Phillies Mailbag: Trading Prospects, Pitching, Utley’s Jersey
We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Send your questions to the 97.3 ESPN text board at 609-403-0973 or send them to @FrankKlose on Twitter. Each week on Tuesday afternoon we answer your questions on the air during the Sports Bash with Mike Gill.
Why would the Phillies give up so much for a free agent to be?
The common anti-trade argument is that the Phillies are giving up significant talent in order to acquire a rental player. While the Phillies seem to be protecting their top prospect, Sixto Sanchez, the opportunity to add a player of Machado's caliber is simply too good to pass up. Here's why.
First, the opportunity to win is right now. This is indeed ahead of schedule. Earlier in the season when the Phillies showed some early promise, the expectation was that they would gradually fade, and they seemed to at times during the oft-cited 42-game stretch against tough teams. But the All-Star Break is here and the Phillies are in first place. They have a chance to win.
Second, this team is fueled by the outstanding play by starter Aaron Nola. The All-Star has 12 wins and could have easily won his last start if the Phillies had scored runs. The Phillies cannot assume that next season will have the same Aaron Nola. We saw the Washington Nationals get presumptuous and shut down Stephen Strasburg early. The following year the Nationals missed the playoffs and the next thing we knew, Strasburg was hurt.
"Strike while the iron's hot", many say. And if Machado likes Philadelphia and re-signs, they are much better off for later, too.
All we hear about is Manny Machado. What else do the Phillies need right now?
This is a good question. As we saw with Zach Eflin's recent injury, the Phillies maybe could use one more starting pitcher as depth. Enyel De Los Santos quickly unraveled against the Marlins, thanks in part to a mental misplay by Carlos Santana, and going forward, the Phillies may wish to have one surer bet.
I can see Nick Pivetta taking on a bullpen role with the idea that he makes some starts. So far Mark Leiter, Jr. has struggled in the opportunities he has gotten after returning from injury, not looking like the pitcher he was last year and into Spring Training.
The Phillies have been linked to two of their former left-handed starters in J.A. Happ and Cole Hamels. A lefty to balance out the rotation would be most helpful in facing opponents down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs. If either is easily acquirable, I can see the Phillies biting.
The Phillies could also use some left-handed bullpen help. They have been connected to Zach Britton, the left-handed Orioles closer, but the Machado deal may complicate that. While the club may be trying to acquire both at the same time, such a move is harder to make. The assets the Orioles want may be better served going towards Machado.
But there are other arms out there, most notably Brad Hand. That market, like the offensive player market, should develop once Machado is traded.
Will Chase Utley's jersey be retired in Philadelphia?
This is a really good question. This will depend on a number of factors going forward, some of which might require some flexibility on the part of the Phillies. The Phillies have an interesting policy regarding retired numbers, which complicates the idea.
First and foremost, it's no coincidence that we have not seen jersey numbers 6, 11, or 26 issued since Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley departed the Phillies. The Phillies have kept them out of circulation on purpose. Earlier this Spring, John Mallee asked for number 11, to honor his father's military service (cool story by Ken Rosenthal, by the way) and the Phillies preferred to keep it out of circulation.
But the Phillies only retire the numbers of Hall of Fame players, according to policy. Now, the Phillies retired Richie Ashburn's number 1 jersey early, stating he would eventually be there, anyway. But Utley might have a hard time getting into the Hall of Fame. I'm not saying that it cannot happen, but it will not be easy.
Utley is in a way hurt by his position. When we think of the greatest second basemen of all time, the likes of Ryne Sandberg come to mind. Roberto Alomar and Craig Biggio perhaps the most recent second basemen we know well. Utley does not have a milestone number, like 3000 hits or any MVP titles. Utley has no Rawlings Gold Glove awards.
There are other stats which set Utley apart that we will surely discuss along the way to discuss his Hall of Fame candidacy.
But as for his jersey number? I think the Phillies hold 6, 11 and 26 special and will find a way. They changed policies for the Wall of Fame in recent years; maybe there are exceptions to be made here.