The Philadelphia Phillies have taken a circuitous route to a playoff spot in 2023, but as things stand they’re currently in the thick of it. At 55-47 they’ll be looking to shore up their deficiencies ahead of the 1 August trade deadline. The Phils’ star-studded roster and high payroll doesn’t necessarily preclude them from making a big splash, but it does make the odds pretty slim. As we saw last summer, they focused on lower-cost additions at positions of need, rather than reeling in stars. This week, we’ll likely see the Phillies target left field and/or first base, as well as rotation and bullpen help. Let’s fire up Baseball Trade Values and see what trades make sense for the Phils.
The Phillies’ have lacked starting pitching depth all season, and it hurt them badly early on. Bailey Falter began the season getting regular turns, but was demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after working to a 5.13 ERA over 40.1 innings of work. It got so bad at one point that the team was turning to Dylan Covey to cover multiple innings every fifth day.
Fortunately, Cristopher Sánchez has been more than adequate in his return from the minors, tossing 38.0 innings of 2.61 ERA ball in six starts since mid-June. For now, it looks like Sánchez’s job to lose, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt the Phils to add more depth. One injury to a starter or a slip in performance from Sánchez and they’re right back in the Bailey Falter/bullpen game mess.
Every contending team will be in the market for pitching at the trade deadline. The Cubs’ Marcus Stroman will likely be the top rental on the market, with the White Sox’s Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech being two coveted multi-year trade candidates. The Phillies are probably out on the most expensive hurlers, but could look to acquire a lower-cost, innings-eater type, à la Noah Syndergaard last season.
Kansas City Royals
There aren’t a ton of low-cost starting pitching options out there, but the Phillies could dig through the bargain bin to see what they can find. The Royals are a good place to start, as they have the second-worst record in the majors, and are motivated to move anything that isn’t nailed down.
Zack Greinke is far removed from his Cy Young-caliber peak, and has struggled to a 5.49 ERA across 101.2 innings this season. At 39 years old, Greinke is what he is at this point, and most likely wants to retire as a Royal after this season or next. However, if the Phils suffer a blow to their starting five, they could try to trade a middling prospect like Baron Radcliff in exchange for Greinke’s innings-eating ability.
If Dave Dombrowski wants to roll the dice a bit, he could inquire on another Royals starter, Brad Keller. The 28-year-old has been limited to 43.1 innings over nine starts thus far due to a shoulder injury, but is currently on a rehab assignment with Triple-A Omaha. Keller won’t wow anyone with his 4.36 ERA this season, or 4.25 career mark, but he’s a capable enough right-hander that can slot in at the back of a rotation. Seeing as Keller is a free agent at season’s end, the Royals may be happy to simply get the remainder of his $5.78 million salary off their books, and flip him for a quad-A guy like Jordan Qsar.
The Royals could also offer a bit of bullpen help, with righty Scott Barlow being one of the more speculated upon trade candidates this summer. The 30-year-old is having a down year with a 5.15 ERA, but his 3.61 FIP suggests that if he can get the walks under control he’ll be back to normal. Barlow will be more expensive than a normal rental, as he’s under team control through 2024. With so many teams in need of pitching, the Phils may have to cough up an intriguing prospect like 20-year-old infielder Hao-Yu Lee to get a trade across the finish line.
Sticking with horrible American League teams, the Oakland A’s have a few names that could help the Phillies. Paul Blackburn earned his first All-Star berth last season, but has struggled to a 5.06 ERA in only 48.0 innings this year as he’s battled injuries. The 29-year-old is controllable through 2025, but the A’s are going nowhere fast and may choose to cash in now. Perhaps Oakland would take exciting center fielder Johan Rojas in exchange for the veteran hurler.
Instead of parting with an intriguing talent, the Phillies could look to scrape the bottom of the barrel, and go for right-handed James Kaprielian. The 29-year-old hasn’t come close to living up to his first-round draft status, and has put up an ugly 6.34 ERA across 61.0 frames this year. Kaprielian has shown flashes at times, however, and his 4.61 lifetime ERA suggests he could settle into a fifth starter role. With three more years of team control left, Kaprielian could probably be had for a lottery ticket like 18-year-old infielder Nikau Pouaka-Grego.
The Detroit Tigers have a slim chance to win the wretched American League Central, but at 46-54 they’re probably better off stocking up on more young talent at this year’s deadline. The Phillies already linked up with them this past offseason, acquiring flamethrower Gregory Soto and infielder Kody Clemens for Matt Vierling, Nick Maton and Donny Sands. Dave Dombrowski should look to add another arm from the Tigers like All-Star Michael Lorenzen.
