Yes, the Phillies have had a hold of first place in the National League East for most of the first half of the season and currently only stand 2.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves after losing 2 out of 3 this past weekend. Yes, the Phillies on paper still have a very decent lineup that should be able to score runs when they are not underperforming as they have been for most of the season,
However, an alarm should have been sounded after losing the series to the Atlanta Braves. What is apparent is the fact that the Phillies are just not very good right now.
Offensively, the Phillies currently rank 16th in total batting. The team is even worse when it comes to power numbers where they are 23rd in home runs in a league that has hit home runs at a record pace. The team, which lost star outfielder Andrew McCutchen to a torn ACL, has definitely underperformed in every batting metric that is measured.
Likewise, the teams pitching has been average at best and totally inconsistent. In 2018, pitching is what carried this team but the same cannot be said of this team. The team's ace Aaron Nola has been totally ineffective. Despite his 6-1 record, Nola carries an abysmal 4.89 ERA and 1.59 WHIP. Moreover, he has walked 36 batters in only 81 innings after walking only 56 last season in 212 innings pitched.
One could argue that regression was bound to happen after Nola finished 3rd in NL Cy Young voting in 2018. However, this performance is far beyond regression and there is a major cause for concern. In order for the Phillies to be a legitimate contender, it is absolutely imperative that Nola returns to his 2018 form. Unfortunately, the eye test as well as numbers do not support this transformation.
If Nola is not an ace, then the Phillies organization is in trouble. Most teams that contend for a World Series Championship on a yearly basis, not only boast one ace, but most have at least two legitimate top end of the rotation guys. With Aaron Nola pitching like a shell of himself and former CY Young winner Jake Arietta showing steep decline, the Phillies do not match up well with any of the other contenders when it comes to starting pitchers.
Sans the top two, the Phillies other starting pitchers have not performed much better. Besides Zack Eflin, who has been the teams best starter, the rest of the group has been more of a collection of mish mosh. Teams that have two aces can afford to go with average or below average talent at the bottom of the rotation. Unfortunately, the Phillies do not have this luxury.
I believe the Phillies have come to a crossroads. Matt Klentak and company went out and spent a ton of money in the offseason and team owner John Middleton proclaimed that his goal is to win multiple championships. Well, this is the time where an organization can show its true colors.
If this group is truly devoted to bringing a world series title back to Philadelphia, then its time to put its money where their mouth is. Its time to put away the doubt about not showing a willingness to go over the tax threshold and make some moves. The Phillies have holes up and down the roster and the only way to improve those weaknesses is to invoke a few trades.
There are plenty of frontline starters that are available or will be as the MLB trade deadline approaches. This is where the Phillies need to focus most of their attention. There is something that can be said that the offense has better days ahead of them. However, I think to put all of your eggs on the Nola will improve basket is taking a huge risk. That is why I firmly believe that the Phillies need to target a top of the rotation ace.
The team definitely lacks a left hander in the rotation and this could be in the cards as well. However, the top target on my radar would definitely be Zack Greinke.
Greinke is currently 8-2 with a 2.65 ERA/0.88 WHIP/85K's in 95 innings pitched. At 35 years of age, Zack is still bringing it at a top line level and would slot in perfect as the teams ace. Trading for Greinke carries the highest salary of the available pitchers but would probably take a lesser prospect return than the other guys on the list. If the Phillies did decide to trade for Greinke they would still have control of him for the remainder of 2019 and all of next season.
Zack Greinke has been one of the most consistent starters in MLB over the past five seasons. Greinke goes deep into games and does not walk many batters. In fact, he has went at least 6 innings in 13 out of his 15 starts. Even more importantly, he does not give up many free passes as he has only walked 14 batters in 95 Innings. He also has only given up 9 Home Runs. The Phillies rank at the bottom of the league in all three of these categories and Greinke would be a breath of fresh air as a welcome addition to the rotation.
Other pitchers that are available or could be if their teams become sellers at the deadline include Mike Minor (Rangers), Madison Bumgarner (Giants), Trevor Bauer (Indians), Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays), Noah Syndergaard (Mets), Matt Boyd (Tigers), and Corey Kluber (Indians). All of these guys would provide the Phillies with a top of the rotation stud to infuse some energy into the group.
This Phillies team is not lacking in talent. The chances that the team will remain in playoff contention the rest of the year remains high.
However, if this organization truly wants to contend for a championship, its going to have to make some moves to improve the team. These moves may be expensive and the team will have to be willing to bite the bullet and take a shot. The team may have to be willing to part with their best prospects. This should be a no brainer.
In my estimation, the Phillies need to upgrade their SP (Frontline Starter), RP (Long Relief and Setup-Closer), OF (Starting CF). My trade proposal would be centered around a package including either Luis Garcia or Spencer Howard and a few lower level pospects in exchange for Zack Greinke (SP), Jarrod Dyson (CF), and Greg Holland (RP). This is the type of deal that one Phillies fan could only dream of at this point but this is the type of deal that could put the franchise over the top.
Will the Phillies be aggressive at the trade deadline? That's the million dollar question. But the answer could be the precursor to whether this group is really ready to contend or if they are settling to be average.
Good teams make moves to plug holes in the roster. Its put up or shut up time. The next month could be a telling factor for the Phillies immediate future. I hope the Phillies brass has the guts to make the deals to improve the team moving forward. If not, its gonna be trouble in Phillies land. If you want to truly be relevant, its time to go all in folks. Only time will tell.