The combination of a smoke-and-mirrors minors, a dominant starting staff, their flirtation with the luxury tax and a lack of a difference-making available bat could keep the Phillies from pulling the trigger before the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
Beerleaguer: Additions like Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick, Ryan Spilborghs and Jeff Francouer are fun to debate, but would likely turn an average offense into an average offense at the expense of a top prospect. If you believe Raul Ibanez can pull closer to the numbers on the back of his baseball card, Ryan Howard, too, than the best is yet to come for the offense, which had shown signs of improvement only a week ago. Nevertheless, the “golden age” is over. Jayson Werth’s five-hole vacancy has been felt more than any recent departure. Make no mistake: The Phils are swinging below-average sticks because .296/.388/.532, 27 homers and 46 doubles have gone missing. Indeed, the Phillies miss Werth as much as the bean counters knew they would.
Meanwhile, the obscene gobs of pitching hype have come to fruition. Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee: All-Stars all. Kyle Kendrick, once again, can’t possibly be for real because he doesn’t get strikeouts and his FIP says he’s lucky. Yet in five seasons, opponents have yet to break him. He’s 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA as his rubber arm floats between the bullpen and rotation, pitching to contact more than ever. There’s a much smaller book on Vance Worley, who isn’t dissimilar in that he needs to hit his spots. But he’s got a little bulldog in him and isn’t afraid to dare hitters with strikes, which has been Kendrick’s problem in the past.
The bullpen is leaking oil, and if there’s an area to upgrade, this is it. Getting Antonio Bastardo and Mike Stutes into this many pressure situations is a huge win for an aging club ready to get younger any way they can. Still, a rental could go a long way. Cracks are starting to show everywhere and they’re a couple men short with Jose Contreras out, J.C. Romero going bust and Kendrick lost to the rotation.
Stretch-run returns by Joe Blanton, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge and Contreras also loom.