While most reports seem to indicate that the Phillies are still waiting for the conclusion of their current homestand to officially decide whether or not they will sell-off players at the trade deadline. It’s hard to imagine in what might be the worst division in the entire league that the Phillies will completely fall out of the division anytime before the July 31st trade-deadline, but even the most optimistic fan would be hard-pressed to say that they think the Phillies are going to be able to put together enough of a run after the All-Star break to win the division.
What has kept the Phillies from completely falling out of the race has been the emergence of the bullpen, which was for the first two months their achilles heel. However, not only has Jonathan Papelbon had a bounce-back season, but young arms like Jake Diekman appear to be finally see their top-notch stuff turn into consistent performance.
The biggest bullpen story of the last month has been flame-throwing righty Ken Giles, who has burst onto the scene with a much better performance that I originally anticipated. When Giles was suddenly called up to replace an injured Mike Adams, I thought that not only were the Phillies going to take a downgrade in terms of eighth-inning stability, but that they might have been rushing Giles to the big leagues prior to him being ready. So far, that assessment couldn’t have been more wrong.
In seven appearances, Giles has only allowed one run on two hits, while striking out 12 and posting a WHIP of 0.71. His fastball has more than lived up to expectations, and he has demonstrated a slider that has the potential to be filthy. It scares me that he seems to have a tendency of sometimes hanging his slider, but it’s rare to see someone come up this early, and look like a closer.
With that in mind, ESPN’s Jayson Stark says that Giles’ strong start will only up the Phillies’ ante to move Papelbon at the deadline.
If this is what Kenny Giles is going to be, he has closer written all over him. Still hasn’t allowed a hit on the slider all year. And hit 101 on the gun last night. I absolutely think the Phillies will step up their efforts to move Papelbon because of his emergence. Now is the time to move him, too, because this is as well as he’s pitched since he left Boston.
While I would disagree that Papelbon is pitching better now than he did in 2012 with the Phillies, Stark’s point is well taken. It’s not that because Giles is pitching well that he has to be the closer, but the Phillies do have a replacement, should they choose to move Papelbon.
While Papelbon is pitching well right now, I’m not sure how well he would hold up in a situation where he was used more consistently than he has been used in Philly. If that was my only concern about Papelbon, I’d keep him in Philly. But, I think as the Phillies continue to look like a bad team that would be even worse if they weren’t in the easiest division in the MLB, Papelbon won’t be happy in Philly. And I don’t blame him for that. But the Phillies don’t need him in their clubhouse anymore.
I’d guess if the Phillies actually move Papelbon, it will be to a team like the Tigers, and they won’t get much of a return. It’s also more than likely that they will have to eat a half or more of the $13 million that he is owed in 2015. I think in the mind of a majority of the organization, it would viewed as addition by subtraction. And whatever money is left over, they can use to address the bullpen and the bench.