This was a sentence written about 125 weeks ago:
One of the more intriguing subplots of the final two months: Can the Phillies become one of the great teams in National League history?
The rest of the article from David Schoenfield is a thoughtful comparison of the 2011 Phillies with the Big Red Machine and the '98 Braves. Again, this was 2011. If you were old then, you're still old. If you were young, you're still young. That just happened. Earwigs born before the Phillies' 100th win are still alive.
And now we're here, and "here" is defined as a place where we're pretty used to the Phillies losing. The expensive players got old, and the old players got worse. Someone suggested to Ruben Amaro, Jr. that the Phillies should get younger, and he kind of did that before 2013, getting Michael and Delmon. Ruben is such a literalist. It didn't work out, and they were even worse.
The future has looked brighter for the Phillies.
They do have one young player of note: Domonic Brown. He was an All-Star this year, clubbing 23 homers in the first half alone. Don't look at the second-half numbers for the purposes of this narrative. Focus on those dingers, those sweet, sweet, first-half dingers. Now considering that Brown is the only player under 30 on the Phillies who will be worth a damn next year, this came as something of a surprise.
This was the first I've heard of Howard Eskin, a Philadelphia radio personality. Seems like he takes a lot of pride in his picks and predictions, too, so you know he's not messing around. He's had big scoops before, so people took this one seriously.
As you would expect, Twitter caught on fire. Phillies fans were outraged at the homegrown youth going away for aging short-term talent. Blue Jays fans were outraged at the productive fan favorite on a team-friendly deal getting traded for a poor defender with exactly one good half of Major League Baseball in his career.
It was fun to watch! It was a rumor with a hook because it's totally something Amaro would do. And the Phillies just signed Marlon Byrd, a win-now player who just happens to play the same position as Brown. It all fit.
Suddenly, you had a vision of what Amaro was trying to do. It was a Hollywood trope: one last score. Get the crack squad of famous go-getters together and rob the Louvre, or something. With the premier slugger in the American League (two years ago) and the premier slugger in the National League (five years ago) on the same team, it would be hard for the Phillies to find a way to screw this up (except for all the ways).
Let's take a look, then. Let's look at the Phillies' roster and see if there's any way to make it the kind of win-now team that should be interested in Bautista. The current roster:
Ben Revere - CF
Jimmy Rollins - SS
Chase Utley - 2B
Ryan Howard - 1B
Domonic Brown - LF
Marlon Byrd - RF
Cody Asche - 3B
Erik Kratz - C
Let's look at a couple of things that should probably happen if the Phillies want to compete:
1. At least two of the older ex-stars -- Rollins/Utley/Howard -- have to be productive. Maybe not their old selves, but productive
2. an upgrade at either third, catcher, or both
3. Cuban free agent Miguel Gonzalez being as good as hoped
4. maybe one more starting pitcher
You can mix and match as you see fit. The Phillies start with two of the better pitchers in baseball. That's eight percent of the roster down, and it's already fantastic. But, really, everything revolves around that first point. Rollins/Utley/Howard. Is there a chance they'll stay healthy? Is there a chance they'll be productive? The odds are pretty low.
But not as low as the odds the Phillies will build a competitive team around Domonic Brown before he's a free agent.
Call me a dreamer. Call me an optimist. Call me someone who has seen well over a half-hour of The Expendables. But I can almost see the logic. The Phillies have some players with a chance to be good next year. Maybe not much of a chance. But a chance.
I wouldn't trade Brown for that chance unless it brought back someone substantially better. Bautista qualifies for me, though that's certainly debatable. Even without the Bautista/Brown trade, the Phillies should work on short-term signings, nabbing players like Josh Johnson and A.J. Pierzynski just in case they're able to wring a little superstar juice out of the former All-Stars and MVPs.
If the win-now junk doesn't work, well, then, man, I guess the Phillies are screwed. That'll sure take a while to get used to.
Trading Brown for Bautista wouldn't be the exact way I'd go about reinforcing the Phillies, but I wouldn't laugh at the idea of one last score for the Phillies. Especially since the guy putting it together is going to get canned whether he fails prudently or fails spectacularly. Might as well blow things up and watch the world burn.
And if it's crazy enough to work, Ruben Amaro, Jr. will look like a genius. I can almost see through the madness. I can almost see through it. It's really not as mad as you think.