Trading's Done. Are Phillies In Better Shape?

The non-waiver trading deadline has come and gone. Now, with all of the moves done, the second guessing can begin. The deadline saw a lot of changes come to the National League East and other moves will impact the wild-card race. So, are the Phillies better off now than they were a week ago? That's the question.

While dreams of Carlos Beltran, Steve Finley, Kris Benson or other saviors danced around the Phillies rumor mill, in the end, none of those guys wound up on flights bound for Phillie Land. Instead, two names that were rarely discussed found themselves being stitched onto the back of Phillies jerseys awaiting the arrival of the newest Phillies.

Felix Rodriguez and Todd Jones can definitely help a beleaguered bullpen. No, neither of them are the highest caliber of reliever, but they're both veteran pitchers who know the ropes. Rodriguez is in a very familiar role, not just setting up a closer, but for now, setting up Tim Worrell. The two were teammates in San Francisco when Worrell took over the closer's job with the Giants. The tandem were successful last season and they should be able to provide needed relief. As for Jones, he seems to have gotten a bit of a new life this season. It looked like his career might be over, but he was successful in Cincinnati and looks to bring that same spark to the Phillies.

With gains, come losses. The loss of Ricky Ledee hurts. He was a solid bat off the bench and gave the Phillies needed punch from the left side of the plate. He was popular with fans and players and he'll be missed. With Placido Polanco staying in Philly, Chase Utley will likely get a lot of the pinch-hits against right-handed pitching. Utley has actually put up better numbers off the bench than a lot of people in the organization thought that he would. It's not going to be his permanent job, but for now, Utley seems suited to the situation. He'll also find occasional starting assignments at second and perhaps, even at first base for the Phillies.

Somewhat ironically, Josh Hancock arrived in Cincinnati and got his first major league win in his first game with the Reds. Talk about paying dividends. Hancock was a decent prospect and likely has a decent career ahead of him, but with the Phillies deep in young pitching talent, he was expendable.

Alfredo Simon and Anderson Machado are young players with bright futures. Simon likely has a higher ceiling than Machado and had been pitching well at Clearwater. Machado will likely be better off if he is allowed to give up switch-hitting, something that the Phillies didn't want him to do and there's no telling how much that may improve his offensive capabilities. Make no mistake about it, Simon and Machado are good prospects, but neither are blue-chip prospects that the Phillies couldn't afford to give up.

To bottom line the situation, the Phillies have improved their club. No, it isn't a giant leap, but it's a decent jump. Now, we just have to hope that it's enough, especially considering the changes that the other teams made over the past few days.

The Mets and Marlins were both bold. Surprisingly, the Mets gave up pitcher Scott Kazmir to get Victor Zambrano from Tampa Bay. The smart money says that they paid too high of a price. They also gave up good prospects to get Kris Benson and will only recoup that investment if Benson is the piece that gets them a world championship or if he signs with the club long-term. The Mets were bold and aggressive, but were they smart? That remains to be seen.

The Marlins were involved in one of the big blockbusters of the trading frenzy. Like the Mets, they were bold, but unlike the Mets, their moves seem smarter. With Paul LoDuca, they filled a hole behind the plate that was gaping since the departure of Ivan Rodriguez. Guillermo Mota is one of the best young relievers around and could even be a closer if needed. Juan Encarnacion has had a rough season, but could provide a little offensive spark, especially if he gets hot. He is returning to an organization that he loved playing for and had success with, so that could give him some added push to turn his season around. Losing Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi is a hit, but the Marlins went out and got Ismael Valdez from San Diego to help fill the loss of Penny. Encarnacion may be able to fill Encarnacion's shoes in the Marlins' offense and they're definitely stronger behind the plate.

The Marlins have improved their club and seemingly by a pretty solid margin. The Mets have also improved, but may take a hit down the road when they would have been seeing some of the young players that they shipped out of town reaching the majors. Again, a key is signing Benson long-term. It will also be interesting to see what Mets' pitching coach Rick Peterson can do to cure Zambrano's wildness. If he can fix that, the Mets will have taken some big steps.

The Braves were pretty silent. With the emergence of Mike Hampton over the last month, they've improved. On Saturday, they did pick up lefty reliever Tom Martin. Generally, this doesn't seem like a big deal, but anytime that pitching coach Leo Mazzone gets his hands on an underachieving pitcher, good things can happen.

At this point, we have to watch the wild-card race as well. The Cubs could be a major competitor in that race and they made a bold move in getting Nomar Garciaparra from the Red Sox. If Garciaparra adjusts to National League pitching, he will be a huge addition. Even if he just does what he was doing in Boston, he's still a big improvement over Alex Rodriguez.

The Dodgers currently lead the NL West and were very aggressive. They didn't come up with Randy Johnson, the big prize in the trade sweepstakes, but they did make some major moves. On Saturday, they added Steve Finley, one of their prime targets. The big question is, "who's going to catch?" With Paul LoDuca now in Miami, the Dodgers have to go either with young Dave Ross or make room for super prospect Koy Hill. They thought they would be able to get Charles Johnson, but Johnson decided not to accept the deal to Los Angeles, preferring to stay in Colorado.

San Diego currently leads the wild-card race. They lost out on the Finley sweepstakes and that hurt. They had set their sites on Finley and in the end didn't have what it would take to bring the veteran back to town. They gave up Valdez and got Dave Hansen. Not much news there. They can cover the loss of Valdez and Hansen will help their bench, but the moves likely won't make a major difference.

Baseball experts were trying to figure out what Brian Sabean, general manager of the Giants was thinking. The Giants needed bullpen help, but traded Rodriguez to the Phillies with no replacements for him. You may just have to trust that Sabean knows what he's doing, but it's hard to see where he was going with this one, other than potentially saving some money that would have gone to Rodriguez next season. Ledee will help their bench and will also get some playing time in the outfield, but the loss of Rodriguez could really hurt.

Overall, the Phillies stack up in decent company with the majority of the wild-card teams, but didn't improve their club as much as the Marlins and potentially, the Mets did.

You always have to wait and see when it comes to trades. The fact that Billy Wagner and Ryan Madson are both on the DL will continue to hurt the Phillies, but if they can get both of them healthy, the bullpen should become a very strong part of their club. Getting Vicente Padilla back from the DL is another key, especially since the Phillies didn't do anything to fill the hole in the starting rotation.

Of course, keep your eyes and ears peeled. While teams can no longer trade players without using waivers, it's always possible to sneak a player or two through waivers and they could wind up in Philadelphia. At least the moves that the Phillies made were a step above last year's acquisition of the great Mike Williams. Remember that one?

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