As the August 2nd trade deadline approaches, the Phillies find themselves in contention for the N.L.’s third wildcard spot after a slow start to the season. The team has not played postseason baseball since 2011, and heading into the year, it felt like the Phillies had what it took to compete not only for a wildcard spot, but even a division title. The offense was supposed to carry the team, while the pitching staff was supposed to not hurt the team. It is currently the complete opposite.
Injuries to Jean Segura and reigning N.L. MVP Bryce Harper have hurt the Phillies’ offense, and subpar seasons from key veterans Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto, and Didi Gregorius have been disappointing to say the least. The pitching has been some of the best in baseball, but the organization lacks depth in their starting rotation. Zach Eflin is currently injured, with no timetable for his return, and Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sanchez are good options for spot starts and stints in the bullpen, but are not guys who should be getting the ball every fifth day. With all of that being said, being involved in trade talks that will cost the Phillies some of their top prospects is not a good idea.
There is no doubt the Phillies need help if they want to end their playoff drought, and in order to get something, you have to give up something, but they should be looking at some of the cheaper options available on the trade market. They need a bat to add to their lineup, and they have an even bigger need at starting pitcher.
Some names that should interest the Phillies when looking to add offensive depth to the roster include, but are not limited to, Michael A. Taylor and Andrew Benintendi of the Royals, Brandon Drury of the Reds, and Ian Happ of the Cubs. These four names should be of interest to the Phillies for one main reason; the packages for these players should be relatively cheap.
Benintendi and Taylor are both outfielders who are having good years offensively; Benintendi has an OPS+ of 123, while Taylor’s OPS+ is 111. Both players should be cheap, given that Benintendi is not under contract after this year and Taylor, even though he is signed through 2023, is 31 and not having the type of year he usually has defensively in center field. Brandon Drury is having a good year slugging .517, with a 126 OPS+. He would fit the Phillies’ roster well since he can play third, second, and first. The Phillies could primarily use him at second base, and slide Bryson Stott over to shortstop on an everyday basis with Gregorius’ struggles this year. Given that Drury is a free agent after the season, and the Reds could possibly get a prospect heavy package for starter Luis Castillo, maybe the asking price for Drury is not as high as some would think. Ian Happ would also fit nicely into the Phillies lineup. He would most likely play center field in Philadelphia, even though he has logged most of his innings in left this season. Happ has experience in center, is a switch hitter, and has a 126 OPS+. He is under contract for next season, and would likely cost the Phillies more than the other hitters mentioned, but should not cost them any of their top prospects.
The starting pitching market is an interesting one this season. Frankie Montas of the Athletics, and Luis Castillo of the Reds, are the top names when it comes to starters, and after that, there are not many options available. As mentioned above, the Phillies should be looking for cheaper options and stay away from the names at the top of the trade market. Three names that are interesting are lefty Jose Quintana of the Pirates, Reds’ Tyler Mahle, and Rockies’ Chad Kuhl.
Both Quintana and Kuhl are free agents at the end of the season. Quintana, in 97.1 innings, has a 113 ERA+ with 85 strikeouts and Kuhl has 69 strikeouts with a 103 ERA+ in 94.1 innings. Tyler Mahle is under contract next season, but as is the possible case with Brandon Drury, the Reds may be willing to lower their asking price should they get a good prospect haul for Castillo. Mahle is coming off of the injured list, and has 107 strikeouts in 98.1 innings with a 102 ERA+.
None of the trade options mentioned are going to put this team over the top and make them one of the best teams in baseball, but they are guys who can help complete the roster, while not costing too much. Why shouldn’t the Phillies be willing to part with their top prospects you may ask? Well, they have just started to rebuild their system and the organization does not have a good history, especially over the last decade, of drafting and developing players who contribute at the big league level.
Although the Phillies have a poor history of developing players, they have made important changes over the past year to improve their player development and scouting staffs. One of the more important hires they made was Preston Mattingly, who is now their director of player development after being apart of the Padres’ scouting staff for five years. It would benefit the Phillies to see if these new hires can help the club begin to draft and develop players who can help their big league team win games, but in order to do so, they will have to hold on to the top prospects within the farm system.
The Phillies do not have legit, top of line prospects like other organizations. Most websites who make top 100 prospect lists do not have any Phillies prospects towards the top. The Phillies should keep and develop their top prospects so the system can begin to flourish over the next few years and can develop players who can help the big league club. Pitchers Andrew Painter and Mick Abel, who are the organization’s top 2 prospects, should be in red pinstripes in a few years. Other names the Phillies should hold onto include Logan O’Hoppe, Johan Rojas, and Griff McGarry.
O’Hoppe is a catcher, and with the uncertain future of Realmuto behind the plate, O’Hoppe could be a long term answer at that position. Rojas is a center fielder with elite speed and good defense who will stick in center field long term in the majors. McGarry is a pitcher and a strike out machine who consistently sits upper 90’s with his fastball. Both Rojas and McGarry were recently promoted to Double-A Reading, and some people believe it could be to showcase them for other teams before the trade deadline. My hope, though, is that with a hole in center, and pitching depth being a problem for the Phillies, that these guys are on the fast track to the big leagues, and could see some playing time down the stretch if needed.
With those guys being the top names in the Phillies’ farm system that they should hold on to, who should they be willing to part ways with? Some of the names we could hear involved in trade discussions are catcher Rafael Marchan, shortstop Luis Garcia, outfielder Ethan Wilson, and pitchers Francisco Morales and Erik Miller.
Marchan is a switch hitter, who has seen time at the big league level, but with O’Hoppe in the system, the Phillies shouldn’t mind moving Marchan if others clubs are interested in him. Neither Garcia or Wilson have been impressive in terms of numbers this year, but Garcia is only 21 at a premier position and Wilson was just drafted last year. Morales has pitched well in relief this season, and was in the majors for a short stint. Miller has also pitched well and participated in the All-Star Futures Game.
Some other names to keep an eye on are Jhailyn Ortiz who has good raw power, Jordan Viars who also has pop, outfielder Yhoswar Garcia, infielder Hao Yu Lee, outfielder Simon Muzziotti, and pitcher Ben Brown, who has impressed some of late. All of these guys are outside of the Phillies top 10 in terms of prospect rankings and could all be used to acquire any of the big league players mentioned above.
Dave Dombrowski was brought to Philadelphia to win. Not to win in the future, but to win now and end the organization’s playoff drought. While the goal should be to make the playoffs this year, the future shouldn’t be jeopardized for this season alone. The team already has the star power it needs to win this season in Zack Wheeler, Kyle Schwarber, and Bryce Harper, who can hopefully be back by the end of August, so trading for more stars for the top of the roster is unnecessary. Filling out the roster with contributors that will cost the organization lesser prospects will be the best short, and long term scenario for the Phillies. At full strength, the Phillies could be a scary team to face in a best of three wildcard series, with Wheeler and Nola at the top of the rotation, and Schwarber and Harper leading the offense.
The Phillies do not need to, and should not, drain their farm system. Good organizations always have a steady flow of good young talent coming up to the big leagues. If the Phillies get too aggressive and unload some of their top prospects at the trade deadline, that might jeopardize having a flow of young talent to the big league roster. Not having young talent readily available is what set the franchise back after after their magical 2007-2011 playoff runs. Holding onto their top prospects, while trading some of their lesser ones, should be the approach at the trade deadline to help the Phillies win now and in the future.
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