With news coming this afternoon that Mets reliever J.J. Putz will need surgery, costing him 8-10 weeks, the time has come for the Phillies to put a stranglehold on the National League East.
For two years, things have been in doubt until the final week. More than that, they’ve been in doubt until the final two games both times. It seems an opportunity has presented itself for the Phillies to prevent that drama from unfolding for a third year.
As it stands right now, this very second, the Phillies are four games up on the Mets and six up on the Braves. They are 31-20 and have won seven straight games – all on the road – while the Mets and Braves have stumbled recently.
The Mets have fallen victim to more than just Putz’s injury. Jose Reyes will be out until at least the all-star break. Carlos Delgado has been banged up all year. Carlos Beltran has had a stomach bug. Ryan Church hasn’t played a whole lot.
Beyond that, all the Mets have had for a pitching staff is one great starter and one very good reliever. Their lineup, which had been patched up by a bunch of bench players and minor leaguers, is finally coming back down to earth after keeping the Mets afloat for far too long.
The Braves still have pretty good pitching, but even with their recent trade for Nate McLouth, their offense is lacking and will continue to lack unless the rest of the outfield can turn it around.
The Marlins and Nationals, at seven-and-a-half and 18 (!) games back, respectively, are already close to being dead in the water.
The Phillies have lost Brett Myers, but despite having an incredibly shaky starting staff for two months, a solid bullpen and timely offense have propelled the Phightins to the top of the division.
Now would be the time to strike. If the Phillies were to make a move for a starting pitcher, it should happen within the next month, not the end of July. Giving a month of leeway would allow J.A. Happ and Antonio Bastardo to continue auditioning, whether that audition be for a future in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
Roy Halladay is out. The Blue Jays insist that he will not be traded and, for the sake of their fanbase, holding on to Doc for at least another season is probably for the best. Jake Peavy’s waffling concerns me, and as that is so the Phillies should probably turn their attention away from him and his large contract. That sounds like flaky reasoning, so I’ll add that being such a flyball-prone pitcher, Peavy would likely suffer a setback in performance and production in CBP, and I think he knows it. He would have experienced something similar in U.S. Cellular while playing for the White Sox, and that may be why he declined to be traded there.
Or maybe it was because the Sox allowed 20 runs on the day of the trade proposal. Who knows?
Cliff Lee of the Indians, Brandon Webb of the Diamondbacks, or even Chris Young of the Padres would seem to be palatable options off the top of my head. Brad Penny of the Red Sox would not be, especially if Jason Donald or Lou Marson would be the parting price.
The name doesn’t matter; the talent does. If the Phillies want to properly defend their 2008 title, it may be best to strike while the iron is hot. Perhaps a secondary trade for a reliable, right-handed bench bat would be in order as well. I’d rather not go after Mark DeRosa anymore, as his price would likely be inflated by multiple suitors.
The opportunity has arisen for the Phillies to take this division by storm. Will Ruben smell the blood?
Post-script: Check out a post along similar lines over at We Should Be GMs.