Yes, Chase Utley likely will be out until September recovering from surgery on his right thumb to reattach the ligament to the bone where it belongs. And yes, Placido Polanco — he of the one who does all the little things — is probably out until August so he can recover from a chronic case of tendonitis in his biceps and a bone spur on his elbow.
Then there is Chooch Ruiz, who we don’t know what to expect. Anyone familiar with Brian Westbrook or Keith Primeau understands how concussions can affect a pro sports career. Considering that Ruiz went to visit one of the preeminent sports concussion specialists in the United States while in Pittsburgh on Thursday, it seems to be a significant development that he was told not to go out on a rehab assignment this weekend. Chooch needs to let things mend for a bit longer and rightfully the Phillies are allowing that to happen.
So that’s a big chunk of the Phillies lineup that will be out indefinitely. Utley, Polanco and Chooch gone with no return date set, though we were assured it would be relatively soon based on basic prognosis and guidelines from the medical people. That’s precisely where it gets complicated, too, because two weeks is plenty of time for a club to watch its season implode.
They say a team can’t win a pennant in [inset a month here], but it most definitely can lose one.
That’s what the Phillies have to guard against. Though it doesn’t seem like it from the bird’s eye view, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the season hangs in the balance, right now. Yes, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. can stand pat and wait for his guys to mend and/or start to hit. Considering that Utley, Polanco and Chooch are out and the offense is still struggling, it’s made for a maddening first half for the Phillies.
But a combined four RBIs from just two players over the past two games in starts for Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels, including just a lonely one against the last-place Pirates on Thursday night, doesn’t inspire much confidence.
Here’s where he get to the easy and difficult part… yes, it would make sense for Amaro to makea trade to add some power to the lineup while Utley and Polanco get healthy. It also wouldn’t be such a bad idea to get a catcher or some much-needed pitching depth, too. After all, if there is one thing we’ve learned this season it’s that the Phillies are a flawed team. They were a flawed team when they won the World Series in 2008 and when they went back there in 2009, too. The difference is they did a better job at hiding those ugly areas with trades and acquisitions that got them Joe Blanton, Scott Eyre, Matt Stairs, Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez.
Ideally Amaro would like to follow that pattern again since it has been known to work out pretty well. Plus, sometimes a trade has a way of invigorating a club, kind of like the way getting Lee at the deadline did last year.
All Lee did was put together the greatest postseason by a pitcher in team history since Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1915… and against the Yankees, Dodgers and Rockies, no less.
Obviously the Phillies should go out and make the next big deal in order to keep it together until the big guns get back. Obviously, Amaro is probably wearing out the battery on his Blackberry all day. The problem the GM has, however, isn’t what player to get. That’s generally pretty easy to figure out.
Instead Amaro has a problem with what he can give.
Nope, he doesn’t have much.
He does have Domonic Brown, though. A 22-year-old star-in-the-making recently made the jump to Triple-A where he’s hitting .458 with two homers in seven games going into Thursday’s action. Ideally, the Phillies would like Brown to remain in Allentown for the rest of the summer where he could continue to develop with a September call up in the offing if everything goes well.
Don’t think for a second that the Phillies are going to dangle Brown as trade bait, either. With Jayson Werth in the last year of his contract with a big winter of free agency looming, and the quickly aging Raul Ibanez finished with his current deal after the 2011 season, Brown isn’t going to have to wait too much longer.
But what could speed up the process is if the Phillies keep on struggling with the bats and must make a trade. What do they have to offer? Better yet, if teams know the Phillies are desperate and Amaro is pushing to make a trade, why would any self-respecting GM just make it easy for him?
If the Phillies are hurting and have very little leverage, opposing GMs are going to make them pay.
Back in March we suggested that it might not be a bad idea to shop Werth, which understandably, was greeted with more than a few folks sending messages asking if I had taken leave of my senses. I understood why folks were ripping me and accept that some of them might even make really good points.
But that doesn’t mean my logic was faulty.
Where Amaro has his best options is with Werth and Brown and there is a report out there that this theory is being tested. Knowing that Lee was traded over the winter so that Amaro could replenish the minor league system that saw seven of its top 10 players traded, maybe flipping Werth for some reinforcements is the best card the Phillies have.
Unless Ruben is hiding an ace somewhere.