Time is Now for Ed Wade to Earn His Paycheck

The fine people in the Phillies scouting department just completed their most important job of the season, by completing the 2004 amateur draft. The moves made by the Phillies player scouts are a building block for the future. Now, Ed Wade must complete arguably the most monumental task since his tenure as Phillies GM, to insure the success of the Phillies present.

We've been down this road before. The Phillies are at what looks to be a crossroads of their season, an early one at that. Pitchers are dropping left and right leaving Larry Bowa with an exhausted bullpen and fewer starting pitchers by the day. The offense is inconsistent and besides the trio of Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome and Pat Burrell, fairly unproductive. The same problems that have haunted Philadelphia for the past three seasons are once again a factor in 2004.

At this point Larry Bowa is doing a fairly good job of simply running nine healthy players onto the field everyday but what they are doing out there has been suspect. Despite Jimmy Rollins' recent string of solid games from the plate, no clear leadoff hitter has been found. Marlon Byrd has been borderline atrocious with a .225 batting average and 17 RBI and 39 strikeouts. Byrd was supposed to be the club's leadoff hitter this season but his on base percentage of .302 simply isn't good enough. Rollins has put together a nice half month raising his stolen base total to 22 and raising his batting average to .272. Teams with a leadoff hitter hitting only .272 tend to struggle offensively, as is the case with the Phillies this season.

The leadoff spot isn't the only problem the Phillies are facing. Billy Wagner, Randy Wolf, Vicente Padilla and now Amaury Telemaco have all spent time on the disabled list this season. It is obvious that you cannot prepare for injuries, but there must be a plan in place when the injury bug rears its ugly head.

That is where Ed Wade comes in.

Wade has been extremely reluctant to make any midseason moves ever since trading Rob Ducey and Curt Schilling away on the same day back in 2000. Last year the Phillies were teetering on disaster, similar to what is currently occurring with the Phightin Phils, and Wade only acquired closer Mike Williams. There were clearly other holes that needed to be filled at the trading deadline, and Wade stood pat and paid the consequences when Philadelphia failed to make the post season by losing the wildcard to the eventual World Champion Florida Marlins. The same Marlins that added Jeff Conine, Ugeth Urbina and manager Jack McKeon in the middle of the year.

If Wade took anything away from last season, it better be that moves must be made to improve a ballclub in the middle of the season. There are already several rumors out there involving names like Kevin Millwood, Marlon Byrd, Jason Michaels, Carl Crawford, Derek Lowe, Freddy Garcia and, well, Carlos Beltran. All of which are being mentioned in the same sentence as the Philadelphia Phillies.

It is clear that Millwood is in a funk right now. A deep funk. Perhaps a change of scenery is all that he would need to correct what is ailing him. If that is the case, Wade could easily sell the idea of shipping Millwood to say, the Red Sox or Mariners. Both teams are looking to shop pitchers and probably wouldn't mind taking on Millwood's one-year contract for half a season. Both Freddy Garcia and Derek Lowe are proven players and each have post season experience. Neither Lowe nor Garcia would carry that hefty of a price tag and a change of scenery may be just what they need as well.

If the Phillies would make a move for Garcia or Lowe, they would immediately possess a top of the rotation pitcher that just may be able to shut down opponents every fifth day. Yes Derrick Lowe is 5-5 with a high ERA of 6.55, but his WHIP is only 1.83. If he could bring that final stat down a little he would be having a much better year. Garcia on the other hand, simply hasn't received the run support he needs during his starts. Garcia is 3-5 with a very modest 3.02 ERA with 66 strikeouts and a WHIP of just 1.23. He would look awfully good in Phillies Pinstripes.

Should Wade manage to acquire a solid starting pitcher to occupy the top spot in the Phillies rotation, his next order of business should be to bring in a quality hitter to add some juice to this lineup. Both Carl Crawford and Carlos Beltran could hit leadoff. Yeah it would be nice to add Beltran to the Phillies lineup, but lets face it, the odds are stacked against their favor for many reasons. Crawford would likely come much cheaper than Beltran and could have just as nice of a payoff. Crawford, at 23 is four years younger than Byrd and has put up better numbers throughout his career. This season the Devil Rays outfielder is batting .286 with 13 RBI and 25 stolen bases. If acquired Crawford would add some serious speed to the top of the lineup and with an on base percentage of .333 would be a stronger option in the leadoff spot.

This Phillies team was assembled not only with the potential to win in the long run, with the many young talented prospects the scouting department has selected over the years, but also with the veteran presence to win now. It is unclear if the former will happen, and it may be years until we see the final result of the hard work of the Phillies scouts. But the latter is still a work in progress. If there ever were a team in need of a major trade bringing an impact acquisition, this Phillies team would be it.

At this point, it looks rather obvious. The Phillies must make a move, any move that will improve the ballclub for the rest of the season. That move will only happen however, if Wade finally decides to pull the trigger on a midseason move. If he doesn't, well then maybe it's time to find someone who will.

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