The Phillies find themselves in an interesting position. They looked dead in the water at the end of May, firing lame duck Manager Joe Girardi after an abysmal 22-29 start. However, the team has been on a roll under Interim Manager Rob Thomson, going 24-11 and now sit at 46-40 on the year. The Phils are still a ways back of the Mets in the NL East, but are now in possession of the National League’s third and final wildcard spot. The playoffs are looking like a much more realistic possibility now than they were only one month ago, but this team still has some significant holes to fill. With that in mind, let’s look toward the 2 August trade deadline and use Baseball Trade Values to see who the Phillies could swing a deal for.
There are a few important things to keep in mind here. One: roster construction. With Bryce Harper out, it’s easy to say the Phils should pick up a bat-first right fielder. However, they have too many slow corner outfielders on the roster as it is. While Harper’s broken thumb is most certainly devastating, one small silver lining is that it frees up the designated hitter spot for Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, two statues on the outfield grass. Once Harper returns in roughly six weeks he’ll take up the DH spot again. Adding another expensive poor defender to this mix just compounds the problem.
Two: prospect capital. It’s no secret that the Phillies as an organization are awful at player development. They went through a nearly decade-long rebuild and have nothing to show for it aside from Aaron Nola and Rhys Hoskins. Fittingly, the Phils have almost no top-tier prospects. Recent first-round picks Mick Abel and Andrew Painter would be coveted by other teams, but they’re the only blue chippers the Phillies possess. The same goes for the meteorically rising Logan O’Hoppe. Those three are really the only sky-high ceiling players the Phillies have. O’Hoppe is likely expendable for the right price, seeing as he’s blocked by J.T. Realmuto, but Abel and Painter are likely off-limits.
The Phillies need to make some moves. They’re a good team that haven’t played up to their potential, but they aren’t quite World Series-caliber yet. With their lack of minor league talent, they likely won’t be able to pry loose marquee names like Luis Castillo, Frankie Montas, or Bryan Reynolds. However, some smaller upgrades around the margins could make a real difference in the playoff race. Let’s dig in and check out some low-cost acquisitions the Phillies could make.
The Phils have had serious bullpen problems this season. Corey Knebel pitched his way out of the closer’s job, Jeurys Familia has an ERA close to 5.00, and Brad Hand is the only reliable lefty. If they plan on playing meaningful baseball in October, they will need to patch the holes in their relief corps. Enter the Detroit Tigers, who, despite sitting 11.5 games out of a playoff spot, have some decent hurlers who shouldn’t cost much. If we know anything about the Phillies, it’s that they don’t want to spend much on their bullpen.
The Tigers signed a handful of veteran pitchers this winter for the express purpose of flipping them at the trade deadline. Some, like Andrew Chafin, have worked out. Others, Drew Hutchison and Jacob Barnes, not so much. The former might just do the trick for the Phillies. Chafin has posted a sparkling 2.45 ERA across 25.2 innings so far this year, while his excellent 2.5 BB/9 and 10.5 K/9 back up his status as a terrific southpaw. With Chafin set to hit free agency again this offseason, the price shouldn’t be too high. Lacking catching depth, perhaps the Tigers would go for 26-year-old backstop Donny Sands if he were paired with sweet-swinging outfielder Jordan Viars.
If the Phillies want to go a little bit bigger, they could try to wrangle 2016 Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer who will reach free agency after this season, or 2018 All-Star Joe Jiménez who has an additional year of team control. Those two might cost a bit more in trade due to Fulmer’s track record and Jiménez’s controllability, but would definitely aid an up-and-down Phils’ bullpen.
HELP FROM A DIVISION RIVAL
Centerfield has been an issue for the Phillies all year. Odúbel Herrera came to the rescue after Matt Vierling was demoted and Mickey Moniak broke his hand, but even Herrera has cooled off of late. Vierling is now back in the majors and playing well, but he still looks to be more of a platoon player than an everyday guy. Herrera is what he is at this point. He’ll swing the stick a little bit and play middling defense, but he’s certainly not the most dependable option.
There aren’t many affordable centerfielders on the trade block this year. Oakland’s Ramón Laureano and Pittsburgh’s Bryan Reynolds are available, but they’ll cost a pretty penny in terms of prospect capital, and the Phillies don’t have many prospects to spare. Instead of overhauling the position, the Phils could look for more of a Band-Aid.
The Washington Nationals aren’t going anywhere this year. Other than Juan Soto, they have very little star power on their team, and are currently buried in the basement of the NL East. Despite their losing ways, they do have a few pieces that could benefit the Phillies.
A name that’s been bandied about in trade talks this season is Víctor Robles. The 25-year-old Dominican was a mainstay on top prospect rankings for years, and made his big league debut in 2017 at the tender age of 20. Injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued Robles during his six seasons in the bigs, as he’s only topped 100 games played twice. To be frank, he just hasn’t hit.
Robles came into this year with 1,268 lifetime plate appearances of .692 OPS hitting. Not good. He’s tacked on 214 more trips to the plate so far this year, and has been even worse with just a .600 OPS. However, Robles does still have his uses. He’s an outstanding defender in center field, and with the Phillies’ utter disregard for defense, Robles would be a huge boon in that department. Given the fact that Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos are playing regularly in the corners, a center fielder with outstanding range is a must. Robles fits that bill. He’s also stolen eight bases this year without being caught, which would add a nice speed element to an otherwise sluggish Phillies lineup.
Robles has two more years of team control after this one, so if the Phillies like what they see they can keep him around as a cheap depth piece moving forward. He likely could be pried loose for a mid-level prospect or two, like Andrew Schultz and Baron Radcliff.
