The Phillies remain interested in adding a right-handed hitter with the trade deadline approaching, writes Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Ideally, that acquisition would be a corner outfielder, though that’s contingent on Bryce Harper.
The Phils plugged Harper in at first base for tonight’s game in Cleveland. It’s the two-time MVP’s first defensive action of the season. He had been limited to 62 games as a designated hitter after last November’s Tommy John surgery.
Hitting puts far less stress on the UCL in Harper’s right elbow than throwing does. The Phils gave him two months of bat-only work as a result. They’re still not ready to plug him back into right field and it’s unclear if he’ll be able to man the outfield grass at any point in 2023.
Even if he can’t play right field, demonstrating an ability to consistently play first base over the next week and a half would be a major boost for the front office. With Harper at DH, the Phils have had to use Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber as their corner outfield pairing. Even with an excellent defensive center field combination of Brandon Marsh and Johan Rojas (or Cristian Pache when healthy), that’s a suboptimal defensive alignment.
Schwarber’s -18 Defensive Runs Saved ranks last among all major league outfielders. The Phils would certainly prefer to keep him at DH, where he’s in the lineup tonight.
Assuming they’re comfortable with Harper’s form over the coming days, Philadelphia could look for right-handed hitting outfield help. Tommy Pham and Mark Canha have been the subject of trade chatter with the Mets scuffling. There could be some complications in pulling off an intra-division swap, though the Mets are only in position to consider moving Pham and Canha because they’re long shots to make the playoffs in 2023 regardless.
Randal Grichuk could move as an impending free agent on a last place Colorado team; as MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently explored, Grichuk is having a decent season against left-handed pitching and would be a much better defender than Schwarber. The Mariners’ middling year might lead them to consider offers on Teoscar Hernández, though he’s another bat-first player with limited defensive utility. Oakland’s Ramón Laureano is still hitting for some power against lefties amidst a dismal season overall; he has been on the injured list for a month but seems likely to be back before the August 1 deadline since he’s on a rehab stint.
Philadelphia certainly isn’t without right-handed hitters who can do damage. Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Castellanos and Alec Bohm all hit from that side of the plate. Nevertheless, the Phils have been a slightly below-average lineup against lefty pitching. Entering play Friday, they raked 16th with a .253 average against southpaws. They’re 25th with a .306 on-base percentage and ninth in slugging at .434. That overall offensive output, as measured by wRC+, ranks 18th.