The Phillies could not wait until Monday’s Trade Deadline, so last Friday they made two trades with two teams to shore up their struggling bullpen.
“That’s what we need right now,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last week. “This season is very unique for a variety of reasons. It’s Aug. 21, and yet we are roughly a third of the way through a short season. On the one hand we can look at this as though our trade acquisitions only have six weeks to pitch with us this year, but on the other hand you can look at it and say they’re going to be with us for two-thirds of the season.”
The Phillies entered Spring Training in February with postseason expectations, so they knew they could not stand pat and see if the bullpen simply started to pitch better. They needed to act.
They did. But is that it for the Phillies, or might there be more moves coming before Monday?
An important wrinkle to this year’s Trade Deadline is that teams can only trade players who are part of their 60-man player pool (assigned either to the big league team or the alternate training site). Teams can include players to be named later. Additionally, scouts have not been allowed to attend games in person, so all assessments of prospects are based on provided video and data and past knowledge.
Buy/sell/hold: Bryce Harper offered his opinion on Saturday, after the Phillies’ bullpen blew another late-inning lead: “I think we’re going to go out and get more guys and get better,” he said. “You’re going to have to do it. If we’re going to go for it and get it done, then I believe that’s what’s going to happen.”
But having made the aforementioned trades, the Phillies might be finished, especially because they needed $800,000 from the Red Sox to keep them below the luxury tax. Anything can happen, but that suggests those trades might be it.
What they want: The Phillies could use more bullpen help. If they had an embarrassment of riches and financial flexibility, they could look for a bat at second base or in the outfield. As of Thursday, they ranked No. 28 in OPS at second base (.481), 21st in left field (.644) and 16th in center field (.676).
What they have to offer: Despite picking no lower than 15th in the past five Drafts, the Phillies do not have a deep farm system. In fact, they rank somewhere in the bottom half and probably even closer to the bottom third. It does not give them a lot of room to maneuver, because as they try to re-sign J.T. Realmuto this offseason, they will need to keep the rest of their payroll down. And if you don’t have legitimate prospects to trade, the less likely a team is going to eat a player’s salary to make a deal happen.
Chance of a deal: 40 percent. Even a marginal upgrade could help the Phillies, so something might present itself. But the feeling here is that the Phillies will push forward with what they have, and hope the weakest links step up.