So much for struggling.
Winners of their last six straight, the Philadelphia Phillies have cut the Atlanta Braves seven-game lead in the division last week right in half.
That’s right, 3.5 Games.
That deficit can be erased in a series, let alone two months, so to say that the Phillies are back to being contenders is an understatement.
With that said, recent injuries to SS Jimmy Rollins and OF Shane Victorino have overshadowed this recent win streak and enhanced the already strong rumors surrounding personnel changes in the home clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park.
First off, the Rollins injury.
With a negative MRI only showing a contusion after fouling a ball off his ankle, it doesn’t look like J-Roll will be out of the fold for long. A couple games, a week at most. But, with this being Jimmy’s 3rd relatively significant injury this season, along with 2B Chase Utley being out until September, the call for infield depth is growing by the day.
As much as people should appreciate what Wilson Valdez has done throughout the entire season, the honeymoon with him and the Phillies organization is over. At some point, you can’t deny the stats. Due to the fact that he’s hit .217 since June 28th (when he assumed a regular role as Utley’s replacement) and that he grounds into a double-play once 12.9 AB (a rate that is far and away tops in MLB), he really can’t fit into the Phillies equation as anything more than a above-average defensive or pinch-running substitution off the bench.
So who do the Phillies get?
Looking through the guys who have been subject to the majority of trade rumors, it seems like Baltimore SS Miguel Tejada may be the best fit. As former perennial all-star on the back end of his career who is tucked away on the roster of one of the worst teams in baseball, he might not sound all that intriguing. The truth of the matter is, his relatively cheap 2.5 million dollar salary for the remainder of the season along with his ability to play both positions on the left side of the infield are both extremely attractive. Plus, it doesn’t seem that it would take that much (maybe two MLB ready prospects) to pry him away from the Orioles organization, which is obviously in a rebuild mode and has two solid, young prospects in SS Robert Andino and 3B Josh Bell putting up great numbers in Triple-A Norfolk, waiting for an extended opportunity in the show.
If that doesn’t pan out, other guys who have been linked to the Phillies in recent weeks are Baltimore Orioles INF Ty Wigginton, Washington Nationals INF Christian Guzman, Arizona Diamondbacks 2B Kelly Johnson, Oakland Athletics SS Mark Ellis, and Seattle Mariners INF Felipe Lopez.
If Rollins does come back in a couple days though like he said he will, this is just a secondary issue.
Now onto something more pressing.
Victorino’s injured oblique makes the OF situation for the Phillies very confusing. While an MRI will clear up some of those complications, the calls for bringing up uber-prospect Domonic Brown still have to be approaching a near endless volume.
Has his play deserved a promotion?
In one word, yes.
But, for a young guy who figures to be a cornerstone in the Citizens Bank Park outfield grass for the next decade, I’m not sure that the Phillies front office will want to make his anticipated big league arrival a temporary one. If Brown is called up to fill up a roster-spot if Victorino takes an extended trip to bench and lands on the DL or assumes a partial starting role (See my A Sudden Surge post for a platoon proposition) if Jayson Werth is traded, then okay, that’s understandable.
However, if the injury to the Flyin’ Hawaiian is mild, and Jayson Werth remains in a Phillies uniform, then don’t be surprised if the Phillies make up for Victorino’s absence without calling up Brown. Right now, a Ben Francisco/Ross Gload Platoon in RF (Francisco against LHP, Gload against RHP) with Werth moving over to CF and calling up a guy with big league experience like John Mayberry Jr. as an extra right-handed bat who can play both corner-outfield positions may be the proper move to keep atmosphere in the Phillies clubhouse a positive one.
Along those lines, even if it means holding back his rare talent, it may be the right decision to have Brown wait to make his first big league contribution until after September 1st when the rosters expand. That may seem crazy considering Brown’s hype, and all the speculation that has surrounded Werth’s alleged departure from Philadelphia over the last couple months, but at the end of the day, the goal for this team remains the same.
As Charlie Manuel mentioned Tuesday in an interview with the 610 WIP Midday Show crew of Glen Macnow and Anthony Gargano, that goal is to return to the World Series. Lofty, I know. The Phillies recent play of late though has indicated that there is still somewhat of a possibility to return to that type of prominence, and losing a valuable offensive weapon like Werth to a trade combined with the losses to Rollins and Victorino could potentially cripple the momentum that has been built over the last week.
The trickle down effect of this.
Keeping Werth will mean a trade for Roy Oswalt is unlikely.
Yes, the Phillies could still obtain Oswalt in a package that includes something resembling J.A Happ, Vance Worley, and two top 10 prospects (Philadelphia Inquirer’s Bob Brookover repports that Anthony Gose and Jonathan Singleton may be on the Astros wish list), but something tells me Ruben Amaro won’t be too keen on giving up that much.
Especially for a pitcher with chronic back issues who wants a 16 million dollar option picked up in 2012 while sporting a 6-12 record this season.
While there is little doubt that Oswalt is better than his record indicates, there is also little doubt that if he’s not healthy now, odds are that he won’t be healthy when it is time to pay him that chunk of change either.
So, even if you are still calling for pitching help (as you should), just don’t forget that.