Two weeks ago, the Phillies seemed destined to be sellers at the trade deadline. The team was struggling, and it seemed prudent to start looking towards the future. Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and other Phillies veterans might be appealing to contending teams, so the wise move would be to trade them in exchange for prospects so that the franchise might see a brighter tomorrow.
The team’s recent hot streak has made that destiny less certain. The Phillies are 7.5 games behind the division leading Braves, and only 5.5 back in the Wild Card standings. All of a sudden, it doesn’t seem unreasonable that instead of selling off talent, they might make a move to bolster their roster.
So what should the Phillies do? Should they buy? Should they sell? Over the next few days, I’ll examine both possibilities.
The Case For Buying
Heading into the 2013 season, the Phillies appeared to be set up to make “one more run.“ They still possessed the nucleus of the 102 win team from 2011, so it wasn’t unreasonable to think that they could make a return to the playoffs.
If that was indeed the mindset, then shouldn’t they see it all the way through? The Phillies have a history of being a second half team. If veteran players like Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Jimmy Rollins can stay healthy and produce numbers close to what they’ve done in the past, a 5.5 game deficit hardly seems insurmountable.
Perhaps more importantly, the team might be destined for some down years whether they buy or sell. The Phillies’ nucleus is due for a shake up at the end of the year regardless of how the season goes. Many of the veterans are past their primes, and several key players are due to be free agents. That talent is going to be tough to replace even if they are able to trade for some good prospects.
Remember that it often takes years for even the best prospects to make an impact in the major leagues. For example, look at the trades that the Phillies have made in recent seasons. They’ve traded away several young players, but it is doubtful that any of them would have helped the team this season. Most of the prospects have turned out to be absolute busts.
Therefore, if the Phillies see an opportunity to improve the team, they should take it. While it wouldn’t necessarily be wise to trade a top prospect like Jesse Biddle for an impending free agent, if you could get a good, relatively young starting pitcher like Yovani Gallardo, that might be a risk worth taking.
Otherwise, as the team spends the next few seasons out of contention, they might regretfully look back at this season, wishing they had made a move while they had the chance.
Tomorrow, I’ll make a case for the Phillies to be sellers at the deadline.
For more Phillies thoughts, follow me on Twitter @MikeLacy_215.