5:22PM: Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke with MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and other reporters today, reiterating that the team will “be aggressive” in its pursuit of roster help, and the Phillies are “kind of open to anything” in regards to adding pieces to the roster.
Unless “we got crushed seven games in a row, and the Mets won seven games in a row” before Friday’s trade deadline, Dombrowski said that the Phillies are planning to be buyers. “The one thing I can safely say is we’re not in a position where we’re looking to move players,” the PBO said. “That is not where we are. We’re looking to add players to our club, if we can.”
Dombrowski declined to publicly comment on whether or not Phillies ownership was willing to let the team cross the $210MM luxury tax threshold, only saying that “ownership here is very supportive of trying to win.” In terms of trades, Dombrowski didn’t rule out the addition of rental players, but “would not anticipate” that the Phillies would move top prospects for such short-term upgrades.
8:52AM: Though the Phillies are sporting a -12 run differential on the year, they may represent the most viable threat to the Mets division lead in the National League East. The Nationals are 3-7 in their last ten, now seven games behind the Mets, and the cavalry may not be coming. The Braves know they’ll be without their biggest star, and despite having the best run differential in the division right now at +26, it’s hard to consider Atlanta as a viable threat without Ronald Acuna Jr. The Marlins are 41-57, 12 games out, and they’re in full-on sell mode.
That leaves the Phillies. Though they’re exactly .500 at 48-48, that leaves them right where they’ve been for most of the Bryce Harper era. This team didn’t re-sign J.T. Realmuto and hire Dave Dombrowski to run the front office just to stand pat, however. Not only are rival executives expecting the Phillies to be aggressive this trade deadline, but they think the Phillies will be willing to exceed the luxury tax, if that’s what it takes to find the right upgrades, per Jon Heyman of the MLB Network (via Twitter).
As for what the Phillies might be pursuing, there are plenty of avenues to improve the roster. Heyman suggests they could use a starter, multiple relievers and a centerfielder. Alec Bohm has not been good at third base (-0.1 fWAR), but they’re not close to moving on from the 25-year-old former top prospect.
The bullpen’s shortcomings have been thoroughly noted, and it now seems a near certainty that they’ll add at least one bullpen arm. The question is whether they’ll shell out for a premium arm like the Cubs’ Craig Kimbrel, or if they’ll target cheaper options like the Pirates’ Richard Rodriguez or Ian Kennedy of the Rangers.
They could aim even lower and shop in the non-premium section of opposing bullpens where there are plenty of viable options for the right price: the Cubs’ Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin, the Twins’ Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Duffey, or Anthony Bass, Dylan Floro, and Yimi Garcia of the Marlins are a few names worth checking in on.That said, if there’s any team that might look for a fire-tested closer to take the reins, Philly would be it.
In center, Starling Marte would be the obvious target, though it’s unclear how willing the Marlins are to move him within the division — nor is it clear if the Phillies have what Miami GM Kim Ng desires in a return package. For starters, the Marlins are seeking a long-term replacement for Marte in center, per Craig Mish of the Swings and Mishes podcast. That’s going to slow trade discussions, as most teams will balk at moving a younger, cheaper option in center, especially if the Marlins are prioritizing near ML-ready prospects.
The Phillies do have some centerfield prospects they could dangle, such as Simon Muzziotti, their 10th-ranked prospect by Fangraphs, Mickey Moniak, their 8th-ranked prospect, or Johan Rojas, their 4th-ranked prospect. Of the three, Muzziotti probably comes closest to starting the conversation for Marte.
None of the three are blue-chippers, however, and only Moniak has advanced beyond High-A. Moniak, of course, was the former No. 1 overall draft pick,but he’s fallen down prospect charts since his selection in the 2016 draft. Baseball America calls him “a fourth or fifth outfielder,” and he wouldn’t likely be viewed as a centerpiece in a Marte deal.
Without a ton of options on the market, Philly might need to stick with their in-house options. Odubel Herrera has returned to action after missing all of 2020, but he’s rocking just an 86 wRC+. Travis Jankowski’s been a revelation through 68 plate appearances, though the 30-year-old was a 76 wRC+ hitter through 994 plate appearances prior to this season. The fact remains that outside of Marte, there aren’t a ton of available centerfielders on the market.
The Phillies might have an easier time upgrading their pitching staff, especially given the low bar. Beyond the bullpen, Philadelphia needs more for the rotation, though Dombrowski hasn’t exactly succeeded in that regard thus far, writes Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Offseason additions Matt Moore and Chase Anderson have posted -0.1 fWAR apiece while earning a combined $7MM.
Philly starters have a 4.21 ERA, which ranks 21st in the Majors overall, though they’re 12th by the measure of a 3.97 combined FIP. They rank 10th overall in innings pitched. Still, they could conceivably find upgrades for 60 percent of the rotation, given the uncertain track records of Vince Velasquez and rookie Spencer Howard. It’s unlikely they’ll find three starters, but it’s also hard to reason Dombrowski coming away from the trade deadline without any new arms in the rotation.
Cole Hamels has been a popular name of late, and it would certainly be fun to see the 37-year-old back in a Phillies uniform. He also comes with the added benefit of not costing prospects. Hamels alone won’t be enough, but there’s not much risk in seeing if he can upgrade Moore’s spot in the rotation.