The Phillies are in a make-or-break moment. They currently sit in second place and keep fiddling with a .500 record. With Dave Dombrowski as the new president of baseball operations for the Phillies and his history of high-risk trades that gut farm systems, it was almost expected for him to make some gutsy trades to push the Phillies into playing over .500 ball and maybe even a postseason berth. Some even thought that Dombrowski would surpass the luxury tax threshold to achieve these goals.
The Phillies desperately need bullpen arms and a power bat. The Phillies ended up getting starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, relief pitcher Ian Kennedy, minor league starting pitcher prospect Hans Crouse, and cash from the Texas Rangers for starting pitcher Spencer Howard and two minor league pitching prospects. The Phillies also traded for shortstop/second baseman Freddy Galvis from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for another minor league pitcher, as Galvis makes his return to Philly to the joy of many fans.
On paper, it looks like the Phillies won the trade deadline by acquiring some quality pitching and a veteran utility bat, but I cannot help being disappointed in the front office at the deadline.
The Players Received
The front office’s one major goal at the deadline was to acquire more bullpen arms, and they accomplished part of that by trading for Rangers’ closer Ian Kennedy. The problem with Kennedy is his age and only recent success as a relief pitcher. Kennedy started his career as a starting pitcher and was fourth in Cy Young voting in 2011. Since then, he has had a rocky career up until 2019 when he notched 30 saves for the Royals and sported his highest ERA+ since 2011. Since that 2011 season, he has had an ERA+ over 100 only 4 times as his ERA sat between his career-best 2.51 (2021 season) and career-worst 9.00 (2020 season). It appears he has revitalized his career a bit as a reliever, but there are definitely some concerns.
Kennedy is definitely having an exceptional 2021 season as he has an ERA of 2.51, 16 saves out of 17 opportunities, an 180 ERA+, and a SO/W ratio of 5. The main issues lie with his age, as he will turn 37 in December, so longevity is definitely a concern. Kennedy also becomes a free agent after the end of the season, as he only signed a 1 year/$2.15 million contract with the Rangers. So if Kennedy pitches well for the rest of the season, then it may be difficult for the Phillies to resign him and if he performs poorly, he can walk away and the Phillies end up losing prospects trading for him. Last year, the Phillies made this same mistake when they traded Nick Pivetta to the Red Sox for Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman. Hembree and Workman were both serving one-year deals with the Red Sox when they were traded to the Phillies. Not only did Hembree and Workman actively make the Phillies bullpen worse, but the Phillies lost the trade because they traded away Pivetta and a prospect for two guys who ended up as free agents when the season ended. Maybe Ian Kennedy will prove to be a valuable asset to the Phillies bullpen, but I am very concerned for now. The Phillies front office also failed to get any more bullpen arms outside of Kennedy, which could prove problematic for the Phillies’ playoff chances.
The Phillies acquired Kyle Gibson to serve in the Phillies starting pitching rotation. Gibson is having the best season of his career at age 31. He sports his lowest ERA and highest ERA+ of his career at 2.87 and 156 respectively while also earning his first All-Star nod. Before this season, Gibson’s ERA fluctuated from 3.61 to 6.53 while having an ERA+ over 100 only twice. His 2021 season is definitely a solid one and hopefully, he will fit well into the Phillies rotation as a potential second or third starter behind the ace Wheeler as Nola continues his roller coaster of a season, Eflin continues to struggle, and Velasquez continues to prove that he struggles more than he succeeds. The major concerns with Gibson are the number of free passes he gives out. His BB/9 ratio is the 8th highest in the league at 3.27 while his K/BB ratio is the 6th lowest at 2.29. Gibson is definitely not a strikeout pitcher as he has not reached 100 strikeouts for the season, but the excessive walks are definitely an issue. Gibson is coming from a Rangers defense that sits top 10 in defensive runs saved (DRS) at 26 while the Phillies are dead last in DRS with -40. The walks combined with the Phillies’ abysmal defense could prove problematic for Gibson as those walks may turn into runs. Gibson is definitely a welcome addition to the Phillies starting pitching rotation and he has another season before becoming a free agent but the high amount of free passes is definitely a concern.
Hans Crouse at one point was the Rangers’ number one prospect. He is a young strikeout pitcher that at age 22 is playing AA ball. His SO/9 ratio is a high 9.5 but he also gives out too many free passes as his BB/9 ratio is a 3.4. He is definitely an exciting pitching prospect but it will be quite some time before he will be ready for the big leagues. He has only pitched 51 innings at the AA level and he definitely needs to work out his high walk rate. In other levels of minor league ball, he also had a high strikeout rate and a high walk rate. The Phillies notoriously have awful player development at the minor league level. In the last decade, they have often churned out mediocre to below-average talent minus for Aaron Nola, Rhys Hoskins, and Odubel Herrera (before his suspension).
Freddy Galvis is a fan favorite in Philly. He spent 7 seasons in a Phillies uniform where he would hit the occasional home run and play exceptional defense at 2B and SS.
It is definitely nice to see one of the pivotal players during the Phillies’ “dark days” return – but why the Phillies acquired him does not make sense. He is not a power bat and the Phillies have plenty of middle infielders. The Phillies’ main starters at 2B and SS are Jean Segura and Didi Gregorius respectively. Even if those two guys get injured, the Phillies still have Ronald Torreyes and Brad Miller to play those two positions. Torreyes and Miller are both having great seasons so far despite not always starting. Miller this season hit three home runs in one game against the Cubs and recently hit a walk-off grand slam to cap a Phillies 7-0 comeback. Nick Maton is also on the 40 man roster, so he can always play those positions too. Maybe Dombrowski brought him back to Philly to appeal to fans but also provide an experienced veteran to this fledgling team. But for now, with the Phillies’ plethora of middle infielders, this trade does not make sense.
I would have to grade the Phillies’ trade deadline at a C+. The Galvis trade on paper does not make sense as the Phillies have plenty of middle infielders and he is not a power bat. The trade with the Rangers led to former top prospect Spencer Howard going to the Rangers. Howard definitely had his fair share of his issues with start longevity, but he was working on his stamina and showed considerable promise. There are definitely some concerns with Ian Kennedy because of his age and only recent success as a reliever. Kyle Gibson is having an All-Star season but his high walk ratio is concerning. Apparently, the Phillies were in the mix to acquire Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs, but the Cubs wanted the Phillies’ first round 2020 draft pick, Mick Abel, in return according to Jim Salisbury.
Despite those talks falling through, the Phillies failed to acquire any other bullpen arms outside of Kennedy. This trade deadline felt safe. There were not any gutsy trades that are characteristic of Dombrowski, nor did the Phillies acquire any power bats. The front office failed to trade for any elite pitching. Kennedy and Anderson are both having amazing seasons so far, but there are obvious concerns as stated above. The Phillies also acquired no significant offensive pieces despite there being a considerable amount of offensive pieces on the market.
Jayson Stark tweeted out a list of considerable additions made by NL East teams.
The two other contenders in the NL East outside of the Phillies acquired offensive weapons at the deadline. The Mets got Javier Baez from the Cubs while the Braves got Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, and Joc Pederson. Meanwhile, the Phillies did nothing to better themselves offensively. This could prove extremely problematic for the Phillies in the last two months of regular season play as they limp along to keep up in the NL East.
Dave Dombrowski and the Phillies front office were quite disappointing at the trade deadline. Hopefully, Anderson fits in well as the Phillies closer and Gibson adjusts to the starting rotation. For now, I cannot help but give the Phillies front office a C+ for their trades and express concern for the rest of the season.