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.
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