These 2 horrible losses vs. Braves should be final pieces of evidence Phillies' front office needed

These 2 horrible losses vs. Braves should be final pieces of evidence Phillies' front office needed

Had the Phillies swept the Braves this weekend, they would have been 2½ games back in the NL East before August began.

They didn't sweep. They didn't win the series. They barely even competed in the first two games.

The Phils were demolished, 15-7, on Saturday night, 24 hours after losing 9-2. The Braves have outscored the Phillies by an average of 10-3 in their last six meetings.

You have to wonder if this was the last piece of evidence GM Matt Klentak and team president Andy MacPhail needed to see that the 2019 Phillies aren't good enough to buy big (or even buy "medium") at the trade deadline, which is just four days away.

If the Phillies' front office is being honest with itself — and this is a group that prides itself on its objectivity — then they've realized this team cannot fill all of its holes at one trade deadline. 

The Phillies have one reliable starting pitcher, Aaron Nola. 

Zach Eflin, who had a 2.83 ERA as recently as June 19, allowed 10 more runs Saturday as his ERA rose again to 4.63. Jake Arrieta has been pitching hurt and cannot be relied on to effectively go through a batting order three times. Neither has been the No. 2 starter the Phillies needed to slot behind Nola. 

To fill out their rotation with pitchers who would actually make a difference, the Phillies would have to part with young players who could in a few years be better than those they are traded for now. And even that alone would not make this team a true contender. They would still need multiple bullpen pieces, another bat in the starting lineup and a couple bats for the bench.

It's just not realistic for the Phillies to win the division or to beat the Braves or Dodgers in October. So then what would be the point of making any significant trades?

Phillies fans are sick of waiting for next year. They've been waiting for next year every year since 2012. But actually contending in 2019 no longer appears to be in the cards. It doesn't mean this team will turn the final two months into an audition — no, they'll continue to try to win every game, try to play loose and play with house money in a "whatever happens, happens" kind of way. 

But thinking ahead makes as much sense right now as thinking about today. The Phillies' window to contend was not this season alone. They have enough good players to convince themselves that a legitimate run can be made in 2020. They will need more from Bryce Harper. And Rhys Hoskins. And J.T. Realmuto. And Jean Segura. And Arrieta. And Nick Pivetta. And Eflin. 

They will also need Andrew McCutchen to return healthy and play as well as he did the first two months. They will need David Robertson to actually make a contribution. 

Equal to all of that, they will need the front office to finally identify some under-the-radar, inexpensive, ascending players. This front office has not proven it can find a Lance Lynn, a Mike Minor, a Wade Miley. Any GM can go spend hundreds of millions of the owner's dollars. Not every GM can make those secondary moves that deepen the roster. That is how good teams are built.

The Phillies entered the season with too top-heavy a roster. That was evident early. They did not make the necessary depth signings or trades because they had to wait so long to sign Harper and acquire Realmuto. Because of that, roster spots 21 through 30 went overlooked. It's not as if the front office totally ignored those spots, they just overvalued the young players filling them. They talked themselves into all these young starting pitchers and veteran relievers and it has worked out poorly.

Is that a real contender? Or an 83-85 win team? This year’s wild-card race has kept more teams alive than usual. At 54-50, are the Phillies really in a worse position than the 56-50 Brewers?

The Phils trail the Nationals by a game. Their only remaining series with Washington is a five-gamer in Washington the final week of the season.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

Bobby Abreu, Cliff Lee, Scott Rolen headline polarizing list of ex-Phillies on Hall of Fame ballot

MLB's 2020 Hall of Fame ballot was released Monday and it included six former Phillies of varying degrees of popularity. In fact, it's hard to even say which of the six is the most beloved in Philly. 

Bobby Abreu
Raul Ibanez
Cliff Lee
Scott Rolen
Curt Schilling
Billy Wagner

• At first glance, you might say Lee. He had great moments with the Phillies, memorable playoff games, and that low-key swag that drew fans to him. But things ended in a clunky way when he came back the second time. An elbow injury caused Lee to miss the final 1½ years of his contract and he was pretty much invisible during that time. He was also noticeably absent when the 2009 NL Championship team got together at Citizens Bank Park this past summer. The answer is still probably Lee, but it was a sour end for plenty of folks.

