last summer. It was just a matter of convincing club president David Montgomery, a loyal man, that it was the right move. Two months into the new season, the critics who howled in outrage when the Phils let Burrell walk and signed Ibanez have gone quiet. Amaro, his predecessor, Pat Gillick, and the scouts who championed Ibanez are all smiling.
Now Myers is hurt, and Amaro faces his first real test. No, Myers is not Hamels. But he still must be replaced. What will Amaro do?
There doesn't appear to be a difference-making arm ready in the minor leagues, though Carlos Carrasco could surprise, and Kyle Drabek, a long shot, has the stuff and fearless approach to at least make him an intriguing consideration.
The hot names in the trade-rumor mill are Jake Peavy and Roy Oswalt, though both are owed huge dollars that might be difficult for the Phils, who already have a $133 million payroll - up $30 million from last year - to swallow. Peavy has about $63 million left on his contract; Oswalt about $47 million. Both have no-trade clauses. Still, Amaro must investigate these names if he's serious about getting Rollins, Utley, Howard and Hamels through that window again. In fact, we'd bet he already has. If Gillick taught him anything, it was to check out everyone and everything.
Some more realistic names such as Cliff Lee, Jon Garland, Brad Penny, Jason Marquis, Zach Duke and Erik Bedard are available or might soon be.
Finances aren't the only hurdle Amaro will encounter. All of these pitchers will require young talent in return and the Phils' farm system is thin. The Phils do have some good young arms, but they should be cautious in dealing high-ceiling pitching. One area they should consider dealing from is catching. It is a premium position and they have Lou Marson at triple A. He has been called the catcher of the future, but that seems a little unfair to Carlos Ruiz, who has done a heck of a job and at age 30 figures to give this club several more good seasons before he becomes a free agent after the 2012 season.
Dealing Marson would hurt the catching depth, and that could come back to bite the Phils if Ruiz ever gets hurt. But for significant pitching help, the team will have to consider it.
On the surface, losing a guy with a 4.66 ERA might not look like a big blow, but Myers is better than his numbers show, and, lest we forget, he was a dominant difference-maker in the second half last season.
It would be nice if Myers could get one of those magic cortisone shots, heal up and pitch the rest of the season. But we have difficult time believing that will happen. How Amaro replaces Myers could determine how wide this year's window stays open.