Connecting the Dots
Several weeks ago, the Astros ponied up for Carlos Beltran in order to make one last push to reach the playoffs before their current team crystallizes from age right before the Houston faithful eyes. Since then, there has been very little done by any of the 30 teams in baseball to significantly improve their rosters for the pennant races. Now, with the trade deadline looming just five days away, there are enough fragmented reports that some possible player movements seem to be taking shape. The Philadelphia Inquirer has reported in recent days that the Pirates have rejected a deal involving Kris Benson and Ryan Howard, the Phillies prospect I originally thought was most likely to have a "trade me" sign secretly (or not so secretly) taped to his posterior, (Gavin Floyd, Cole Hamels, and Chase Utley are reportedly off the table). On Sunday, Peter Gammons reported on Baseball Tonight that if the Phillies can not get Benson, they will most likely abandon the idea of adding a starting pitcher as they do not have a "plan B". The Philly Inq reported on it's website last night that the Phillies are quite close on reaching a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks to add Steve Finley in return for Marlon Byrd.
Most of the Phillies troubles in the last month or two have been from an underachieving starting staff, so most fans will probably be disappointed that the Phillies will not be getting any help in that area. I tend to think that the door closing on an additional starter is probably a good thing in the end. The Phillies starters have been turning in better performances of late (Kevin Millwood has given up just two runs in his last 14 innings and Eric Milton had lightning in a bottle Sunday), more like what they are capable of, and Vicente Padilla will hopefully be returning to the rotation soon. Therefore, the starting rotation may just be improving on its own without any outside help. If that's truly the case, then a quality, everyday-type starting centerfielder would be the next logical hole to fill. The effort that Ricky Ledee, Jason Michaels, and Doug Glanville have collectively put out has been admirable, but unfortunately, it is not the type of centerfield production that is needed for the stretch run. Steve Finley still plays good defense, has been quite good at the plate this year (.281 BA, .343 OBP, .506 SLG), and would therefore be an upgrade in both regards. Where would he bat in the lineup you may ask? Nearly anywhere, he has a history of batting leadoff, second, third, etc.
The trade is not without drawbacks however. Finley is another lefthanded bat, which would force Larry Bowa to get a bit more creative in separating the righties and the lefties (it drives me crazy that he does not split Abreu and Thome up with the rightsided Burrell, but that is another post for another time). Also, Finley is a 39 year-old free-agent-to-be, so he would most likely be strictly a rent-a-player (most accounts have him returning to the Diamondbacks in the offseason). The Phillies would then have to find a centerfielder in the offseason.
It will be unfortunate to end the Marlon Byrd chapter in Philadelphia before it got very far, but I think the best thing for him is to get out of an organization that has Larry Bowa in it. And if Steve Finley helps the Phillies lock down a playoff berth, won't everyone be happy?