After a rough start to their season, the Phillies have bounced back recently and now sit just 2 1/2 games outside the playoffs in the National League. As the August 2 trade deadline approaches, the club will be looking to bolster its relief corps, according to Jon Heyman of the New York Post.
That’s not exactly shocking, as the club has been dealing with bullpen issues for years. This season, their relievers have a collective ERA of 4.23, which places them 20th in the majors. Advanced metrics are a bit kinder, with the Phils limboing just under 4.00 when it comes to FIP and SIERA. Still, even competitors with solid bullpens will usually make midseason additions, and it seems the Phillies will not be an exception.
The club’s bullpen has already gotten a big boost from within, as Seranthony Dominguez has looked excellent in his return from Tommy John surgery. Through 26 2/3 innings this year, he has a 1.69 ERA, 34.7% strikeout rate, 6.9% walk rate and 48.3% ground ball rate. He’s already logged a save and ten holds on the year. He spoke to Alex Coffey of The Philadelphia Inquirer about his recovery time and how he spent much of it studying games, both Philly games and others. “When I watched these games, I would try to imagine myself there,” he says. “Thinking about what I would do to beat the opposing team.” That research seems to be paying off, based on how his season is going so far. As for his role, he says he’d like to be the closer, if he were given the opportunity. “It’s a very important job. I’m ready to do whatever I’m asked to do to help.” The team leader in saves is Corey Knebel with 11, though his recent struggles got him bumped from the job, creating an opening for Dominguez.
Turning to the lineup, Coffey relays that Bryce Harper will have his elbow re-evaluated next week. Harper received a PRP injection in May due to a small tear in his UCL. After missing a few games due to that injection, Harper has been able to hit but not throw, relegating him to DH duty. He’s been his same tremendous self with the bat, hitting .320/.385/.602 for a wRC+ 166 on the season, though it’s forced the club to use Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos in the field much more frequently than they would have envisioned a few months ago. The club was expected to be weak defensively, but the Harper injury only exacerbated the issue. The club’s Defensive Runs Saved for the year is -25, ahead of only the Nationals. If Harper can get back to the field, that will surely help them make improvements there.
Despite those issues, the club is hovering around the playoff race and could be buyers at the deadline. They doesn’t have a strong crop of prospects to trade from, however, with Baseball America recently ranking the system 23rd among MLB teams. Matt Gelb of The Athletic suggests that one logical solution would be to consider trading catching prospect Logan O’Hoppe. With J.T. Realmuto ensconced as the club’s backstop through 2025 and many DH types also on hand, it will be challenging for O’Hoppe to force his way into the lineup in the coming seasons. The young catcher has spent the entire season in Double-A to this point, but is making a strong case for a promotion to Triple-A. Through 59 games, he’s hitting .273/.381/.531 for an incredible 151 wRC+.
Though it would surely hurt to part with such a talented prospect, the Phillies might have to decide to pull such a lever in the coming months. They spent aggressively this offseason, crossing the luxury tax threshold for the first time in an attempt to break a postseason drought that’s gone on since 2011. If they can continue to weather their bullpen and defense issues and stay afloat in the race, a bold move might be required to push them through the final months.