There's no getting around this: The Phillies should be ashamed of themselves.
They just traded their most effective, most exciting, most promising player, closer Ken Giles, to the Houston Astros. Ken Giles. Who had 15 saves in 17 chances last season. Who struck out 87 hitters in 70 innings. Who once threw a pitch that reached 103 m.p.h. Who is just 25 years old. Isn't Giles exactly the kind of player the Phillies are supposed to keep? How can you win games if you don't have a closer?
And what did they get in return? Two pitchers whose earned-run averages weren't nearly as good as Giles' was? A pitching prospect and an outfield prospect - two guys who haven't even played in the majors yet? None of these players is Carlos Correa or Evan Gattis, which means I can tell you something with certainty right now: This trade was pointless. It won't help the Phillies next season, and it only might help them two or three years from now. Who has time to wait that long? The Phillies were 81-81 in 2012. They won 73 games in 2013 and 73 games in 2014 before plummeting to 63-99 last season. Why waste more years waiting? Fans in this town have suffered enough, and this front office wants them to suffer more?
Let's call this trade what it is: tanking.
What else can you call it? Giles had shown he could be an excellent major-league closer. He had the guts, the grit, the nastiness, the intestinal fortitude, the fastball. And he had done it. He's a proven commodity. He's exactly the kind of player a team should hang on to until his arm spontaneously combusts - certainly the kind of player the Phillies can't afford to be trading away now. People loved watching him pitch. And what do the Phillies do for a closer now? None of their options is battle-tested the way Giles is. Was he the best closer in baseball? No, but he was a good one, and he might have gotten better, and no team can compete for a championship without a good closer, and the Phillies traded him for four question marks. They won 63 games last season with Giles. How many do you think they'll win this season without him? Fifty- three? Has anyone thought about that?
More, let's recognize what's really happening here. Andy MacPhail may technically be the Phillies' president, but the truth is that ownership has turned control over to 35-year-old Matt Klentak, the team's new general manager. Klentak is part of a new generation of executives who have grown up in this new sports world of salary caps and sunk costs and who are willing to use new metrics to assess players' value and new ways to construct a roster and new philosophies to try to "sustain success," which is this new phrase that gets tossed around these days. I hate new things.
What the Phillies need to do is stop listening to some know-it-all, young-punk stat geek and bring in someone who understands how sports really works, someone who has experience in resurrecting a franchise, in pulling it up from the depths and doing it quickly. And if they won't hire someone like that, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred should encourage them to do so. Actually, Manfred should do more than encourage them. He should compile a list of available executives who might be interested in joining the Phillies to oversee what MacPhail and Klentak are doing, to keep them moving in the right, league-approved direction, and to lend the franchise a little more credibility.
Maybe Manfred could even target one of these executives and arrange a meeting between him and one or more of the Phillies' owners. The new hire would be a big name, universally respected, and he wouldn't even have to move to Philadelphia. He could work from home. He could Skype his meetings. After all, that's a heck of a lot easier than revamping the entire draft system, even if the system - by having the worst team get the No. 1 overall pick - incentivizes tanking.
Come to think of it, there's an example in recent history that they could use as a model: the Arizona Diamondbacks. They joined the National League in 1998 as an expansion franchise. One year later, they won 100 games and the NL West. Two years after that, they won the World Series. See? Easy. Quick. The Phillies need the guy who owned that team, who built it into greatness and didn't need good luck or good fortune or good timing to do it. The Phillies need someone like that.
Someone like Jerry Colangelo.