Phils should go for it

Posted: June 24, 2014

"Sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today

And don't worry 'bout tomorrow"

- "Let's Live for Today,"

The Grass Roots

AH, WHAT THE hell . . .

Go for it.

I mean, I'd love to believe the Phillies could flip some of their veterans in the next month and get some future stars. But I don't. They could deal Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels, or even Chase Utley, but I've seen the fruits of the first Cliff Lee deal and the second Hunter Pence deal and well, this administration has fared much better trading for veteran stars than dealing them.

So what the hell . . . Go for it.

Because even after coughing up a three-run lead in yesterday's 5-3 loss to the Cardinals, the Phillies sit just five games out of first place in the underwhelming National League East. If I believed that the Braves or Nationals would go on a tear real soon and separate themselves, then maybe I'd be less laissez faire. But nothing suggests that. Not one team in the division even has a winning road record. I believe this division may be captured with fewer than 85 wins, like the 2006 World Series champion Cardinals (83) or 1973 NL champion New York Mets (82) did. Honestly.

Oh, and the 1983 NL champion Phillies? They were 29-33 on this date, in third place, 5 1/2 games out.

So, sha-la-la-la-la-la, live for today . . .

Do not mistake this for blind faith. It's closer to the opposite. I simply believe they have a better chance of winning a weak division than they do of gaining any stars of the future. Nothing in their recent trade history suggests they will get value for their assets, anyway. Tommy Joseph has to be considered a bust. Philippe Aumont and the just-released Tyson Gillies and a menu of names I can't even remember anymore, too.

Add in what appears to be an organizational reluctance to go all-in on a rebuilding effort, and the most likely result of a July fire sale is at least another half-decade of bad baseball, perhaps more.

So what the hell? The kids in the bullpen have provided some surprise. Jake Diekman, Justin De Fratus and now Ken Giles are all still carnival rides, but there is at least a hint that the relief corps - which has been this team's No. 1 Achilles' heel dating back to when it was a first-place club - could become a strength by the time the trade deadline rolls around.

Certainly Jonathan Papelbon has held up his end. Add a minor piece or two - the way the Cardinals did back in 2011 when they signed Arthur Rhodes in August after Texas released him - and overall pitching could even become this team's strength again. Remember, the Cardinals didn't have Adam Wainwright for the whole 2011 championship season. And, like Hamels this season, postseason hero Chris Carpenter started slow and struggled to get run support. (When the Cardinals blew out the Phillies 12-2 on June 23 that season, it improved his record to 2-7.)

A.J. Burnett has been good, Hamels has been better than good, and if Lee returns to form upon his return, well that's a pretty solid trio in a weak division. Who knows, maybe David Buchanan builds on his last two starts and becomes this season's version of Vance Worley or J.A. Happ?

But again, this isn't about rose-colored hope. It's about raw reality. The teams with the highest-ranked farm systems fall into at least one of two categories and sometimes both. They do not appear to be contenders (Cubs, Pirates, Twins, Astros) and/or they do not have a history of absorbing big contracts. So they are not going to cough up their promising future for your storied past.

The Red Sox are a notable exception and probably a hot streak away from climbing back into contention in the AL East. But their best player, Dustin Pedroia, is a second baseman, and they have a 21-year-old shortstop, Xander Bogaerts, they're pretty excited about.

No doubt Lee or Hamels would solidify their rotation, but two reasons for Boston's high farm system ranking - Bogaerts and Brock Holt - are now staples with the big club. They are said to have some good-looking young arms, but we all should be well aware of that risk by now.

Kansas City is another trade partner, fraught with potential and risk. As the deal with Tampa Bay that traded Wil Myers and yielded James Shields indicates, the Royals have shown a willingness to part with major league-ready prospects for established stars.

Again, either Lee or Hamels would make the Royals more dangerous, but here's another caution: Wilmington, Kansas City's high-Class A affiliate, was listed by those who monitor the minors as their level to watch before this season, based on the number of prospects there. The Blue Rocks are 34-37, and several of those prospects are hitting near the Mendoza line.

So I say, what the hell? Live for today. Because if the Phillies' front office has taught us anything, it is that we've already lived too many sha-la-la days over the last few years for tomorrow to be a quick fix.


On Twitter: @samdonnellon


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