The Phillies have been a nice surprise through Mother's Day, going 18-14 and keeping themselves relevant and competitive on a nightly basis.
Few expected them to be anywhere close to .500, and few expect them to sustain this success. The short-term pessimism is warranted given their many needs and their overwhelming success in one-run games. At 11-3, the Phils have four more one-run wins than any other MLB team, and only four teams have fewer one-run losses. A solid bullpen can make a team successful in close contests, but maintaining a .786 winning percentage in those games is not easy or common.
The Phils need to keep things in perspective. This season was never expected or supposed to be about contending, and it would not be wise for them to abandon their long-term plan for the sake of a few more wins in 2016. So even though the offensive production out of the corner outfield is ghastly, it just wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to go trade for a Ryan Braun, a Jay Bruce, a Carlos Gonzalez or a Josh Reddick.
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Former Rockies general manager Dan O'Dowd, now an analyst for MLB Network, had experience with this kind of situation, and last week on Comcast SportsNet's Philly Sports Talk, he preached patience even in the face of winning.
"I'm not sure right now it would be good for them to contend," O'Dowd said. "The hardest part of sports in general is the issue of delayed gratification - waiting until your foundation that you're attempting to build is solid enough that when you get good, you have a chance to sustain it because of the players that are coming through your system. If you short-circuit that in the short term, you could really do long-term damage to how good you may be able to become if you just stayed patient."
The best offensive player who figures to be available by the trade deadline is Braun, who's enjoying a resurgent year in Milwaukee, hitting .367 with a 1.044 OPS. He's on pace for 37 home runs and 125 RBIs, numbers he hasn't put up since 2012.
The only reason a guy like Braun would be available is because the Brewers are not in a good place in their rebuild. They have one of the weaker farm systems and an abysmal pitching staff. And after this season, Braun is owed $76 million through 2020.
Even though the Phils are equipped financially to bring on that kind of salary, they'd have to give up a substantial amount to land that caliber of player. If he wasn't hitting, the price would be lower, but if he wasn't hitting, what would be the point? And say it would take something like Zach Eflin, Mark Appel and another top-tier Phillies prospect to acquire Braun ... that's just not a wise trade for a team with other needs that still needs many other things to play out right to contend.
"They are way ahead of schedule as far as their rebuilding process," O'Dowd said. "I think you've got to keep things in perspective. They still have a (minus-27) run differential. But when you look at these three young starters at the top of their rotation right now with (Aaron) Nola, (Vince) Velasquez and (Jerad) Eickhoff, it puts them in a position moving forward where I do believe their rebuilding window is going to be a lot shorter than most people anticipated."
It might be. The Phils have prospects on the way and a boatload of payroll space moving forward. They got to this point by making solid trades, so right now is not the time to cancel out all the hard work done by Ruben Amaro Jr. in his final year as GM and by Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail this past winter.
O'Dowd was a big fan of the Ken Giles trade in particular.
"Any time you evaluate a trade I think you need to evaluate it over a long period of time. But hey, I think at any point in time that you can get the haul Matt Klentak did for a closer, no matter where they may be in a contending standpoint, you have to do that," O'Dowd said.
"It's not just Velasquez. Mark Appel is off to a good start at Triple A. The other young man they got (Tom Eshelman) is off to a good start in Clearwater. They got a lot of talent back in this deal.
"I think (pitching coach) Bobby McLure has done a wonderful job with Velasquez's delivery. He's much more under control. He's got a well above-average breaking ball, a true 12-to-6 breaking ball, a power curveball that reminds me of a young Dwight Gooden-type breaking ball with high velocity. He's got a chance to be one of those guys that you look up and he's got a no-hitter in the seventh inning once every four starts. He's got that kind of ability. It's an electric arm. They did very well in that deal."