The first few trade pieces have fallen into place and the Phillies remain quiet as we approach the MLB Trade Deadline this Friday at 4 p.m. EST.
The first piece fell into place on July 15th when the Atlanta Braves acquired Joc Pederson from the Chicago Cubs. The Braves’ new right fielder has established himself in the Braves’ lineup, hitting two home runs and batting .270 over his nine games on the roster.
The next pair of moves came late last week as the Tampa Bay Rays traded for slugger Nelson Cruz from the Minnesota Twins. Then, a day after acquiring the seven-time All-Star, the Rays made a second trade, sending left-handed starting pitcher Rich Hill to the New York Mets. Among the return package for Hill was former-Phillies relief-pitcher Tommy Hunter.
Hill, who will supplement a beleaguered Mets’ rotation, made his debut on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays. In his first start, Hill allowed three runs over the course of five innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out one batter.
The most recent move came out of the West Coast as the San Diego Padres acquired Adam Frazier from the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Frazier, a second basemen with a history as a utility player, will likely find himself in the oufield for the Padres.
What About the Phillies Trade Deadline Plans?
With the Braves acquiring an extra bat and the Mets another pitcher, pressure is mounting on the Phillies to make a splash. The Phillies’ president of baseball operations, Dave Dombrowski, knows this quiet well. Over the weekend while speaking to reporters, Dombrowski went on the record stating that the Phillies are not going to sell at the deadline. Instead, they will look to bring in new additions to the club.
“I can say the likelihood is I know we’ll be aggressive in making it happen.”Dave Dombrowski (On the likelihood of bringing in new personnel to Philadelphia – per MLB.com)
Among his comments, Dombrowski also stated that he would be unwilling to trade top prospects such as Bryson Stott for a high-profile upcoming free agent. In other words, if the Phillies are going to trade for player such as Kris Bryant, they will need to either get additional players back or absorb Bryant’s contract to send a smaller prospect package back. However, given John Middleton’s hesitation to reach over the luxury tax threshold, the latter may prove difficult.
Overall, the Phillies have a need to improve both in the starting rotation and in the bullpen at the trade deadline. With Zach Eflin on the Injured List, the Phillies have been completely exposed for how little depth they have in the starting pitcher role. While Wheeler and Nola can be counted on, the reliability stops there. Spencer Howard is not Major League-ready, Vince Velasquez shouldn’t receive another start, and the Matt Moore and Chase Anderson signings have failed.
While Phillies fans would love to see Cole Hamels make a heroic return to Philadelphia, claiming the fourth rotation spot and leading a playoff charge, Hamels isn’t ready.
In his most recent workout, Hamels threw a bullpen session, 75 pitches in all. He has not seen live batters in-game all season and will need to work up to that level. Which could take another month. While Dombrowski has not ruled out bringing Hamels in, another move will be needed as well to fix the rotation.
And then there’s the bullpen.
Over the past two weeks, Ranger Suarez has recorded two saves while Archie Bradley and Connor Brogdon have bene the only reliable arms out of the ‘pen. If the Phillies can bring in a bona fide closer, this allows Suarez to switch back into a long relief role, something the Phillies desparately need.
Trade Deadline Rumor Mill
The main trade partner for the Phillies at this point appears to be the Chicago Cubs. Closer Craig Kimbrel would be saving grace in the Phillies’ bullpen, becoming the team’s first true closer since Jonathan Paplebon. That is, if Kimbrel is willing to forgive Phillies fans for… past transgressions.
In addition, Kris Bryant, friend to Bryce Harper, would be a great fit for the Phillies. He could potentially start in center field while subbing into the corner infield spots as necessary. The best scenario here would likely be a trade sending both Kimbrel and Bryant to Philadelphia in exchange for a package including Bryson Stott and Johan Rojas.
Kimbrel has a team option for 2022 worth $16 million while Bryant will enter free agency this offseason.
In addition, the Phillies have been connected to outfield Byron Buxton from the Twins. The Twins, having just traded away Nelson Cruz, are in sell-mode. Given that Buxton and the Twins also failed in locking down a contract extension, it could be time for the Phillies to make a move.
The Phillies are also one of the times reported as being active in the starting pitchers market ahead of the trade deadline. Among the reported targets for the Phillies are Tyler Anderson and Merrill Kelly. Additionally, Max Scherzer and Michael Pineda are on the trading block for the Nationals and Twins.
The Big Picture Ahead of the Trade Deadline
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The Phillies are currently sitting at .500 on the season. Despite all of the team’s struggles, they are only four games out of first place in the National League East. They possess the easiest schedule remaining on the season and are still in the mix. With two or three of the right moves, they will easily take the NL East crown, earning the team’s first postseason appearance since 2011.
Whether the Phillies make a big splash or not is yet to be seen, but one thing is for certain: this trade deadline will reveal if the Phillies also believe they can make a run.
Photo by John McCoy/Icon Sportswire