Best deal for Phillies may not be big one

As expected, nothing that happened at Citizens Bank Park during Tuesday night's National League Championship Series rematch between the Phillies and San Francisco Giants offered any insight into what might happen if the teams meet again this October.

When Giants starter Tim Lincecum was scratched because of flulike symptoms and replaced by the sacrificial arm of Barry Zito, this humid affair was guaranteed to be something considerably less than a playoff preview.

To the Phillies' credit, they took advantage of the pitching change and pounded Zito for four runs in the first and single runs in the fourth and sixth on their way to a 7-2 victory that included another in a series of pitching gems from rookie righthander Vance Worley.

The fact that a trio of lefthanded hitters - Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez - did the majority of damage off the lefty Zito probably did nothing to change manager Charlie Manuel's trade-deadline wish list, which starts with a righthanded bat he can insert into the middle of his batting order, especially on those nights when the Phillies face a tough lefty.

Zito, despite owning a Cy Young Award, no longer qualifies for that distinction, although his $18.5 million salary does make him the most overpaid pitcher in baseball.

John Mayberry Jr., inserted into the starting lineup in place of Domonic Brown after Zito replaced Lincecum, continued to make his case for being the righthanded bat that Manuel wants by hitting a fourth-inning home run and a seventh-inning double. He has 14 RBIs in July. He had 26 RBIs for his career coming into the month.

Don't think that has changed Manuel's wish list, either.

"I look at Mayberry and I think he's coming into being a pretty good player and he can do some things," Manuel said. "But at the same time, we could still use some righthanded bats."

Mayberry, of course, would be the cheapest option and you could make a case that he would also be the best one.

Perhaps more than anything, the Giants' return to Citizens Bank Park for the first time since they held a champagne celebration in the visiting clubhouse in October offered a reminder that the blockbuster deals at the trade deadline are not always the ones that make a difference.

A year ago at about this time, the Giants were in second place in the National League West, well within striking distance of the San Diego Padres. The rumor mill had them in pursuit of Toronto's Jose Bautista and Washington's Adam Dunn. They got neither.

Instead, the Giants settled for the bullpen additions of Ramon Ramirez and Javier Lopez, and the duo combined for a 0.98 ERA in 52 games during the final two months of the regular season. Lopez, a lefthanded specialist, also played a big part for the Giants in the postseason.

Neither of those deals shook the baseball world when they were made, but you have to wonder if the Giants would have won the World Series without them.

Like Manuel, Giants manager Bruce Bochy is not opposed to making a trade before Sunday's deadline, but he knows that a big deal is not always the best one.

"If it's the right deal, sure, it can make a difference," Bochy said.

The moves that pushed the Giants to their first World Series title since the team moved to San Francisco had little to do with the trade deadline.

San Francisco did some addition by subtraction in early July when catcher Bengie Molina was traded to Texas, opening the door for catcher Buster Posey to become National League rookie of the year and World Series champion all in the same season. Without Posey, the Giants do not win the World Series.

The Giants did not plan at the beginning of the season to replace centerfielder Aaron Rowand and his huge contract with Andres Torres and his modest contract. It just happened and Torres became the leadoff catalyst the Giants were looking for, especially during the NLCS against the Phillies and the World Series against Texas.

And, finally, the Giants were able to claim outfielder Cody Ross from the Florida Marlins in late August. Bochy admits that move was more serendipitous than genius.

"We didn't quite see Cody Ross making a difference for us in the postseason, but he did," Bochy said. "It all depends on the player you get and how he fits in."

Ross was a fit and he gave the Phillies fits last October on his way to the NLCS MVP award.

The belief here remains that the Phillies will make some sort of addition between now and Sunday. It could be for bullpen help. It could be for a bat. It may not seem as significant as Cliff Lee two years ago or Roy Oswalt last season.

It's entirely possible, and perhaps even probable, that the players here now are the ones who will be responsible for whatever result lies ahead in October.

 


Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at bbrookover@phillynews.com or @brookob on Twitter.