Trade Deadline Nears and Pressure Builds

The Phillies have a worn out, beleaguered and injured bullpen. The starting rotation isn't much, if any, better. Center field has been an issue all season long and making deals to patch holes hasn't been easy. Needless to say, the Phillies are feeling the pressure and it's beginning to show in the clubhouse and on the field.

The Phillies front office staff is hunkered down in Clearwater, exploring every conceivable trade opportunity. The rumors come and they go. It started with a potential search for a center fielder and maybe a veteran reliever. Now, it's relievers – plural – a starter would be nice and that center fielder wouldn't hurt either.

Steve Finley dealt the Phillies a blow the other day when he said that if he waives his no trade clause, it would be to stay out west. He doesn't want to be too far from his wife and kids and you can't blame him for that. Pure geography stepped in to hurt the Phillies and they can't do a thing about that.

Still, the Phillies are working the phones and looking to make any moves that they believe will help the club now and in the future. With an eye toward the future, Ed Wade has declared Chase Utley, Ryan Madson, Gavin Floyd and Cole Hamels off limits. The fact that those are exactly the names that other teams want makes dealing that much tougher. Perhaps with that in mind, Wade has continued his talk of believing in the current team and how they can win without making any moves. It certainly sounds like a guy trying to prepare us for the worst.

If the Phillies are to blink on any of the four untouchables, Hamels may be the one that they should consider. Even with a sore elbow, he is still in demand. The fact is that he has had a few injuries above and beyond the "nagging" type that have derailed Hamels' season. Perhaps the lessons of Tyler Green and other highly touted, but oft injured pitchers should serve the Phillies as the trade deadline nears. If there is a team willing to bite on Hamels, perhaps you make the move now.

The Phillies are putting names like Ryan Howard and Elizardo Ramirez out there for the taking in the right trade. Placido Polanco and perhaps, even Kevin Millwood could be had as well. The Phillies and many fans thought that Howard and his power would be enough to get a meaningful deal done. So far, it hasn't. While the Phillies may have to consider blinking when it comes to Hamels, perhaps another team will blink and take Howard for the right player.

As time passes though, it appears that the Phillies might not make a deal. At one point, they were reportedly close to getting Finley, although he might not have accepted the deal. It did seem though that as recently as a week ago, he was open to coming to Philadelphia. Some reports say that the Phillies have had talks with Houston about Carlos Beltran, but they don't appear to be going anywhere. They were never truly in the Randy Johnson talks and it appears that after taking an early interest in Kris Benson, they have fallen well off the pace. Millwood and Polanco for Matt Morris and Steve Kline was rejected by St.Louis and the Expos don't seem to want to part with Livan Hernandez. Saturday's mid-afternoon deadline is just around the corner and Placido Polanco for Kenny Lofton appears the only real possibility.

The other day, Wade blew up at a reporter, who pushed the trade issue. It's not tough to see that the pressure of his team's situation is weighing on him and hard. The move of key front office personnel to Clearwater was probably a stroke of genius. It gets them away from the prying eyes, ears and questions of the beat reporters and allows them to operate with at least some sense of privacy.

While Wade explores the dwindling trade options, there is another button that GM Ed Wade could push. Addition by subtraction, some would say.

One move that Wade might consider would be getting rid of manager Larry Bowa. Is it deserved? That's a full argument on to itself. Needless to say, there are two distinct and strong sides to that issue.

The bottom line is that Bowa may be losing his players. After Tuesday night's loss, Bowa talked about being embarrassed by his team. Earlier, he referred to a number of his relievers as "AAA players". Comments like that don't always go over well with players and some have begun to talk. Rheal Cormier allowed his name to be put to quotes about the clubhouse being dead, hinting that they were "on pins and needles" because of Bowa. Other players, such as Billy Wagner, have put the onus on Wade. Wagner has talked about watching how the team functions late in the season – both the team itself and the front office – before deciding if he wants to stay in town. Mike Lieberthal has talked of a team in need of help and looking to the front office to provide it.

The combination of Bowa's public comments toward his team and Wade's need to do something, could lead to Bowa's exit. While Bowa is popular with many fans, winning remains more popular. It's sad to say, but getting rid of Bowa may be the move that Wade makes and perhaps, needs to make.

Maybe, there would be other moves that could be made. The idea of ditching pitching coach Joe Kerrigan in favor of Larry Anderson has made the rounds. Thoughts of hitting coach Greg Gross leaving in favor of Charlie Manuel have been circulating for some time. Any move that might help turn the Phillies around is undoubtedly being examined and considered.

While the Phillies have struggled on the field at times, off the field, is where the real problems have come. In many ways, it's almost amazing that the Phillies have played as well as they have with all of the off the field issues at hand. Time is ticking as the Phillies look to heal some wounds either with a deal to bring in help or perhaps, another move to put a spark into a lackluster ballclub.

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