In fact, July 31, 2014, the day of the major league baseball trading deadline, was one of the most explosively active trade deadline days in recent years. General mangers boldly traded flat-out stars like David Price, Jon Lester and Yoenis Cespedes, and the wheeling and dealing occurred at warp speed as 37 players changed hands. All of which only made Ruben's comments more bewildering.
However, I believe that Ruben was probably right in not making any deals because it is likely that he wasn't offered real value for any of his players. I say probably because none of us were privy to what, if anything, was offered by other general managers and therefore, it is hard to make a judgment. But Ruben's point that there would be other times for us to obtain prospects is correct and corroborated by Thursday's deal with the Dodgers where he traded Roberto Hernandez for two prospects to be chosen later from a pool of four. With the advent of the second wild card spot, there are many more teams in playoff contention than ever before. I count 17 teams in both leagues that have a feasible chance at the playoffs, all of whom will be trying to do waiver deals to bolster their rosters or to replace injured players like the Dodgers did (getting Hernandez to fill in for Josh Beckett). There will also be an opportunity for the Phillies to make deals over the winter when teams are looking to the future and when we won't have to worry about the waiver process.
Ruben's opportunity to make a blockbuster deal for top prospects was obviously limited by Cliff Lee's injury. A fit Lee could have garnered some great talent, although it is interesting to note that none of the "talent" the Phillies received when they traded him previously has added value to the team.
The one thing that I really fault Ruben for is his sluggishness in trying to make a deal for Jonathan Papelbon, one of the players who could have potentially produced real prospects. The Tigers and Angels made deals for closers Joakim Soria and Huston Street, respectively, neither of whom are better than Papelbon. During the current waiver period, there is still a market for Papelbon, particularly for the Blue Jays and Pirates, teams in the thick of the playoff race who would benefit mightily from obtaining a front-line closer. There is also still a market for Marlon Byrd as well, as the Royals and the Mariners are both within a game of the second wildcard spot in the American League and both could surely use a power-hitting rightfielder. On Thursday night, Seattle started our old friend Endy Chavez in rightfield, and Kansas City started Nori Aoki. The two of them have combined for a grand total of three home runs this season.
So, as Ruben pointed out, the passing of the trade deadline doesn't mean we've blown our only opportunity to rebuild and get younger. Whether Ruben or someone else is the general manager, he will have significant work to do before the 2015 season starts. There is no way they could try to trade Lee before then because no team can be certain of his physical condition. So we will most likely start next year with a rotation of Lee, Hamels, Kendrick and two significant open spots. If David Buchanan continues to pitch well, he will certainly fill one of them. The other spot could be filled by this year's first-round draft choice, Aaron Nola, who has done very well in his brief stint in the minors this year, hacving already reached Double A Reading. Nola has good stuff and, best of all, throws strikes. It's likely that the Phils will want him to start next season in Triple A and, therefore, we'd have to pick up a pitcher in free agency during the winter. Either way, it looks like a long road back for the Fightins.
Given the new TV contract, the Phillies will have the money to go after some front-line free agents during the winter and they should, but rebuilding the farm system is crucial and it was the road they took to produce the great "Utley, Howard, Rollins" teams of this era.
Traveling on this long road will try the patience of even our most diehard fans, but as 2008 proved, it can be worth it.