PHILADELPHIA -- Don’t bet on Juan Soto wearing a Phillies uniform anytime soon. Maybe ever.
But bet that the Phillies will do something to improve their postseason chances before the Aug. 2 Trade Deadline. They have a better team and are better positioned to make upgrades than last season, when they traded Spencer Howard to the Rangers for Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy and Hans Crouse. Philadelphia fell short, but club president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is known for his aggressiveness, and that should be no different leading up to this Deadline.
“We’re trying to make the playoffs,” Dombrowski said before Monday’s 6-4 win over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. “If you make the postseason, anything can happen. I do think that if we’re in a short series, the way we are -- and I’ve been with clubs in the postseason in a short series -- we have a nice structure for a short series. We have really good starting pitching at the top. Our bullpen’s deep and throwing the ball very well. And when we’re healthy, I think we can hit good pitching as well as anybody. We’re dangerous in that type of situation. So if we can get to that spot, that’s extremely important for us.”
Dombrowski did not tip his hand too much Monday, but finding starting pitching is probably the Phillies' No. 1 priority. Zach Eflin remains sidelined with an injured right knee, and there is no timetable for his return. The Phils have left-handers Bailey Falter and Cristopher Sánchez behind him on the depth chart, but they need more.
“I’d love for [Eflin] to come back, but I don't know when,” Dombrowski said. “And so I don't think from my perspective I can just say we’re going to wait for that to happen. I don’t think we can just sit here and wait to see what takes place. I’m very happy with Falter and Sánchez, the roles they’ve filled. But ideally we’d be in a position where we’d look to supplement what we have in that regard because of the injury status.”
The Phillies need help offensively, too, but they feel like they have help coming. Jean Segura could rejoin the team next week. He has not played since May 31 because of a fractured right index finger. Bryce Harper has not played since June 25 because of a fractured left thumb. It is unclear when he will return, but Dombrowski said he hopes to have him at least the final month of the season -- maybe even before the end of August.
“It’s like making a trade,” Dombrowski said. “If I said I needed to go get a right fielder/DH of Bryce's caliber, a starting second baseman, a starting pitcher, that would probably be a little bit too much to trade for at a particular time.”
Dombrowski said the price for any type of help remains grossly high, which is always the case before the Deadline.
Teams are asking for No. 1 prospects for No. 5 starters.
Dombrowski will not do that.
“If you talk to somebody and you're looking for a fill-in guy, a backup utility guy, 'Oh, we'll take your top two starting pitching prospects.' It's like, 'What?'” he said. “But come Aug. 1, they won't be looking at that same type of thing.”
Dombrowski also said he won’t be looking to unload the farm system for one-year rental players.
What about a generational talent who might be available?
Soto is available, although nobody uttered his name Monday.
“We have some generational talents with us over here,” Dombrowski said. “I don't know that we're swimming in that market. I love star players, I always have. I have acquired a lot of them. I know [managing partner] John Middleton likes that. But we do have some star players. I think one of the problems that we've had more so is the depth of talent in our organization. So to strip the depth of our talent to add a generational talent -- whomever you may be talking about -- I don't know that is where we sit at this point.
“The strength of our organization right now is our young starting pitching. It’s a very talented group of young starting pitchers. … Sometimes they get to the big leagues very fast. I’m not saying this year, but there are some people that could be competing for spots next year that are youngsters. I’ve had no problem pitching guys who are 20 years old and having a lot of success and putting them in the big leagues. And they’re that good that some of those guys could be pitching here. So I don’t want to just think short-term.”
But Philadelphia has enough talent in the system to do something. Maybe more than one thing. The Phillies spent a lot of money in the offseason. They have the highest payroll in franchise history. They are within one game of the third NL Wild Card. They need help.
“We’re going to try to help our ballclub to try to win a spot,” Dombrowski said.