And in the July trading market, they'll go shopping for a starting pitcher.
Trading for pitching
|The starters the Phillies have acquired in midseason trades the last four years|
Don't they always?
Well, only for four consecutive years.
"We've set a trend," general manager Ruben Amaro admitted Wednesday.
Amaro won't make any predictions for this July, but others in the organization predict another starter will be tops on the Phillies shopping list. And while it's far too early to say with any certainty which starter they would pursue, think more along the lines of a Joe Blanton (the 2008 addition) than Cliff Lee (the 2009 pickup).
Why? Well, a year ago, when they tried for Roy Halladay and then dealt for Lee, the Phillies needed an ace. Now, with Halladay in the rotation and Cole Hamels beginning to pitch like this is 2008 all over again, they need a third or fourth starter.
Also, after giving up prospects to get Lee and Halladay, and then replenishing their farm system by trading Lee to the Mariners, the Phillies aren't anxious to move more big-time prospects (and don't have that many to part with). If the justification for trading Lee was that they couldn't leave the farm system bare, would it really make sense to make a deal that left it bare only months later?
One person familiar with the Phillies suggested Wednesday that the team might be best suited getting a pitcher from a financially challenged team that needs to dump a contract. The Indians, who aren't drawing well and could have two starters on the market (Westbrook and Fausto Carmona), would fit.
The pitching market could be lively this summer, with quite a few potential buyers (the Angels, Mets, Tigers and Cardinals could all be looking) and some interesting names among those who could be available (Lee, Oswalt, Westbrook, Sheets, to name four).
But if we've learned anything about the Phillies front office under Pat Gillick and now Amaro, it's that when they want a pitcher, they usually find one.
As Jimmy Rollins said last October when I asked him to imagine the Phillies without Lee, "Ruben's pretty smart. He'd have found somebody else."
|Ruben Amaro's acquisition of Roy Halladay made headlines last winter, but he's not looking to make as big a splash this time. (Getty Images)|
Well, while the lack of offense is a story this week (the Phillies were shut out each of the past two days by the Mets, and haven't scored a run off a starting pitcher since last Friday), recent history tells you this is only a blip.
They'll hit, and they'll be helped by Rollins' return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks.
And the rotation?
While it has been decent so far, the Phillies have reason to wonder how 47-year-old Jamie Moyer will hold up as the year goes on. They seem to have no idea when J.A. Happ will come back from the DL, or how he'll do if he does return. And they have few enough options in the minor leagues that they were actively searching for pitching all spring (and added swing man Nelson Figueroa when the Mets cut him).
"I think with our pitching staff as a whole, depth is a question," manager Charlie Manuel said.
There's a real possibility (maybe even a likelihood) the Phillies will eventually re-sign Pedro Martinez, who started for them late last year, and in the postseason.
Perhaps that will be enough. Maybe this year they can get away without giving up players in a trade for pitching.
"Frankly, I hope we don't have to do a whole lot," Amaro said.
More likely, they will try to do something. More likely, based on their history, they will do something.
Remember, it doesn't need to be something as splashy as last year. It doesn't need to be as big as Cliff Lee.
Blanton wasn't good enough to get the Phillies a victory Wednesday night, when they lost 5-0 to the Mets. But he has given the Phillies exactly what they hoped for when they acquired him from the A's two years ago.
"What a great move that was," right fielder Jayson Werth said. "What a great job Joe has done for us."
As Manuel said, what Blanton does most often is pitch six innings and keep the Phillies in the game, giving their (usually) outstanding offense a chance to win it. Before Wednesday, when he was knocked out in the sixth, Blanton had finished six innings in 33 of his 48 regular-season starts for the Phillies, plus four times in five postseason starts.
If Blanton were on the market this July, he would no doubt be high on the list of Phillies targets. Instead, they'll be out looking for a pitcher like him.
Most likely, they'll be looking for a starting pitcher. Most likely, they'll get one.
They always do.