Hours after the Phillies stand pat at the non-waiver trade deadline, they get blown out in the series finale to the Rockies 9-2. A recap of Sunday’s non-action.
Matt Lawton, Geoff Blum, Ron Villone, Kyle Farnsworth and Buddy Groom tells the whole story of yesterday’s anticlimactic trade proceedings. Nearly every team rumored to be actively involved in talks, including the Phils, stood still. None of the major commodities moved an inch, including Manny Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Schmidt, A.J. Burnett, Billy Wagner.
ESPN columnist Jayson Stark recaps the washout better than anyone, giving the Phils credit for being good early shoppers by landing relief pitcher Ugueth Urbina.
"Urbina still looks like the most reliable pitcher (starter or reliever) who was traded for by any team in either June or July," said Stark.
Acquiring Urbina was as much about stabilizing a bullpen as it was about keeping a reliever out of the hands of hated Atlanta.
Good for the Phillies. Did we actually think Wade was going to outsmart John Schuerholz? No chance.
By acquiring Farnsworth from Detroit, the Braves improved their situation more than any team yesterday, not that they weren’t already headed for their 14-consecutive postseason.
Schuerholz’s patience is absolutely killer. Relief pitching has been their biggest crutch all season, but they somehow worked through it, didn’t panic and waited for the last possible moment to improve it.
"Leave it to Atlanta to trade for a relief pitcher who throws 100 mph, negotiate that deal for days and still manage to keep it so quiet that not only did us media sleuths not find out about it -- but even other teams had no idea it was cooking," said Stark.
"Boy," said an official of one NL club. "That one came out of left field, huh?"
"Typical Atlanta," said another NL exec. "Right there under the radar."
In a confidential SI poll among major leaguers (I can’t remember when I saw it), players once called Farnsworth the biggest underachiever in baseball, meaning, he had all the stuff to be a great one but it never surfaced. Enter Braves’ pitching shaman Leo Mazzone, sure to turn Farnsworth into his latest Jaret Wright resurrection project. It’s a perfect match.
"Farnsworth can be a loose cannon at times," said Stark, "but he's having a big year (55 whiffs, just 29 hits in 42 2/3 innings). And he's a perfect fit for a Braves bullpen that needed one more late-inning piece, a guy who can close but won't necessarily have to."
Wade’s phinal pholly
The Braves are winners of six straight games and now hold a commanding five-game lead over second-place Washington. The rest of the division followed the Phils lead and decided not to be sellers yesterday, chosing instead to gamble on an ill-advised run for the wild card.
It’s hard to justify why the Phils wouldn’t trade Wagner for prospects when they know they can’t win with the current starting five. As soon as starters Burnett and Schmidt fell off the board, Wagner needed to go on the block.
The number one priority for this organization wasn’t starting pitching anyway, not if youth was going to be sacrificed to rent it. The broader need is to get younger and start taking the farm system seriously. With or without Wagner, I see a fringe playoff contender with no real shot. I see the same with Burnett or even Schmidt. What’s worse, the team is getting older, and they haven't done much about it for years.
I’ll go back to what I said earlier this year about Wade. His legacy won’t be the lousy deals – Mike Williams, Turk Wendell, Dennis Cook, etc. It’s holding on to players like Wagner, or overextending contracts to players like Pat Burrell, when it's clearly better to explore other options.