Stumblings, Rumblings, & Grumblings
I returned to the Balls, Sticks, & Stuff home office Friday evening after a night out at the movies curious to see how the Phillies faired against the Giants. After seeing that both teams were stumbling to a 16-6 outcome, I disgustedly turned my attention to Jayson Stark's latest Rumblings and Grumblings, which I found to be chalked full oj juicy tidbits from around baseball. The Expos move to DC/NoVa and the Larry Walker trade were all touched on, but it was the "Phillies Rumblings" I found most interesting. Stark recants many of the issues Ed Wade ran into while trying to improve the Phillies at the trade deadline and then brings up another issue that I have not seen raised in the media or the blogosPHere:
Because Phillies GM Ed Wade wouldn't talk about dealing pitching megaprospects Gavin Floyd or Cole Hamels at the trade deadline, the perception of Wade in Philadelphia is that he's a guy who won't trade prospects. Ironically, the perception of him around baseball these days is that he might have traded too many prospects.
Just since last winter, the Phillies have traded Taylor Buchholz, Ezequiel Astacio, Nick Punto, Bobby Korecki, Elizardo Ramirez, Alfredo Simon, Javon Moran, Joe Wilson and Anderson Machado -- in deals that brought them Billy Wagner, Eric Milton, Todd Jones, Felix Rodriguez and Cory Lidle. So the reality is, they suddenly don't have much left above their very lowest levels.
"They're getting dangerously close to having an inability to go out and acquire players," said one NL scouting director, "other than signing free agents, just because they have so few projectable young players left."
If you don't count their short-season teams and their Lakewood club in the South Atlantic League, the scouting director said, "they're down to like three guys in the whole system" -- Hamels, Floyd and Ryan Howard -- who look like impact players in the big leagues in the near future.
Lately, I've thought that even if the Phillies should somehow pull off an amazing feat and make the playoffs, the team is certainly not built for any type of run in the playoffs and that significant work needs to be done in the offseason. Since the pharm system seems to be rather thin outside of the Untouchables, the work will have to be done through free agency or adding the Untouchables to the roster as trades using prospects seems very unlikely. The free agency route may prove difficult as well, as the Phillies have several players under large long term contracts. Some budget wiggle room will be created by players leaving via free agency (Millwood and Polanco to name two, but probably not Wagner as Stark reports), but probably not enough wiggle room to address all of the holes. For the Untouchables, "the time is now" slogan might not apply to them, but "darn soon" is looking very likely.