What's going on with the Phillies?
After a rough start to the second half of the season, Philadelphia just took two of three games from the Diamondbacks to move within four games of the Mets for fourth place in the National League East. If the Phils aren't in a position to sell at the trade deadline now, they never will be. The failure of general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. to obtain some young assets in exchange for useful veteran parts would only delay what appears to be an inevitable rebuilding process in the City of Brotherly Love.
With the Mets also looking to make some moves before July 31, there's a decent chance that the players who start this series won't be the ones who finish it.
One player who the Phillies would love to send packing is 2006 NL MVP Ryan Howard. The former star has struggled mightily this season and has made it clear that he's not happy being benched against lefties. Philadelphia would likely need to include a lot of money in any deal, as Howard still has about $70 million and three years left on his disaster of a contract.
Cole Hamels is another player involved in Phillies trade rumors. Unlike Howard, Hamels is an asset that other teams would have to give up serious talent for, but the asking price may be too high. Since he's signed though 2018, Hamels stands a chance of being involved on the next great Phillies team, and if you throw in his popularity with fans, the 30-year-old may be more valuable to Philly than anyone else.
A.J. Burnett is a much more likely pitcher to be traded, particularly because he helped the Pirates reach the postseason in 2013. However, the 2015 player option that the Phillies used to reel in Burnett this winter could prove to be a deal-breaker.
Who are these guys?
Grady Sizemore was one of the most fun baseball stories at the start of the season due to his apparent return to greatness in spring training with the Red Sox. Every so often those happy spring training stories turn into happy regular season stories, but that was not the case this time. Sizemore cooled off once the games started counting, and was released by Boston in mid-June. The Phillies picked him up shortly after, and now he's a starter due to the total ineffectiveness of Domonic Brown. Sizemore is hitting .319/.360/.404 with his new club, so he should stick around at least a little while longer.
Andres Blanco is finally back in the majors after two straight seasons with Philly's Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley. He hasn't recorded a wRC+ above 100 at any level since 2009 with the Pacific Coast League's Iowa Cubs, but Blanco does have value on defense. He can play second or third base as well as shortstop and even outfield, so don't be surprised if he sneaks into a game or two this week.
Who's on the mound?
Monday: A.J. Burnett vs. Bartolo Colon
The eight shutout innings that Burnett pitched against the Giants last week made for a great trade deadline audition for the veteran right-hander, especially with San Francisco in need of a starting pitcher. Although the Giants recently opted to deal for Boston's Jake Peavy, Burnett is still a solid candidate to get moved to Pittsburgh. It certainly doesn't hurt that Burnett was well-liked by the Pirates last season or that Edinson Volquez has recently crashed back down to Earth. In his one start against the Mets this year, Burnett struck out a season-high 11 batters, but New York still scored five runs off of him in seven innings.
Just when it looked like Colon had sunk his trade value with four runs allowed in San Diego, he came out and pitched six perfect innings against the Mariners. Seattle just so happens to be one of the teams in need of Colon's services, so perhaps Sandy Alderson can piece together a deal over the next few days. A quality start against the Phillies wouldn't hurt matters, and the 41-year-old already has one quality start against Philadelphia this season.
Tuesday: Cole Hamels vs. Dillon Gee
If there is anyone who can be considered the opposite of a Met-killer, Cole Hamels is that guy. The wonderful lefty starter just never seems to pitch well against New York. In fact, the six runs he allowed to the Mets on April 29 are the most he's allowed in any start this season. Lately, though, the results for Hamels have been much better. In his last two starts, against Atlanta and San Francisco, he has 19 strikeouts, one walk, and just two runs allowed.
Gee appears to be constantly on the fence between being an important part of the Mets' future and a casualty of the team's young pitching depth. Lately, the latter has seemed like a more realistic possibility for the right-hander. In Gee's last two starts, he's been hit hard by the Padres and Brewers despite a solid 14 strikeouts and two walks. Before suffering a lat injury in May, Gee was one of New York's most valuable starters, but with Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom smoothing out their rough edges, he's starting to seem more expendable.
Wednesday: Kyle Kendrick vs. Zack Wheeler
With eight runs scored in 11.1 innings against him in 2014, Kendrick is another Phillies pitcher who the Mets aren't exactly afraid of. The 29-year-old right-hander is someone who has been described as an average pitcher in this space before, but lately he's been somewhat worse. In each of Kendrick's last four starts, he's failed to finish the sixth inning and has thrown fewer than 100 pitches.
It seems that every time I'm about to go all-in on Wheeler, he has a disappointing outing. With that said, I probably shouldn't mention how awesome he was on Friday night against the Brewers in the tough pitcher's environment of Miller Park. With five straight starts of at least six innings pitched and exactly one earned run allowed, Wheeler looks to be turning into the consistent presence that the Mets need him to be. A flop on Wednesday when the Mets need to beat up on the ailing Phils would be an unwelcome surprise.
Prediction: Need a sweep? Why not the Phillies?
What about some highlights?
When the Mets visited Philadelphia at the end of May, the Phillie Phanatic was up to his usual tricks.
Fortunately, so was Matt den Dekker.
If the front office trades Colon this week, the Mets will have to find some other way to amuse themselves every fifth day.
Remember to head over to FanDuel to compete in a fun, daily fantasy league.