While trying to make sense of it all, here are a couple of thoughts to keep in mind:
One is a seemingly simple observation made by Charlie Manuel while sitting in the dugout before the Phillies won their sixth straight, 9-5, last night against the the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks. The subject up for discussion was starting pitching after the manager, under prodding, conceded that if only one move is possible between now and 4 p.m. on Saturday, that's the commodity he'd most like to have.
"If we could get the type of starter that we want, I think you'd see that the top of our rotation would be very strong going down the stretch. And once you get into the playoffs, that definitely comes into play big," he said.
"I don't want us to get some guy we've already got. What would be the purpose of that?"
The other is the fact that it was just about this time last year that the Phillies pulled the old misdirection play. While the whole world was focused on the possibility that they were about to make a megadeal that would have brought Roy Halladay from the Blue Jays, they made an under-the-radar agreement to send four prospects to the Cleveland Indians for Cliff Lee.
Manuel's comment, taken at face value, shortens the playing field considerably. With Lee (Mariners to Rangers) and Dan Haren (Diamondbacks to Angels) already off the board, there aren't many pitchers who could be available who fit that profile.
With that background, it was interesting to hear that the Phillies have been scouting Kansas City the last couple days. The Royals have reportedly let it be known that they're willing to talk about anybody, which presumably would include defending Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
The only problem with that picture is that the Royals surely would demand a shopping spree in the Phillies farm system in return. Not to mention that Greinke's earned run average is 4.01 after being banged around by the Twins on Monday night.
No, it's more likely that the Phillies were looking at somebody like reliever Kyle Farnsworth.
Here's where it gets interesting, though. The scout in Kansas City is believed to be headed for Cleveland today. A veteran baseball person suggested last night that, after Oswalt, Tribe righthander Jake Westbrook might be the next best option.
Well, Westbrook pitched Monday. But righthander Fausto Carmona is scheduled to face the Yankees tonight. And he's an intriguing proposition. He was 19-8 in 2007, 5-12 in 2009. But he's 6-2, 3.53 in his last eight starts for Cleveland. He's making $4.9 million this year and $6.1 million next year with a club option for $7 million in 2012.
Edwin Jackson starts for Arizona tonight. He pitched a no-hitter earlier this season, but also has a 5.01 earned run average. Which sort of underlines the point that, unless the Phillies can get Oswalt, it might be difficult to land a starter who represents a clear upgrade from what they already have.
It also remains a possibility that the Phillies will end up solidifying their rotation by improving the bullpen. They've scouted several Blue Jays games recently and are known to like lefthander Scott Downs. And while Toronto's asking price is probably too high at the moment, sometimes teams posture and then settle for the best return that's available when the deadline arrives.
Curiously, the Toronto scout at Monday's game packed up and left as soon as Joe Blanton's work was done and wasn't back last night. Hard to say what that means since, on the surface, the Jays wouldn't seem likely to be interested in a pitcher who will make $17 million the next 2 years.
Meanwhile, the Mariners are said to be willing to trade closer David Aardsma. The Yankees, Dodgers and Cardinals reportedly joined the Phillies in scouting Oswalt's last start. The Yankees are no longer interested, unless they're sandbagging. The Astros won't trade Oswalt to division-rival St. Louis. Unless they can get hard-throwing Texan Shelby Miller, drafted by the Cardinals last season, in return. The Dodgers don't appear to have the financial wherewithal to take on his contract. Which leaves the Phillies with the winning hand. Unless Oswalt really won't play here. Or general manager Ed Wade can't get what he wants in return. Or owner Drayton McLane decides he can't bear to part with one of his favorite players.
So now you know exactly what is going to happen.
And, remember, you heard it here first.
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