It’s been thought that if the Phillies fall out of contention within in the next two months (and judging by the level of play so far in the NL East, that seems a bit remote at the moment), the team should go into full-on “sell mode” and start rebuilding this team for the future.
And yes, if that is the case, that should definitely happen.
However, a youth movement may not only be good for this team’s future, it could also make them better in the present.
The reason for that is not only the improved play of youngsters like Freddy Galvis and Domonic Brown, it’s also the lack of production the Phils are getting from veterans like Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Delmon Young, Carlos Ruiz, Mike Adams, Raul Valdes, Chad Durbin, and others.
Of course, everyone is all excited about Galvis after his 2 for 4 performance in Sunday’s miraculous 3-2 walk-off win over the Reds, including his game-winning, bottom of the ninth inning homer off Cincinnati closer Aroldis Chapman. And people are definitely intrigued by the performance of starter Jonathan Pettibone, who threw seven very effective innings yesterday. And clearly no one wants to see Durbin or Valdes run out there in the middle innings anymore, with Justin De Fratus in the ‘pen and other young arms in the minors offering more potential.
Howard, as good a guy as he is, just isn’t getting the job done. He has just six home runs so far this year, putting him on pace to hit 22 through 162 games. He’s in a 4 for 35 slump and is now hitting .245/.282/.430 for a pathetic-for-him OPS of .713. And now, he’s set to get an MRI on a sore left knee, which could put him on the disabled list.
He’s set to earn at least $85 million over the next three years FOLLOWING this year. He’s making $20 million in 2013.
Halladay is also earning $20 million and could be lost for the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. This, after being maybe the worst pitcher in the sport through his first seven starts, with an 8.65 ERA. Delmon Young has been a black hole in the #5 spot in the order since joining the team, hitting .208/.286/.333 for an OPS of .619 in 56 PAs. I would argue small sample size with him, but his career dictates that this is pretty much par for the course. Ruiz just rejoined the team after his 25-game suspension for Aderral use, but it’s been a grind for him as well (12 for 50 with 2 2Bs in 55 PAs), and now he may hit the DL after leaving Sunday’s game with a strained hamstring.
Neither Howard nor Ruiz made the trip to Miami. Those are two veterans the team was counting on to help lead the offense that are unlikely to play in this upcoming three-game series with Miami, and perhaps beyond.
The veterans in the bullpen – Adams, Valdes and Durbin – have also been an issue. Adams has been reasonably effective with a 3.00 ERA 15 IP so far this year. But back spasms have forced him out of action for the last week, and he could hit the DL on Monday after the Phillies promote Tyler Cloyd from AAA for his start on Tuesday in Miami. Durbin and Valdes have just been plain awful.
For some of these struggling and/or injured vets, finding a young replacement isn’t an option. Erik Kratz, Sunday’s other hero, will assume the catching duties in Ruiz’ absence, with Humberto Quintero being recalled from Lehigh Valley to be the back-up. Tommy Joseph, the team’s likely catcher of the future, has struggled in AAA and is currently not playing due to a concussion.
And replacing Adams’ experience in the eighth inning with relievers like De Fratus, Phillippe Aumont or Mike Stutes (who could get called up on Monday as well) is tough, but could be necessary. Who knows, maybe it will be an improvement.
What the play of Brown, Galvis, Pettibone and others has done, however, is show that maybe these young guys have a little bit of game. And maybe, they’re options for the present as well as the future.
Maybe it’s time for Galvis (.864 OPS in 62 PAs) to play 4-5 games a week, either at third base, second base, shortstop, left field or right field. Maybe it’s time to see what Darin Ruf can do at first base if Howard goes on the DL (and yes, Ruf has been struggling lately in Lehigh, 0 for his last 17 with 9 Ks) or in left field, moving Brown over to right and excising Delmon Young from the everyday lineup. Maybe Kevin Frandsen should see more infield action against left-handed pitching.
And there are also a couple of guys in Lehigh to keep an eye on, including second baseman Cesar Hernandez (.836 OPS, 2 HRs, 5 2Bs, 5 3Bs, 12 SBs in 14 attempts), and third baseman Cody Asche (.738 OPS, 4 HRs, 8 2Bs, has hit safely in 12 of his last 13 contests, last 10 games batting .326 with two doubles, two home runs and 10 RBI), neither of whom are quite ready yet, but offer intriguing possibilities as the trade deadline approaches.
Simply put, it is the ineffectiveness of many of the team’s veteran players that could be driving the team towards a youth movement. And such a movement might not only help the team prepare for the future, but perhaps it would also help the 2013 Phillies win more games as well.
The season is still young. It’s only May 20th and the Phils remain just 4 1/2 games out of first. It’s too early to give up on guys like Howard and Ruiz just yet.
Delmon Young, that’s another story.
But players like Galvis are showing the future for some of these younger guys may just be now.