Now that all of the All-Star noise has been cleared from the airwaves, it is time to focus on the second half of the 2011 season. Teams generally have decided whether or not they are contenders or planning for the future. Buyers and Sellers have been identified and generally that is determined by two numbers – how close you are to the .500 mark after 90 games and how many games behind the wildcard or divisional race. The Mets have declared their intentions by dealing disgruntled “K-Rod” to Milwaukee so the proverbial floodgates should soon be wide open.
The Phillies (best record in baseball) are making preparations for their stretch run. They have been in need of a right-handed hitting outfielder since the departure of Jayson Werth. With Roy Oswalt (back) and Joe Blanton (arm, shoulder) both injured, will GM Ruben Amaro seek even more starting pitching or settle for Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick? What about the bullpen? Will Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson come back strong and healthy or will the Phillies be in the market for some bullpen help? Jose Contreras may have career-ending surgery and JC Romero worked his way off the team. Will Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes compliment a rejuvenated Lidge and Madson or will someone else be standing on the mound for the clinching game?
CLOSERS: Francisco Rodriguez (a.k.a. “K-Rod”) has been dealt from the New York Mets to Milwaukee where he will take over the closer’s role from John Axeford. Does this mean that Heath Bell or Joakim Soria will be sought after by every MLB contender? What about JJ Putz or Brandon League or Octavio Dotel? St. Louis should seek bullpen help as will anyone seeking veteran proven bullpen help. Atlanta’s bullpen seems set with young Venters and Kimbrel while the LA Angels and Chicago White Sox seem set with their young flamethrowers but teams like Tampa, Cincinnati, LA Dodgers, Colorado, Minnesota, Detroit and Cleveland will all benefit from a veteran closer. New York Yankees, Milwaukee and Boston are the only contenders probably not in the hunt for a fireman. The Phillies would be in the market for bullpen help were Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge not due back but with the performance of young Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes they should focus on other needs. Heath Bell would be a fantastic fit and a fan favorite in Philadelphia but San Diego would ask to clean out the farm system in exchange. Mike Adams might work.
OUTFIELDERS: It has been painfully obvious all season that the Phillies need to add an outfielder with the ability to drive in runs. Preferably they would seek a right-handed bat to hit behind Ryan Howard but the market may not bear much in the way of selection. Carlos Beltran and Vladimir Guerrero are names thrown around as much at Matt Kemp or Michael Cuddyer but more likely targets would include Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick or former Mets and Braves outfielder Jeff Francoeur.
STARTING PITCHERS: Could a team with the vaunted Four Aces be seeking pitching? Two schools of thought on this subject. One is that you can never have too much pitching. The other is that should Oswalt and Blanton both be shelved Philadelphia would be relying on Vance Worley and Kyle Kendrick to fill the fourth and fifth starters spots. Worley has been impressive despite bouncing back and forth from Lehigh Valley to the big club while Kendrick is no longer a prospect and is a mediocre pitcher. Once the postseason begins the fourth starter will only be used perhaps once per series so investing a lot of prospects and salary into acquiring another starting pitcher would not offer much in return. Candidates on the market would include Ryan Dempster, Jon Garland and Paul Maholm.
OTHER CANDIDATES: Would it be possible for the Phillies to improve their bench with a DH type or a fourth outfielder or just any way to get another bat? Jim Thome, Connor Jackson, Coco Crisp, Brad Hawpe, Hunter Pence, Matt Kemp, Cuddyer and Aramis Ramirez are all names that get thrown around but none of these are terribly likely. Thome or Hawpe or Milton Bradley are among these types of fringe players (a la Matt Stairs, Soo Taguchi or Geoff Jenkins) would still cost valuable prospects and offer minimal return. Domonic Brown, Ross Goad, Ben Francisco or John Mayberry would be more likely to fill the role of fourth outfielder or DH but even if Philadelphia were to target a deal, it would not likely include Hunter Pence or Ramirez. Cuddyer and Thome may be pulled off the market depending upon whether or not Minnesota considers themselves contenders. Most likely realistic choices would be Jeff Franceour, Ryan Ludwick or Connor Jackson.
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org