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July 18, 2018

First-place Phillies need trade help, well, everywhere

Phillies MLB
071818_Phillies_usat Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies manager Gabe Kapler (left) takes Phillies starting pitcher Mark Leiter Jr. (center) out of the game in the seventh inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

The Phillies lead the Braves by one game in the NL East as they continue to rest and reload for the final two months of the regular season.

And at first, indications seem to point toward the team making the playoffs for the first time since 2011. They do, after all, have the second most wins in the NL with 53 (the most they've had since breaking the 100-win mark seven years ago).

Prior to dropping their last two games of the first half, the Phillies had fired off 12 wins in their previous 16 games. They have a bonafide Cy Young award candidate in All-Star Aaron Nola, a youthful roster on the up-and-up, and one of the best starting pitching rotations in most categories.

But the negatives are going to eventually rear their ugly head. There are too many to ignore.

Philadelphia has one of the worst offenses in all of baseball, hitting .236 as a team, third worst in the majors. They also sport a very modest plus-19 run differential through 95 games, even though they are double-digit wins above the .500 mark. Other teams leading their respective divisions — like the Cubs, Red Sox and Astros — have each scored over 100 more runs than their opponents.

Philly missed out on the biggest trade deadline prize in Manny Machado this week, as the All-Star infielder heads out west to join the Dodgers. The Phillies need to keep being aggressive in the trade market. Otherwise they will be walking a tight rope with an offense that is much, much worse than nearly every other MLB team.

Wins Above Replacement is an advanced metric statistic that combines a bevy of stats into one number — a number that represents the value of a player above or below an average major leaguer. The further the WAR is from 0, the more (or less) valuable a player or position group is. Here is a look at how the Phillies measure up to the rest of MLB position by position:

POSPHILLIESMLB AVGMLB LEADER
SP11.75.713.6 (CHC)
RP4.22.58.3 (BOS)
C1.00.92.8 (MIA)
1B0.81.13.9 (ATL)
2B2.11.44.3 (HOU)
3B-0.11.76.4 (CLE)
SS-0.61.95.6 (CLE)
OF0.23.611.5 (BOS)
TOT19.319.738.2 (HOU)

(Data courtesy of baseballreference.com)

In red, you can see the positions the Phillies are below the league average in — first base (where Carlos Santana is hitting just .209), third base (where Mikal Franco is finally turning it on), shortstop (where Machado would have fit in nicely for struggling Scott Kingery and injured J.P. Crawford) and the outfield (where Nick Williams may be turning it around alongside Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins).

But trailing the MLB average shouldn't be the measuring stick for the value of the Phillies first-place roster. If they were really a contender for a World Series — or even a playoff spot — they would find themselves in the top 10 in most if not all of the aforementioned categories. None of the Phils' positions aside from second base even crack the top 10 in WAR.

More than that, the Phillies have three positions — first base, shortstop and right field — that put them in the bottom eight by batting average of all 30 MLB teams.

The players, after Machado, rumored to be on the trade block are not particularly head turners. And the free agent class just a few months from now is headlined by Bryce Harper and one of the most star-studded in years. Neither of those are good enough reasons for the Phillies — a team with one of the better farm systems in baseball — to run away from investing in a potential division title right now.

The next era of success could begin in 2018 with a run to the playoffs. But the Phillies need to maximize on the good luck, timely hitting and fruitful pitching they've received thus far. If they do not reinforce their roster with an infusion of offensive ability, the team could taper off, and fast.


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