The trade deadline is a little over two weeks away, and while the Phillies are the best team in the majors right now they still have some holes to fill. So what do the Phillies need most? A starter, some bull pen help, or maybe a right-handed bat?
Although they have had alot of injuries in the starting rotation the Phillies should be able to piece together a fourth and fifth starter to make it into the playoffs. And once in, you really only need three starters. Joe Blanton went on the 15 day DL retroactive to May 16th, he last threw a bullpen session on July 4th and barring any set backs should be back relatively soon. Roy Oswalt should be out until at least August, which could be a blessing in disguise, leaving him rested should we need him in the playoffs.Since Blanton and Oswalt have been out the Phillies have gotten solid starting pitching from Kyle Kendrick (3-2) in 7 starts, and Vance Worley (4-1) in 8 starts.
Since it looks like the starting pitching will be ok for the Phillies even with two of their 5 starters going down, the two gaps that need filled are relief pitching and a right-handed bat. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Raul Ibanez, and Domonic Brown are all left-handed. The Phillies could use a good right handed bat to break up the left-handed middle of the line-up and protect Howard. They had it in Jayson Werth, but let him walk and sign with the Nationals, hoping that John Mayberry Jr. could step in and take his place. Mayberry hasn't been great this year and has seen limited time in the filed and at the plate. In 123 at bats he has 5 HR's and 19 RBI's.
Since Mayberry hasn't played at the level the front office had expected, Domonic Brown has seen more playing time, another lefty. Overall the Phillies hitting isn't nearly what it was in years past with Howard, Pat Burrell, Bobby Abreu, and a younger Utley and Rollins. But then again it doesn'thave to be with a rotation like this.
So what about the bullpen? The Phillies have lost three closers in a row, first Brad Lidge, who hasn't thrown a pitch yet this year, then Jose Contreras who went on the 15 day DL on June 20th with a strained right forearm, and finally Ryan Madson is on the 15 day DL as of June 19th with a bruised right hand.
Brad Lidge started a rehab assignment with Class A Lakewood on July 4th and pitched for Class AA Reading on July 11th. He expects to be back with the Phillies by the end of July. Jose Contreras is seeing Dr. Lewis Yocum this week and his timeline is still unsure. As for Ryan Madson, he begins a rehab assignment with Class AA Reading on July 13th.
Antonio Bastardo has been closing for the team since Contreras and Madson went on the DL and has been pitching great. Bastardo has 3 saves and a 0.00 ERA since taking over the closer role. Michael Stutes has been the set-up man recently and up until his last outing against Atlanta was on a 5 game scoreless streak with 2 holds.
So barring any setbacks the bullpen should be pretty strong come post-season. And even if there are setbacks it is unlikely that all three will remain out and so far Bastardo and Stutes have been doing the job just fine.
Another thing to remember is that Halladay and Lee are one and two in complete games in the NL with 6 and 4 respectively, and Halladay, Lee, and Hamels are 1, 2, and 3, in innings pitched in the NL, so the bullpen really isn't as important to the Phillies as it is to some other teams, and with the infrequency of use, the bullpen can keep from being worn out during the season.
It appears then that the first thing the Phillies should go after is a right-handed bat to protect Howard in the lineup and break up the lefties in the lineup. So who is available? Well some possible infield options are; Mike Aviles, Omar Infante, Jeff Keppinger, and Brandon Inge.
All four play infield and all four bat righty. Inge has had the worst 2011 of the four, with just 1 HR, 17 RBI's and a .184 average, but he also has the most pop, averaging 20 HR's and 77 RBI's over the last two years. Aviles has hit 5 HR's this year with 30 RBI's in 47 games and only 169 at bats, however his average is just over .200. Infante is hitting .250 with 1 HR and 27 RBI's, while Keppeinger is hitting .301 with 2 HR's and 16 RBI's.
Inge provides the most pop and can protect Howard the best out of the four. Inge also is very versatile, he has played 3rd base, all the outfield positions and spent a good deal of time behind the plate. However Inge does make the most at $5.5 mil, and is under contract for the 2012 season. Inge has also been with Detroit his whole career, so he may have a hard time adjusting to a new club-house. However he seems to be a good guy who would most likely fit in well with the Phillies. However since the Phils have a solid infield already any infielder they pick up would just be someone coming off the bench, barring an injury.
The most logical move therefore would be for a right hand bat in right field with the ability to hit HR's, which Inge could do. I think though the Phils should do what they can to get Jeff Francoeur. Francoeur is buried down in Kansas City after being in the post season race with the Atlanta Braves for the first 5 years of his career and going to the World Series with the Texas Rangers last season. He can't be enjoying playing for the team with the third worst record in all the majors. Francoeur is also only making $2.5 mil this year and is the youngest of the five at only 27. Francoeur is also a free agent after this year so the Phillies wouldn't be stuck with a long-term deal, however if he plays well they could look to sign him to a multi-year contract and shore up the right field position for the next few seasons. Francoeur is also used to the NL East having played for 5 years with the Braves and two with the Mets.
The Royals have the second highest team ERA and WHIP in the AL and have given up the most hits so they could definetly use some pitching. Vance Worley is pitching very well right now and could be on the block to bring in a bat. The Phillies also have some minor league pitchers they could send to Kansas City. Francoeuris hitting .265 with 12 HR's and 56 RBI's, adding 15 stolen bases this year. He is a solid defender in right and a solid hitter at the plate. In my opinion its not if the Phillies should get Francoeur, its what will they have to give up to get him.