Headlines from various media outlets and reports about the Phillies prospects for trades. (Billy Penn collage)

The baseball season can be easily broken down month by month, as each part of the calendar has its own feel: April is all about rebirth and starting anew; May is about setting the vibe; June is about establishing your presence in the playoff picture. 

July is about C H A O S.

And why not? Why shouldn’t the Phillies gut themselves to acquire Ohtani, baseball’s biggest star, for 8 to 12 weeks? Besides all of the reasons, I mean.

In July, the summer is getting sweatier, the games are getting more meaningful, and then for a couple days in the middle, baseball just disappears. When it returns, we’re two weeks from the trade deadline, and rumors are whizzing past your head like a swarm of unkilled lanternflies. 

Fans may have noticed their laptop was searingly hot to the touch and started screaming names the second it opened: Juan Soto! Nolan Arenado! Shohei Ohtani! All have been “linked” to the Phillies. 

That does not mean “being imminently traded.” It doesn’t even mean a trade has been discussed. It just means a player’s name and a team’s name have been mentioned in the same sentence, possibly by someone completely detached from both parties. The phrase “linked to” is the biggest, most ambiguous tool in the baseball writer’s toolkit — especially in the month of July. All you need is a breath of a rumor and you can turn it into headline news. 

And then, that headline is packaged and fed to the masses, who shriek and slobber about it until it doesn’t happen. Some teams get who they want, some rumors turn out to be true, a lot of teams miss out on the action. Baseball fans wake up in August with the mental state and tattered garments of a werewolf reawakening in human form: My god…what have we done?

There was a time when July was almost a game: First, a thought, inkling, or rumor about a roster move would come out and be instantly believed, debated, and celebrated…until it was revealed that the “l” at the end of a Fake Ken Rosenthal account was actually a capital “I” and he for some reason only had 17 followers, nine of which were pornbots. 

If only there were some sort of system on social media that would, oh, what’s the word…verify the identity of a user so that fans would know a baseball analyst they were retweeting was truly who they claimed to be. But those days are gone, too. 

This is not to say that this time of year shouldn’t be enjoyed. Just the opposite. From 2008 to 2011, the Phillies doing something at the trade deadline was reason to rejoice, as they added big names like Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Hunter Pence. In 2015, Ryne Sandberg quit at the deadline without telling anyone. In July 1983, there wasn’t yet an official trade deadline, but the Phils still acquired Larry Andersen from the Mariners for cash. 

Lean into the crazy and you’ll be able to get more out of it: 

Blast air horns and yell about a dream you had about the Phillies acquiring Corbin Burnes. 

Set up a folding chair at an intersection and explain to drivers your plan for trading the entire outfield for Manny Machado. 

Start an account on Bluesky dedicated exclusively to seducing Josh Hader. 

As teams look to make their second-half pushes, anything’s on the table. 

There’s always at least one big deal that goes down and typically a flurry of other, medium-sized ones. With the Phillies having re-entered the playoff picture after 2022, and with Dave Dombrowski’s contacts and resources, they could very well be the team that makes something big happen. They could also sit patiently and make a series of small, effective deals. But for now, we’re two weeks away from midnight on July 31. Until then, the circus is in town.

Justin Klugh has been a Phillies fan since Mariano Duncan's Mother's Day grand slam. He is a columnist and features writer for Baseball Prospectus, and has written for The Inquirer, Baltimore Magazine,...