• Abreu is very well-respected around the game for being an ahead-of-his-time player with gaudy, well-rounded stats, but he was and still is polarizing around here. A portion of the fan base will always look at Abreu as an overrated compiler who was scared of walls. The other portion — it may be an even 50-50 split these days — appreciates the player Abreu was and realizes he'd be worth $200 million today.

• Phillies fans haven't forgotten Rolen's elite defense. Rolen was truly one of the best defensive third basemen of all time. But he orchestrated his way out of here and that is remembered equally, if not more so. 

• Schilling ... not delving into that one beyond an acknowledgment that his playoff performances were legendary, he had four excellent seasons and his post-playing career has been very strange.

• Ibañez was well-liked here and everywhere else he played. He may manage in the majors some day soon. He had an incredible first half in 2009, his first year with the Phillies, then was just slightly above average the rest of his three-year career with them.

• Phillies fans don't feel especially attached to Wagner, who was great here but lasted only two seasons. Unlike the other five on the list, Wagner should be in the Hall of Fame, in my opinion. Wagner was a more dominant reliever than Trevor Hoffman or Lee Smith. He had six seasons with an ERA under 2.00. He saved 422 games. He could have hung around for three more seasons to hit the arbitrary number of 500, which would have made him a Hall of Famer. Instead, Wagner retired on his terms after posting a 1.43 ERA for the Braves in 2010.

It will be interesting to see whether Abreu, a first-time candidate, gets the groundswell of support we've seen in recent years with players like Tim Raines.

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies

Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Phillies free-agent target: Zack Wheeler

Leading up to baseball’s winter meetings, we will take a daily look at some of the game’s top free agents and how they could potentially impact the Phillies.

Today, we check in on Zack Wheeler, a right-hander who is seen as having much untapped potential.

The vitals

The very talented Wheeler has a big fastball — his career-high 96.8-mph average velocity was fourth-best in the majors among starting pitchers in 2019 — and excellent breaking stuff, but injuries and inconsistency have prevented him from blossoming into a star. He is 44-38 with a 3.77 ERA lifetime. He was the No. 6 overall pick by San Francisco in the 2009 draft. He was traded to the Mets two years later for Carlos Beltran, who is now the Mets' manager. Wheeler will turn 30 in May.

Why he fits

His career is trending upward and a team might be getting him just as he’s about to put it all together. Wheeler has been mostly healthy the last two seasons, going 23-15 with a 3.65 ERA in 60 starts. He has pitched 182⅓ and 195⅓ innings, respectively, the last two seasons, a good sign after struggling with injuries early in his career. In both 2018 and 2019, he was one of the best in baseball after the All-Star break, going a combined 14-3 with a 2.26 ERA.

Wheeler also reached a career high by throwing a first-pitch strike 65.8 percent of the time, a top-10 mark that placed him ahead of Jacob deGrom, Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander.

Given the supply and demand for starting pitching in the majors, Wheeler is headed for a big payday, but not as big as the top arms in this market. That might allow the Phils to spread around their dollars and fill multiple holes.

Why he doesn’t fit

From Charlie Morton in the starting rotation to David Robertson, Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter in the bullpen, the Phillies have been burned by injuries to free-agent pitchers. Wheeler missed significant time recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2015 and 2016. He spent time on the injured list in 2017 and was briefly sidelined in 2019 with what was called shoulder fatigue. He rebounded quickly and was able to make 31 starts, but his health history can't be ignored.

The Phillies need to be protective of their high draft picks. They would surrender a second-round pick for the right guy. The question remains: Is the inconsistent Wheeler the right guy? When push comes to shove, the Phils would probably do it.

The price tag

Some team is going to bet on Wheeler being ready to reel off several years of good health and effectiveness. The industry feel is that Wheeler could come in somewhere between the four-year, $68 million deal that Nathan Eovaldi got from Boston last year and the six-year, $140 million that Patrick Corbin got from Washington. In other words, he could be looking at a $100 million payday. 

Scout’s take

“The velocity is intriguing. My concern is he gets hit too hard for the kind of stuff he has. He’s had some health glitches so that makes it a risk for the kind of money he’s going to get. But the raw stuff and potential are definitely there. It just depends on a team’s willingness to risk.”

Subscribe and rate At The Yard:
Apple Podcasts / Google Play / Spotify / Stitcher / Art19

More on the Phillies