When the Nationals were jogging off after batting practice before last Thursday night's game, their outstanding southpaw, Gio Gonzalez, couldn't help but ask a question, which is on the mind of most Phillies fans.
"Who are the Phillies going to trade," Gonzalez asked Metro. "Are they going to trade Cliff Lee?"
Gonzalez is concerned about the Phillies. He hopes they deal Lee and closer Jonathan Papelbon. The Phillies are right behind the Nationals in third place in a weak NL East after taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox this past weekend, including a 4-3 win Sunday in extra innings.
"I wouldn't write the Phillies off," Jayson Werth said. "They're a tough team. They know how to win. They've been there before. They've had a lot of injuries to deal with and they're still in it."
The Phillies' hottest hitter, Ben Revere, broke his foot Saturday. Ryan Howard is on the shelf after a torn meniscus. Roy Halladay pitched hurt and is recovering from shoulder surgery. The best free agent set-up man, Mike Adams, is out for the season. That's on top of missing Carlos Ruiz and Chase Utley for many games this season.
"They've been through a lot," Gonzalez said. "So I wonder what the Phillies will do in terms of trades. It's going to be very interesting."
Much will be revealed after the Phillies hit the road for some tough series against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers. The Mets will start their two terrific young pitchers Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler. The Tigers and Cardinals each have two of the best starting staffs in baseball and some big hitting.
If the Phillies don't fare well in those series, that will make it easy for Ruben Amaro to explore deals for Jonathan Papelbon, Michael Young and others. The Phillies are about to enter a fork in the road. By the time the San Francisco Giants come to town on July 30, the Phillies may have made a number of franchise-altering trades. That would be fitting since Hunter Pence, who was dealt July 29 to San Francisco, returns to town in orange and black. The non-waiver trade deadline is July 31.
"I'll definitely be watching to see what happens," Gonzalez said.
Who could the Phillies 'buy' at the deadline?
If the Phillies are buyers at the July 31 trade deadline, count on the addition of a reliever.
1. Jesse Crain was just in town with the wretched Chicago White Sox. The solid Crain is a luxury the Sox can't afford to keep.
2. Jon Axford can be had. "Axe Face Killah" won't cost as much as a closer. He has great stuff and the Brewers seem compelled to deal him. Another plus is that he's a great locker-room guy.
3. Greg Holland. The Royals appear to be ready to pull the plug on their season and their closer could be had since they have so many young arms ready to fill the void.