July 08, 2019
Sure, Aaron Nola has turned it on recently, looking like the NL Cy Young candidate he was a year ago, but that doesn't change the fact that the Phillies are in need of another starting pitcher (or two) if they hope to contend this season. And that was before news broke over the weekend that Jake Arrieta has been pitching through a bone spur in his right elbow and will likely need surgery, possibly before the end of the season.
The good news for the Phillies is that now is the time for upgrading your roster before making a postseason push, as the MLB trade deadline is just a few weeks away. Currently at 47-43 and 6.5 games out of the division behind both the Braves and Nationals, just how aggressive Matt Klentak and Co. decide to be at the deadline could depend on what happens between the conclusion of the All-Star break and July 31. But if they decide to go out and buy, there should be options to bolster their rotation, including an old friend who has long been rumored as a candidate to return to his former team: Cole Hamels.
The Cubs (47-43), despite having a half-game lead in the N.L. Central (at the moment), haven't been able to right the ship. And if they don't start winning soon — they've played sub-.500 ball since June 1 — they could begin selling off assets prior to the deadline in order to start rebuilding. One of those assets would almost certainly be the former World Series MVP, Hamels.
Here's more from Patrick Mooney of The Athletic:
If the Cubs played in a different division, Theo Epstein might already be instructing his baseball operations department to sell, using the July 31 trade deadline to detonate this underachieving team and reload for the future.
That would mean hoping Cole Hamels gets healthy so he can get traded, marketing Steve Cishek, Pedro Strop and Brandon Kintzler to all the contenders looking for bullpen help and essentially guaranteeing that Joe Maddon won’t be back as manager next season. Plus whatever else Epstein could dream up in texts messages and phone calls as the executive who traded Manny Ramirez and Nomar Garciaparra in blockbuster three- and four-way deadline deals.
“If we don’t snap out of this, a lot of change is called for, that’s obvious,” Epstein said Wednesday on 670 The Score, hours before a brutal 6-5 walk-off loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. [theathletic.com]
[Note: Is it strange to anyone else that the Cubs, who have the same record as the Phillies and actually hold the lead in their own division, are talking about blowing everything up, while the Phils seem to be going about business as usual?]
And it's not like Hamels hasn't hinted at a potential return to Philly before. Back in May, Hamels, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, was asked by NBC Sports Philadelphia's Jim Salisbury about rejoining his old team at some point.
"I know Philly is finally getting into that where they can make a five-, six-, seven-year run like we did and taking back that division," Hamels told Salisbury. "To be a part of something that special, I would consider it, but I know that I have to play well and everything has to fit. As long as I take care of business on the field, I think that allows the options to be there.”
The problem for the Phillies, who could certainly benefit from a lefty starter who is currently sporting a 2.98 ERA this season, is that Hamels left his last start after just one inning with an oblique strain and, after receiving an MRI, was placed on the 10-day injured list over the weekend.
Considering that the Phillies need someone who can actually pitch — and pitch now — they'll have to be careful about acquiring a 35-year-old pitcher who recently passed 2,500 career strikeouts, especially if he's not 100% healthy. That being said, if Arrieta's injury requires surgery before the end of the season, the Phillies will be left with a rotation that likely won't be good enough to win a postseason series.
Already a huge question mark prior to the Arrieta news, Klentak will have to do something to address his rotation before the deadline. This is, if he still intends on fielding a competitive team down the stretch.
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