The Phillies are taking their first real shot at a National League East title since 2011.
They acquired right-hander Kyle Gibson, closer Ian Kennedy, Double-A pitching prospect Hans Crouse and about $4 million in cash in a trade with Texas; shortstop Freddy Galvis and cash in a trade with Baltimore; and Triple-A pitcher Braeden Ogle in a trade with Pittsburgh before Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline. Gibson bolsters a rotation that badly needs help, Kennedy improves a bullpen that has struggled for years, Galvis upgrades a porous infield and Crouse and Ogle replenish the organization’s pitching depth.
The Phillies sent right-hander Spencer Howard and Minor League pitchers Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner to the Rangers; Minor League pitcher Tyler Burch to the Orioles; and Minor League catcher Abrahan Gutierrez to the Pirates.
“We think we made ourselves better,” Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Friday evening. “We’re really happy with what took place. We think it gives us a chance to win -- a little better chance to win -- based upon what we did.”
Gibson, who is signed through 2022, is 6-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 19 starts. He should help a rotation that is remarkably thin behind right-handers Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. Right-hander Zach Eflin is on the injured list with tendinitis in his right knee. Dombrowski said they hope Eflin returns in 2-3 weeks. Right-hander Vince Velasquez, who started Friday in Pittsburgh, has a 7.74 ERA in 10 starts since May 25. He has pitched five or more innings in eight of 16 starts. Left-hander Matt Moore, who is scheduled to start Monday, has a 6.98 ERA in nine starts. He has pitched five or more innings three times.
Gibson, meanwhile, made his first All-Star team this season. He was 6-0 with a 1.98 ERA in his first 16 starts. He has pitched six or more innings 14 times.
“We needed a starting pitcher to help us,” Dombrowski said. “I do still remain optimistic that [Eflin is] going to come back … because otherwise [Gibson] just replaces Zach, right? I’m hoping Zach will be back and all of a sudden we’ll be running four established starting pitchers out there who have been successful at the big league level and then fill-in on that fifth spot.”
That fifth spot could be free-agent left-hander Cole Hamels. Dombrowski said they are discussing the possibility.
Kennedy, who is a free agent after the season, has a 2.51 ERA and 16 saves in 32 appearances. If he becomes the Phillies’ closer -- at the very least he will pitch in the late innings -- it deepens a bullpen that has tried three different closers this season: Héctor Neris, José Alvarado and current closer Ranger Suárez.
Phillies fans know Galvis, who played in Philadelphia from 2012-17. He is a stellar defender, so he should help the Phillies do something they have not done nearly enough: make routine plays. Galvis has a .720 OPS and a 97 OPS+, which compares favorably to Didi Gregorius, who has a .645 OPS and a 75 OPS+ and has struggled defensively.
Galvis is on the injured list with a quad strain, but the Phillies hope he can return soon. Dombrowski stopped short of defining Galvis’ role, other than saying he provides depth at multiple positions. But the possibility exists that he could play regularly at shortstop, if Gregorius continues to struggle.
“We know Didi is a better player than he’s played so far,” Dombrowski said. “I think he’ll step up.”
Crouse was 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in 13 starts with Double-A Frisco. MLB Pipeline immediately ranked him as the Phillies’ No. 4 prospect. Ogle was 2-2 with a 3.13 ERA in 24 appearances with Triple-A Indianapolis.
“Part of the key for us, if we were going to trade a guy like Spencer Howard, we wanted to get an arm back and we like Hans Crouse a lot,” Dombrowski said. “We think he’s very good, a very quality prospect.”
The Phillies finally parted ways with Howard, who entered the season as the organization’s No. 1 prospect and a Top 100 prospect in baseball. Howard has tremendous stuff, but he is a work in progress. He struggled the second time through the lineup and has not pitched more than four innings this season. If the Phillies want to take a run at the division title, they could not afford to nurse him along.
“With us trying to win, I don’t think that’s really enough [innings] right now from that spot,” Dombrowski said.
The Phillies entered Friday night’s game at 51-51, 3 1/2 games behind the Mets and a half-game ahead of the Braves. The Mets acquired Javier Báez, Rich Hill and Trevor Williams before the Deadline. Carlos Carrasco rejoined the rotation on Friday, although Jacob deGrom suffered a setback and might not return until September. The Braves got Richard Rodríguez, Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall and Eddie Rosario on Friday.
“Of course, we’ve got to take care of it on the field,” Dombrowski said. “But we think we’re better.”