Things just keep getting worse for the Philadelphia Phillies. First Jimmy Rollins goes down early in the season. Just when the Phils got him back, Carlos Ruiz, Chase Utley and Placido Polanco all go down with injuries. The Phillies have also lost backup catcher Brian Schneider to injury. Early in the season the Phillies also lost J.A. Happ making their starting rotation thinner than they would have liked. Combine these injuries with an extended, team-wide slump and you have the Phillies sitting 4 games behind the Atlanta Braves just before the All-Star Break.
Utley’s injury is the most worrying. He had surgery on his thumb and is expected to miss 8 weeks. With that time-table, Utley will return at he end of August or early September. Polanco will be out for 3-4 weeks with elbow problems. No word on how long Schneider will be out of the lineup, but hopefully it isn’t long as Chooch isn’t ready to start his rehab assignment. Chooch is still recovering from a concussion and those aren’t something you want to mess with. Happ is the closest to returning of the Phillies on the DL. He will make another rehab start at Lehigh Valley and should hopefully rejoin the big club after the Break.
With Utley and Polanco out of the lineup, the Phillies lose at lot of offense at the top of their lineup. Shane Victorino hasn’t been great in the lead off spot, and the injuries mean the Phillies have Greg Dobbs batting second! The man is batting .171 right now and he’s batting second! Rollins has been pushed to third, which sacrifices his speed at the top of the order for his run producing capabilities. Wilson Valdez appears to have won the right to replace Utley, he performed admirably in his stint as Rollins’ replacement, but clearly cannot replace Utley’s offensive ability. As if this weren’t enough, the starting catcher right now is Dane Sardinha! I hadn’t even heard of this guy until he was called up when Chooch went on the DL. He has a .143 career batting average! The Phillies then found an excellent replacement for Utley when they recalled, Brian Bocock to take Utley’s roster spot. This guy was batting .179 with Lehigh Valley, how do you think he will do against big league pitching?
Ultimately, the Phillies need to explore some trade options to replace Utley. Polanco could return shortly after the Break, but the loss of Utley will handicap the Phillies as they fight to make the playoffs. With Utley out until the final month of the season, the Phillies could be out of the race by the time he returns. A potential replacement could be Kelly Johnson of the Diamondbacks. The D-backs are already out of the race and Johnson has been hitting well over the course of the season. Disregarding his current slump, Johnson could replace most of Utley’s offense. He is relatively cheap, making $2.35 million this season, and is signed for just this year. I can’t imagine the D-backs would ask for much in return, perhaps a couple of mid-level prospects. This would allow the Phillies to slot him in as a replacement for Utley returning Valdez to the bench. This would give the Phillies more flexibility to cover future injuries. Another potential replacement would be Mike Fontenot, a career .270 hitter who would be an upgrade over the current starting alignment of Dobbs at 3B and Valdez at 2B. He is currently sitting behind Ryan Theriot for the Cubs, is on a one-year contract and is making $1 million this season. The Cubs would likely trade him for a low to mid-level prospect. Another option would be Mike Aviles from Kansas City. He has been playing well this season and has established himself recently as the starting SS. Like the other options, he is on a one-year contract and is cheap ($429,000 this season). Kansas City isn’t going to compete this year, and is always looking to add prospects. A mid-level prospect would likely be enough to bring Aviles to Citizens Bank Park. I just read Buster Olney’s blog, and he mentioned Ty Wigginton (currently of the Baltimore Orioles) as a potential replacement. I could see that move happening and agree that it would be a great fit.