The 31-year-old Lorenzen was the beneficiary of each team sending a representative to the All-Star game, but he earned it with the best season of his career. In 100.2 innings pitched, the right-hander has posted a 3.49 ERA and 4.03 WHIP, while walking a career low 6.5% of hitters. His addition to the Phillies’ starting staff would give them five true All-Star caliber hurlers, and would likely move Cristopher Sánchez back to a depth role. If the Tigers are willing to add in a decent bullpen arm like José Cisnero, the Phillies may be willing to part with a high-upside young pitcher like Alex McFarlane.
Dave Dombrowski could give the division rival Nationals a call, as the 42-59 Nats will definitely be selling. Talented outfielder Lane Thomas will be a hot commodity, but with two-plus years of team control remaining, he’ll cost a pretty penny. Switch-hitter Jeimer Candelario would be a nice addition to the Phils’ lineup, but with Alec Bohm entrenched at third base and Bryce Harper settling in at first, he wouldn’t have a place to play every day. Instead, the Phillies could look to add some cheaper upgrades around the margins.
31-year-old Joey Meneses hasn’t been nearly as effective as he was in his 56-game rookie season last year, but he’s still been serviceable, posting a 103 OPS+ thus far in 2023. Meneses would add a solid right-handed bat to a Phillies team that sorely needs one, and can fake it at first base and the corner outfield when he’s not being used off the bench. At such an advanced age for a second-year player, Meneses could probably be had for a couple of depth pieces like Tommy McCollum and Jhailyn Ortiz.
Dombrowski could also try to pry loose starting pitcher Trevor Williams, who’s eaten 104.2 innings to the tune of a 4.47 ERA. Williams isn’t anything special, but would provide a stabilizing force should any of the Phils’ top five starters go down. The 31-year-old is controllable through next season, but likely won’t cost more than High-A catching prospect Andrick Nava.
St. Louis Cardinals
Baseball fans across the nation have laughed all season as the St. Louis Cardinals finally crashed and burned. The 45-57 Redbirds are nowhere near a playoff spot, and are looking to flip some of their short-term assets to reload for next season. Whales like Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are almost certain to remain in St. Louis, while the Phillies probably won’t want to pony up for the most sought after rentals like Jordan Montgomery and Jack Flaherty. That being said, there are a few lower-cost pieces that could help the Phils.
The Cards have a pair of righty relievers who have had decent years in Chris Stratton and Drew VerHagen. Both hurlers have ERAs well north of 4.00, and are set to hit free agency after this season. They’re nothing special, but they could provide an excellent Phillies bullpen with some lower-leverage, multi-inning arms at the back end. Both pitchers should be obtainable for a lower-level prospect like 23-year-old starter Rafael Marcano.
Sticking with the National League Central, the Pittsburgh Pirates have absolutely cratered after a hot start to the season, sitting at 45-57 on the year, 10.0 games back of a playoff spot. The Bucs don’t have many pieces that would fit the Phillies’ needs, but one that could is Connor Joe. The 30-year-old splits his time about evenly between first base and left field, two positions where the Phillies could use a quality backup, and importantly mashes left-handed pitching. Joe is under team control through 2027, but since he reached the majors so late, he may not fit the Pirates timeline.
Dombrowski could also look to pick up journeyman starter Rich Hill from the Pirates on the cheap. The 43-year-old lefty hasn’t been anything special this season, working to a 4.82 ERA and 4.42 WHIP, but has been a dependable innings eater, tossing 114.0 frames in 21 starts. The veteran southpaw is still owed the remainder of his $8 million salary this year, and will be a free agent at season’s end. If the Phillies offered up a package of tantalizing relief pitching prospect Orion Kerkering and middle infielder Cam Cannon, they should be able to get a deal done.
Randal Grichuk has been speculated upon endlessly this summer as one of the few decent right-handed outfielders that will be available. The 31-year-old is in the last season of the five-year extension he signed with the Blue Jays prior to 2019, and has acquitted himself well this season, slashing .307/.364/.478 over 250 plate appearances for a 116 OPS+.
While injuries have cost Grichuk close to half the Rockies’ games this year, he’ll still be a hot commodity on a trade market lacking in quality hitting. He would fit the Phillies’ needs quite nicely as he’s capable of handling all three outfield positions, albeit only grading positively in right field, and mashes lefties. The Phils may need to overpay for one of the only quality outfield bats on the market, but could offer up intriguing young infielder Aroon Escobar to get a trade done.