Speaking of the Nationals, Phillies shot caller David Dombrowski should take a look at their pitching staff while he’s there. Tanner Rainey has had a tumultuous big league career, but the 29-year-old has been nails so far in 2022 as the Nats’ closer. The same goes for late-blooming Panamanian swingman Paolo Espino who debuted in the big leagues at 30 years old in 2017, but has been rock solid in his age-35 campaign. Across 48.2 innings this year Espino has put up a sparkling 3.33 ERA and 1.19 WHIP.
Rainey will be the more expensive of the two given that he is significantly younger and hasn’t even hit arbitration yet. The Phillies might not want to trade a decent prospect like Simón Muzziotti in exchange for a guy like Rainey who has a mixed track record. Espino on the other hand should be dirt cheap considering he likely won’t be around for the next contending Nationals team, and shouldn’t cost more than a lottery ticket like Blake Brown or Gunner Mayer.
SNAKES PROVIDE THE ANTIDOTE
The Arizona Diamondbacks currently sit at 38-48, good for fourth place in the NL West and 8.0 games out of a wildcard spot. With their playoff hopes dashed, they should be looking to trade the pieces that won’t be of much use to them moving forward. They don’t have a ton to offer, but there are a few players who could help the Phillies.
With Bryce Harper out for at least the next month, and possibly two, the Phillies have turned to a mixture of Matt Vierling and Mickey Moniak to patrol the outfield grass in his stead. This has freed up the defensively challenged Nick Castellanos to slide into a DH role, but the remaining duo has lacked firepower. Vierling has looked good since returning from the minor leagues, but is better suited for a fourth outfielder/platoon role, rather than everyday reps. Moniak has flat out stunk this year, slashing .139/.205/.167 in limited playing time. Clearly, the Phils could use an upgrade.
Left fielder David Peralta has been a mainstay in the D-Backs’ lineup since 2014, but the 34-year-old is set to hit free agency at the end of this year. He’s been rock solid in 69 games this season, slashing .245/.312/.460 across 263 plate appearances. He won a Gold Glove in left field back in 2019, and shifting either him or Schwarber over to right can’t be any worse than watching Castellanos chase his own tail. And when Harper returns in (hopefully) August, Peralta can become an overqualified lefty bench bat, which the Phillies have been looking for all year. Seeing as Peralta is an aging rental, the Snakes can’t expect a hefty return. The Phils could probably snag him in exchange for 20-year-old second base prospect Alexeis Azuaje.
David Dombrowski could also look to land a larger package around Peralta, nabbing another piece or two to augment the pitching staff. With the Phillies’ rotation suffering some injuries of late, another starter would provide some much-needed depth. Longtime Brewer Zach Davies signed a one-year, $1.75 million deal with the Diamondbacks this offseason, and has made good on it to the tune of a 3.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 80.0 innings thus far. He was placed on the Injured List on 26 June with right shoulder inflammation, which should lower his value. With Davies set to walk this winter, and suffering from an injury to his throwing shoulder, he should be a true bargain bin pickup. Assuming he comes back healthy, the Phillies should look to grab him for High-A lottery ticket Jhordany Mezquita.
Last but not least, Arizona has a few bullpen arms who shouldn’t cost the Phils a king’s ransom. They have some older guys like four-time All-Star Mark Melancon and former Phillie Ian Kennedy who could potentially be of use, but this team already has enough washed up closers. Instead, Dombrowski should turn his attention to some journeymen with remaining team control, like Sean Poppen and newly-minted All-Star Joe Mantiply.
Both players have four more years of control after this season, and are having solid campaigns in 2022. However, Poppen is 28 and Mantiply 31, meaning they probably don’t fit their team’s timeline for contention. The right-handed Poppen’s 3.91 ERA, and southpaw Mantiply’s pristine 1.91 mark would make a rickety Phillies pen look a heck of a lot more stable. Seeing as both guys are in the midst of unexpectedly productive seasons, D-Backs’ GM Mike Hazen shouldn’t ask for the moon in negotiations. Perhaps 19-year-old hurler Micah Ottenbreit, and 17-year-old Kiwi infielder Nikau Pouaka-Grego would be enough to get a trade done.
In their quest for cheap bullpen upgrades, the Phillies should give the Baltimore Orioles a call, as they’ve had a surprising number of relievers break out this year. Any of Jorge Lopez, Keegan Akin, or Dillon Tate could help the Phils, but the guy Dombrowski should zero in on is Cionel Pérez.
The Phillies’ bullpen has been solid over the past month, and has surprisingly been a key factor in their ascent to a playoff spot. However, this same group of relievers showed massive red flags earlier in the year, and could still benefit from a handful of upgrades. As things stand, Brad Hand is the only reliable left-handed option, and Cionel Pérez could go a long way towards rectifying that issue.
The Cuban-born Pérez has bounced around from Houston, to Cincinnati, and now Baltimore over parts of five big league seasons. Despite his transience, the 26-year-old will still be team controlled through the 2026 season, allowing the Phillies to hang on to him as a lefty option in the pen for years to come. Given that his lifetime ERA coming into this season sat at 6.04, the Orioles could look to capitalize on his sudden career year, and trade him now for a decent prospect. Speedy minor league outfielder Wilfredo Flores should do the trick.
Hopefully, some of these trade ideas will help the Phils stay in the playoff race and make a deep run to October. Dombrowski is known for his ability to pull off a big win-now trade when his team is on the cusp. With the trade deadline coming up in just under a month, it’ll be interesting to see how things shake out.