THIS IS THE busiest time of year here at Handy Dandy Advice Dispensary Inc. With the trade deadline coming up a week from tomorrow we are, quite frankly, swamped. So many helpful hints to hand out, so little time.
This is when you have to prioritize, like triage, putting those with the greatest need at the front of the line. And look who's standing right there. Why, it's your Philadelphia Phillies.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr., from all indications, has his band of merry men working overtime in search of pitching help. This is laudable. (It also would have been unnecessary if he had kept Cliff Lee, but that's a tired old topic that doesn't need to be rehashed now.)
There are also reports that he has been shopping rightfielder Jayson Werth, who can be a free agent at the end of the season. We can't vouch for any of this. Despite repeated requests, Amaro won't let us sit in on his meetings or listen on the extension while he talks on the phone. Rubio isn't as much fun as he used to be.
Anyway, here's our prescription for giving the defending National League champions their best chance of having another kick at the postseason bucket this October.
The most important thing to remember is that while pitching always rules, that hasn't really been the problem this year. The problem has been that a club built around offensive production hasn't produced.
The second most important thing to remember is that one of the stated explanations for trading Lee in the first place was to restock the farm system. So it would be a little hypocritical now to trade more kids, even from the lower levels of the system, to bolster the pitching. While adding arms would be nice, overpaying to do it would be a mistake in the long run.
So, yes, by all means summon outfielder Domonic Brown from Lehigh Valley.
Manager Charlie Manuel has recalled more than once lately how the Bobby Abreu trade in 2006 was viewed as writing off the season. And how the Phillies surged instead because it opened up extra playing time for Shane Victorino and Michael Bourn, who provided youthful energy that proved to be contagious.
Here's the hard part. Don't trade Jayson Werth. That would make the lineup impossibly lefthanded. And if he walks at the end of the year, fine. Take the draft choices and move forward.
Trade Raul Ibanez instead.
Yeah, yeah, the conventional wisdom is that there's no market for a 38-year-old who hasn't been the same player since his sports hernia last season.
Two words: Seattle Mariners.
The pitch would go something like this.
You thought you had a contending team this year. It didn't work out, but except for Cliff Lee (there's that name again) you still have the nucleus you thought so highly of in the spring. Now that Ken Griffey Jr. has retired, you could use a veteran with World Series experience. Remember, when Ibanez departed Seattle as a free agent, several players left behind described him as the best teammate they've ever had. He's wildly popular with your fans. He's hitting a little better lately. And, as a bonus, we'll pay half of the approximately $15.5 million he has left on his contract.
It also doesn't hurt that sending Ibanez back to a city where he had some of his best seasons would be a respectful parting of the ways for one of the classier players in the game. And the Phillies save almost $8 million between now and the end of next season.
You're welcome, Ruben. And, as always, this one's on us.