A Call To Arms

The Phillies finished up a sub-par road trip which saw them limp home. However, that is not the biggest news coming out of Philadelphia in the past week or so. Randy Wolf is likely going to be lost until 2007 due to elbow problems, and the pitching staff leaves much to be desired when it comes to postseason prospects. With one quality move already behind him this season, Ed Wade now must finally acquire a rotation topping pitcher which this club has lacked for the past four years.

Ed Wade has to be sitting in his luxury box office at Citizens Bank Park as his pitching staff is slowly deteriorating before his eyes and deep down must be feeling a monstrous case of déjà vu. Last year Wade ignored the proverbial call to arms as his staff became decimated by injuries in the course of two weeks in June and looked on almost motionless as his team floundered in the standings as the season drew closer to an earlier than anticipated end with each passing loss. As his hurlers fell to injuries and their production dropped, Wade turned to journeyman Paul Abbott to fill in as a spot starter last season, and we all know how that disaster played out.

Now, with Wade's club at a crossroads once again, he must make a decision regarding at least two of his starting pitchers and maybe even some prospects to boot. Randy Wolf will likely be lost for the next two seasons should he require the elbow surgery which he is expected to undergo in the next couple of weeks, and Vicente Padilla has been anything but worthy of a spot in the starting rotation since rejoining the team last month after early season arm troubles.

It is imperative that Wade make a legitimate move this season to avoid the same mess that directly correlated to his team missing post season play for the eleventh consecutive season last year. With prospects who likely won't be wearing a Phillies uniform for the foreseeable future and some attractive bench commodities, there are no excuses for Wade to not make a move this time around to save his fading pitching staff.

Ryan Howard was mysteriously left in Scranton when Philadelphia made the trip to the left coast against American League teams. That was despite Jim Thome's horrendous performance at the plate this season, and Howard's own budding stardom. Howard is currently hitting .379 at Scranton with 14 homeruns and 43 RBI. Yet his numbers apparently didn't merit a call up to the majors as a designated hitter. Perhaps Wade is trying to showcase Howard for potential pursuers.

This year, unlike last, Wade appears to have the chips to throw into the pot and there are pitchers on the table who could easily be raked into the fold should Easy Eddie decide to make a bold move to better his club for the present season without disrupting his so called long term plan (if such a thing even exists).

There are two pitchers who could easily be acquired and one just may be on his way to Philadelphia in a short while, should Wade decide to pony up and break the bank and take part in a major block buster deal.

Wade has already made one move when he traded disgruntled veteran second baseman Placido Polanco for Ugueth Urbina, and he must be commended for that trade. In order to fully regain the confidence of Philadelphia fans though he must strike gold once again and bring this club the pitcher who can finally put them over the top.

Barry Zito, who is having a very un-Zito like season just may become available should the right offer come to fruition. Now, instead of asking "Why the Phillies?" many need to simply ask, "why not?" Despite his dismal 3-8 record Zito still has struck out 7.07 batters per start and given his age, 27, he still has time to turn this season around and return to the dominating force he was just two seasons ago. To say Zito would look great in a Phillies uniform this season would be an understatement.

What would it take to acquire Zito you might ask? Well, nothing but the typical prospects that Oakland could build their team around for the next several years. Howard, who is tearing up the minor leagues for the second consecutive season, would fit in quite nicely in the city by the bay either as a DH or the full-time first basemen. Billy Beane obviously would be attracted to Howard's phenomenal numbers over the past few years, but it would take more than Howard to consummate this deal. Wade would finally have to part ways with one of his pitchers, perhaps Gavin Floyd who has been inconsistent during his career, and who the Phillies have grossly misused, although he is a supposed jewel of their farm system. Should the Phillies be able to strike this or a similar deal, they would have the unquestioned top of the rotation starter they so desperately need, and Zito would instantly become the cornerstone of one of the youngest and potentially most successful pitching staffs in the National League.

Yet there just may be a possible way to acquire Zito without dealing Floyd.

It is known that the Athletics were interested in David Bell two years ago, before the Phillies signed him in 2003. It is also widely known that Oakland prefers to trade star players before they reach the max numbers on their contract, and that could soon be the fate of Eric Chavez. Chavez' contract is set to escalate from $8 million this season to $9 million in 2006 and 2007 before ballooning to $11 million in 2008 and beyond. It is unlikely that the A's will continue to pay those kind of numbers, and the Phillies are one of the few teams with such a budget and the willingness to pay for a player of Chavez' quality.

It is possible to foresee a deal involving the Phillies sending Howard, Bell and Vicente Padilla to Oakland for Chavez and Zito. This deal would work out for both clubs, because the A's would be getting the young, power hitting first baseman they have lacked since Jason Giambi signed with the Yankees two seasons ago, and they would gain Bell and Padilla in exchange for Zito who is close to becoming too expensive for the A's to keep.

Since Billy Beane has already categorically denied having any interest or willingness to deal Zito, Wade must decide to pony up with a serious offer involving key prospects to send in exchange for a pitcher of Zito's quality. The other option is to look elsewhere because this lineup simply isn't getting any younger or more talented and this may very well be the one shot Philadelphia has to clinch a postseason berth for the foreseeable future. A dream that without a top notch starter, will quickly go up in smoke just as in previous seasons.

Now, if Zito truly is not made available, there are still several starters out there who the Phils must make a run at acquiring. Jamey Moyer and Jason Schmidt are once again on the trading block. Wade has passed on these players in the past, but must show interest this time around.

Schmidt would be a nice fit for the Phillies and would likely welcome the chance to play for a contending team, as the Giants are fading further out from the NL West lead with each day that Barry Bonds doesn't return to the team. Schmidt is currently 4-3 with an ERA north of five. Perhaps a change of setting would be just what the doctor ordered for Schmidt. Wade would probably have to part ways with Gavin Floyd and another player to acquire Schmidt, but in the long term would come away with the better end of the deal.

Moyer would undoubtedly be the cheapest of starters available on the market. Howard would make an excellent addition to the Mariners inconsistent lineup and would infuse a power force for Seattle from the designated hitter's spot. Moyer is aging at this point, but he still would be a competent addition to the Phillies rotation and would be the ace for the next two seasons at the very least. Howard likely isn't going to wear a Phillies uniform again in his career despite Jim Thome's progressive decline in his production, so it is imperative that he be moved now, while his value is high to acquire a stud starting pitcher.

While Wade has made one solid move this season, if he thinks he can rest on his laurels and still have a job by season's end, then he is simply kidding himself. This team is in dire need of pitching help and Wade must finally pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade to help the immediate future of his ballclub. This team has shown flashes of becoming a great team and playing baseball this October, but without help to this rotation, then it is simply destined for the same futile fate that has befallen this franchise for the past 12 years.

For once, Wad has the opportunity to create a positive situation for his ballclub which seems ripe for success. Only time will tell what the view will be like in the weeks and months ahead from Ed Wade's luxury box office after he answers the proverbial call for arms.

I appreciate any and all feedback. Feel free to send comments to MDLombardo@yahoo.com.

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