Fans wanted to see the Phillies deal for Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. In lieu of Machado or Harper, the people would’ve taken Cole Hamels, J.A. Happ, Brad Hand, Chris Archer, Zach Britton, Adam Jones, Mike Moustakas, Curtis Granderson or Andrew McCutchen. But, really, Machado, plus maybe one or two of the others.
Instead, the Phillies obtained Asdrubal Cabrera, Aaron Loup and Wilson Ramos — the latter of whom could be on the disabled list until September.
Not exactly the moves made by a team gunning for the World Series.
It’s August, and the Phillies are in first place in the NL East, so you can forgive some fans for being a little disappointed the front office wasn’t more aggressive before the July 31 trade deadline passed. A few weeks ago, for about 24 hours, it felt like there was a real chance Machado would be wearing red pinstripes. Now, the hope is Ramos is back in the lineup in time to make a difference down the stretch.
Yet, that’s also the type of trade that better reflects where this organization stands in 2018. The Phillies are the most unexpected first-place team in baseball. Over half the roster is 25 or younger. The manager has no previous experience doing his job. The offense ranks in the bottom half of the majors in scoring.
To be where the Phillies are today, 11 games above .500 and clinging to a one-game lead in the division, is tremendously exciting. If anything, it’s a reflection they are ahead of schedule.
What it’s not is a reason to suddenly abandon general manager Matt Klentak's strategy of building for a better future and replace it with a nonsensical World Series-or-bust mindset.
Of course, there were more exciting acquisitions to be made at the deadline, and the Phillies were wise to explore each and every one of those possibilities. Who knows, maybe this team could’ve caught lightning in a bottle with an influx of veteran talent and leadership.
At the same time, the front office has to be honest with itself and study every angle. Machado will be a free agent at the end of this season, as were many of the big names on the block. The prospects it would’ve taken to land a lot of the aforementioned current and former All-Stars — several well past their prime — are under contract for years to come.
Most of all, Klentak's front office needed to ask itself: Are we for real, or is there a strong possibility this team as it’s currently constructed is overachieving?
That may not be what fans want to hear, but there’s a strong likelihood it’s reality.
The Phillies were able to snatch up Cabrera, Loup and Ramos for next to nothing. Cabrera was the most costly of the trio, costing the organization its No. 10-rated prospect, Franklyn Kilome. Loup was dealt for a relative unknown, Jacob Waguespack, and Ramos for a player to be named later — somebody not expected to be a top-30 prospect.
Perhaps most important of all, none of Cabrera, Loup or Ramos is under contract beyond this season. The Phillies did not harm their financial situation at all, and only one prospect of consequence appears to have been surrendered.
Meanwhile, Machado and Harper are currently slated to headline a huge free-agent class in 2019. Think the Phillies, with all their saved money and up-and-coming talent leftover from not making dicey deadline deals, are well positioned to make a splash next year?
As for this year, good for the Phillies for finding value and improving the team in the meantime. It’s not like they conceded 2018 in the process of keeping an eye on the future. They simply decided not to push all-in at this point.
It wasn’t the most fun play, but it likely was the smartest.