Ladbrokes has the Philadelphia Phillies at 33-1 odds to win the 2014 World Series.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Those are the same odds as the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox. Those odds put the Phillies well behind the following teams, all 25-1: Toronto Blue Jays, Pittsburgh Pirates, San Francisco Giants and Baltimore Orioles. Only the Pirates even made the 2013 Major League Baseball playoffs from that group.
Even more disconcerting is the wood the Phillies apparently need to chop within the National League East. The Washington Nationals are the second choice in the whole field at 9-1 (behind the Los Angeles Dodgers). The Atlanta Braves are 16-1.
Since the Phillies will not take the field until March 31, 2014 in Arlington, Texas, the only way they can improve their odds now is in free agency.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, the free-agent market looks like the sale racks at the mall on Christmas Eve. Even if they have what you are looking for, they probably do not have it in your size or at your price.
Nelson Cruz is still out there, primarily because his contract demands appear to ignore his recent 50-game suspension for violating MLB's substance-abuse policy. Cruz wants to be paid as if every number he posted for the past few seasons is untainted and repeatable. But there is taint, and there is doubt.
After Cruz, the pickings are even thinner. Do Kendrys Morales or Nate McLouth excite you? Probably not. Barring some unforeseen trade, the Phillies are probably all set in the everyday eight.
That may be all right, as long as the Phillies do the smart thing and land one of the free-agent starting pitchers still looking for work.
CBSSports.com's free-agent list ranks them in this order: Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, A.J. Burnett and Bronson Arroyo. Yes, Masahiro Tanaka is ahead of all those guys. But the Phillies are not about to pay Tanaka's posting fee plus whatever his contract will eventually call for.
Because the Phillies have committed to winning in 2014 despite all evidence pointing to a needed rebuild, they really have to fire one more bullet and land another above-average starting pitcher.
Any rotation headed by Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee is going to be competitive. But backing them up with Kyle Kendrick and a string of unknowns won the Phillies 73 games in 2013.
Specific to the Phillies, an added bonus to the starters still available in free agency is that they are all right-handed. Adding a Santana or a Garza to the rotation would enable the Phillies to slot the new man in between southpaws Hamels and Lee.
It is not my money, nor is it yours.
So let the Phillies dip into the piggy bank for one more starting pitcher to deepen the rotation and, just maybe, enhance those World Series odds in the process.
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