Philadelphia came into 2019 mired in a seven-year playoff drought, but an aggressive winter made the club a popular pick to turn around its fortunes this season. With the second half of the campaign now underway, the good news for the Phillies is that they are in possession of a playoff spot. The bad: It’s by the slimmest of margins.
Owners of an underwhelming 47-44 record and losers of 22 of 36 – including a 4-0 home defeat against the Nationals on Friday – the Phillies are tied with the Brewers for the NL’s last wild-card position. Earning a place in a one-game playoff appears to be Philly’s most realistic path to the postseason, as the team’s sputtering and sitting a lofty seven back of the first-place Braves in the NL East.
The Phillies have obvious weak points, including throughout their pitching staff, but it doesn’t seem they’re lining up as aggressive buyers with the July 31 trade deadline approaching. President of baseball operations Andy MacPhail spoke about the Philllies’ status with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com and other reporters Friday, admitting he and his front office cohorts “don’t believe” the roster’s one trade away from turning into a World Series winner.
MacPhail acknowledged that an extremely impressive run of baseball to end July could sway him toward a bolder deadline approach. As of now, though, MacPhail’s expecting “to be a little judicious and careful about what talent’s walking out the door” in trades. That suggests MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak won’t be dealing any of the Phillies’ very best prospects away this summer, at least not for short-term help. However, the Phillies are willing to take advantage of their financial clout to better their roster. They could land upgrades by taking on salary in exchange for giving up “lesser talent,” as Zolecki writes. MacPhail certainly isn’t ruling it out.
“Our ownership has been pretty clear, and they’ve demonstrated by their actions, that salary is not something that is going to be … it has to make some sense, but that’s not going to be something that’s going to hold us back,” MacPhail said.
While it remains to be seen what the Phillies will do at the deadline, their 2019 is looking a bit too similar to their disappointing 2018 right now. The Phillies got off to a solid start then, even sitting atop the NL East from July 6 through Aug. 12, before petering out and finishing two games below .500. Acquiring several veteran stopgaps (Wilson Ramos, Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin Bour, Jose Bautista and others) couldn’t save the Phillies’ season a year ago. We’ll find out in the next two-plus weeks the caliber of help they’ll bring in this summer in an effort to return to the postseason.