The Philadelphia Phillies head to Cincinnati to take on the Reds on Monday night (7 ET on ESPN and WatchESPN.com). Cliff Lee will be facing Bronson Arroyo, and we asked our experts to break down these two clubs that are both off to somewhat disappointing starts.
1. Joey Votto homered Sunday for the first time since last June. That's a problem, right?
Eric Karabell (@karabellespn), ESPN Fantasy: It's a problem if you think he's a 30-homer guy. He's reached that mark once, incidentally. Votto gets on base, but isn't driving the ball, leading to speculation his balky knees are an issue. Even Votto admitted recently his swing is off. Still, if he hits 15 homers with a .450 OBP, the Reds will take it.
Chad Dotson (@dotsonc), Redleg Nation: It's a big problem if the power drought continues, but it's not time to panic just yet. Votto did have four homers in spring training, and his 2013 numbers (.289/.542/.447, three extra-base hits) are somewhat similar to his numbers after 12 games last year (.293/.434/.439, four extra-base hits).
Matt Meyers (@mtmeyers), ESPN.com: Votto is still an excellent player even if he isn't homering because of his OBP, but yes, this is a concern. His $225 million extension doesn't begin until next season, and you don't pay that kind of money for a first baseman who doesn't hit for power.
2. Could you see Lee getting traded this summer?
Karabell: The Phillies aren't parting with Lee. Roy Halladay will be gone this winter, so it will be down to Lee and Cole Hamels in Philly, unless they want to really rebuild, which seems doubtful. As average as the Phillies appear, they probably think they can contend through September, and they'll be buyers at the deadline.
Dotson: Three reasons it seems unlikely: (1) Given Halladay's struggles, Lee is more important than ever; (2) the Phils reportedly turned down Justin Upton and Jacoby Ellsbury for Lee in the offseason; and (3) Lee makes $25 million per season through 2015, and can block trades to all but eight clubs. The stars would have to align correctly for a trade to happen.
Meyers: The Phillies seem intent on trying to squeeze out one more run from this aging core, so I have a hard time seeing them shop Lee. However, they'd be smart to try to move him if they can get some young talent. (And assuming his no-trade clauses can be worked around.) If they trade Lee and let Halladay walk next winter (he has a vesting option that is unlikely to vest), they'd suddenly have a lot more flexibility to rebuild.
3. An overlooked storyline from one of these clubs is ____________
Karabell: These respected managers should rent, not buy. Dusty Baker has earned one pennant in 20 years of managing. These Reds are talented, but if they're sputtering in August, perhaps a new voice is needed. In Philly, this is likely it for Charlie Manuel, with Ryne Sandberg lurking. If either team is below .500 in August, changes could be warranted then.
Dotson: Can any storyline involving Aroldis Chapman get too little attention? Dusty Baker's handling of the lefty is baffling. Chapman pitched on Sunday for the first time in a week, and he didn't come in until after the Reds had blown a 5-0 lead to the Pirates. In that span in which Chapman didn't pitch, young J.J. Hoover had thrown 62 pitches over three appearances, in mostly high-leverage spots. Bizarre way to handle the most electric arm on the staff.
Meyers: It was more noticeable last year when he was batting first or second, but Zack Cozart is still a big drag on the Reds' offense. He's hitting .175 and has drawn one walk all season. He's a solid fielder with good baseball instincts, but you can't be playing a hitter who is that punchless if you want to win a World Series.