Starter? CF? Assessing Phils' needs ahead of Trade Deadline

July 27th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Todd Zolecki's Phillies Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Dave Dombrowski confirmed on Monday what everybody suspected about the Phillies’ intentions before the 6 p.m. ET Trade Deadline on Tuesday:

They are looking for starting pitching.

But what else?

“I just think any way to make our club better,” Dombrowski said. “We’re going to be open to doing that in various ways. … There are different ways that can take place. We’re not going to go acquire a starting catcher, for example. We’re happy with our backup catcher. But all of a sudden, [Jean] Segura comes back, that changes second base. [Alec] Bohm has been playing well at third base. [Rhys] Hoskins.

“So, we don’t really have many places where you just are going to say, ‘I’m going to go get this guy and sit that person on the bench.’ When you get Segura and hopefully [Bryce] Harper after that, your lineup becomes deeper. And some of our guys at the big league level, they have to do better, too, from an offensive perspective.”

The Phillies could use a bat. They are struggling without Harper and Segura, and Kyle Schwarber and Hoskins have cooled considerably since early July. Schwarber entered Tuesday batting .073 with a .357 OPS in his past 14 games. Hoskins was batting .167 with a .559 OPS in his past 16. Everybody knows Nick Castellanos needs to start hitting at some point. But help is coming. Segura could be back as early as Sunday, although he said he is most likely to return in the middle of next week, and the Phillies hope Harper returns before the end of August.

Segura’s return will allow interim manager Rob Thomson to play Bryson Stott somewhere other than second base, most likely shortstop. Stott is batting .193 with seven homers, 31 RBIs and a .589 OPS this season, but before going 0-for-4 on Tuesday had hit .268 with three homers, 12 RBIs and an .817 OPS in 22 games since June 26. Didi Gregorius, meanwhile, is batting .221 with one home run, 17 RBIs and a .607 OPS, but .113 with a .368 OPS this month. Bohm is batting .411 with two homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.025 OPS in his last 20 games.

When you look around the infield, you don’t see any gaping holes. You look around the outfield and see Schwarber and Castellanos (and possibly Harper) manning the corners and DH. That leaves center field, which is probably the most logical spot for the Phillies to upgrade, although Matt Vierling is batting .252 with three homers, nine RBIs and a .701 OPS since he rejoined the team in June. So does it make sense to spend prospect capital for somebody like Kansas City’s Michael A. Taylor, who is batting .276 with a .748 OPS?

As always, it depends on the price. But an argument can be made that the Phillies are better served focusing on pitching. Because if Harper and Segura return; if Schwarber, Hoskins and Castellanos rebound; and if Bohm, Stott and Vierling continue to play like they have recently, the Phillies should score enough runs. That makes acquiring a fifth starter and another late-inning reliever a higher priority. But make the starter better than a run-of-the-mill No. 5. Make it somebody who can slide behind Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, somebody who teams would fear in a three-game NL Wild Card Series.

The Phillies have the talent to acquire a starter like that. They not only have more prospects than previous years, but they have pitchers with big league experience they can trade. Dombrowski is hearing about it.

“People are calling us for relievers,” Dombrowski said.