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As Deadline looms, Phils 'continue to push'

GM: 'It's really about building an organization that can sustain its competitiveness'
@ToddZolecki
July 23, 2019

DETROIT -- Think Kyle Lohse, not Cliff Lee. Think Joe Blanton, not Roy Oswalt. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park that he is looking to make upgrades before the July 31 Trade Deadline, but he said the Braves’ 7 1/2-game lead in the National League

DETROIT -- Think Kyle Lohse, not Cliff Lee.

Think Joe Blanton, not Roy Oswalt.

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park that he is looking to make upgrades before the July 31 Trade Deadline, but he said the Braves’ 7 1/2-game lead in the National League East makes him less likely to make a headline-grabbing deal, like the ones the Phillies made in 2009 (Lee), '10 (Oswalt) and '11 (Hunter Pence). Those teams had established themselves as World Series contenders. These Phillies have not done that yet, which is why Klentak mentioned the organization’s more marginal upgrades before the Deadline in ’07 (Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi) and ’08 (Blanton), although the ’08 team pushed for CC Sabathia before the Indians dealt him to the Brewers.

“I think when you’re 7 1/2 games behind in your division, that’s going to lend itself to a slightly different approach than when you’re 7 1/2 games up in your division,” Klentak said. “I think in a lot of respects, the record at the Deadline and your proximity to the playoffs will dictate what you do. We’ve made a few moves so far for lower acquisition, cost-type moves, and we’re exploring whatever else may be out there in the next week.”

The Phillies have acquired Jay Bruce, Drew Smyly, Brad Miller and Mike Morin in the past two months, but they could use at least one more starting pitcher. Klentak stated his obvious preference for a controllable talent rather than a player that can become a free agent following the season. But a controllable talent is more costly and the Phillies’ farm system is not as deep as others around baseball.

Klentak said the Phillies have enough talent to acquire a stud, if things change.

“I don't worry about having enough talent to acquire players,” Klentak said. “I'm confident that we could do that. It's really about building an organization that can sustain its competitiveness for a long period of time. In order to do that, we have to preserve young talent. There are times when it makes sense to cash in young talent for veteran players. But you can't do that too often or your well will run dry, and you'll be forced to tackle another rebuild at some point, and that's not something that our owners or our front office have an appetite for.

“We’re going to continue to push. We’re going to continue to try. We wouldn’t have made the moves that we’ve made in recent days if we weren’t doing that. But as I have said to you before -- and I know [manager Gabe Kapler] has said this before -- for this team to get where we want to go, the core players on this team need to perform well. And that’s true of any team. Teams that do well have their core players perform well. We have the talent on the field to do that. Whether we get hot and pull that off in the next two months remains to be seen.”

Klentak said he has been on the phone a lot in the past few days. He expects that will continue. The Phillies will be connected to every starting pitcher available on the market. They will send their scouts everywhere. But the fact the Giants and D-backs are in the NL Wild Card complicates matters. Everybody has expected the Giants to trade Madison Bumgarner and the D-backs to trade Zack Greinke. There is a chance neither is traded. That could increase the competition for other starters on the market, raising the chance the Phillies come away empty-handed.

If the Phillies stand pat in the next eight days?

“I think our fans are very knowledgeable and will understand the reasons behind what we do or what we don't do,” Klentak said. “On Opening Day, the Phillies were projected to win, in terms of number of games, something in the 80's. As we sit here today, we are projected to win something in the 80's. And that is without Andrew McCutchen for four months of this season. That's with the better part of a Major League bullpen on the injured list and with some players that have not performed to their historical standards. There have certainly been ups and downs for the first four months of the season, and we've all seen that. Some of the downs have been very frustrating, some of the ups have been very exciting.

“But the notion that this team has performed wildly below expectations, I don't think is true. I wish we were better. Certainly we've left some wins on the table that we've felt like we could've had. But it's the end of July, we're a half-game out of the Wild Card, and we're in a position to explore the trade market. We're competitive. You're not going to run away with it every single year. Right now, we are where we are. We have 62 games remaining, and we're going to have to play as well as we possibly can for the next 62 to be in the October mix.”

Extra bases

• Kapler said right-hander Zach Eflin will make his next scheduled start against the Braves. Eflin complained that his body felt “heavy” in his last start. Kapler insisted that Eflin is not injured and there is nothing wrong with him. Eflin said a 13-pitch at-bat against Ronald Acuna Jr. on July 4 in Atlanta -- Acuna was the first batter of the game -- essentially wiped him out. Eflin has a 9.38 ERA in his last five starts.

• Right-hander Tommy Hunter had surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right elbow. His season is finished.

• Shortstop Jean Segura had an MRI exam for his bruised left heel on Monday in Philadelphia. He remains day to day, but the Phillies will try to stay away from him the next two games to get him healthy.

• Right-hander David Robertson will throw his second live batting practice Wednesday in Clearwater, Fla.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook .