They deemed the prices too high.
But they still made three trades Tuesday. They got right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Brandon Marsh in separate deals with the Angels. They got right-hander David Robertson from the Cubs. Syndergaard joins a rotation that is without right-hander Zach Eflin, who is sidelined indefinitely with an injured right knee. Marsh becomes the primary center fielder, which allowed the Phillies to jettison Odúbel Herrera. Robertson joins a bullpen that interim manager Rob Thomson has mixed and matched beautifully since he got the job on June 3. His arrival allowed them to DFA Jeurys Familia.
Each addition should help.
Here is a look at the players the Phillies got Tuesday:
Syndergaard is no longer the pitcher who routinely fired 100 mph fastballs past hitters as “Thor” with the Mets, but he has been effective this season doing different things. He was 5-8 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.3 WAR in 15 starts with the Angels.
His four-seam fastball averaged 94.2 mph this season, which is probably the biggest thing Phillies fans might notice, especially those who remember Syndergaard mowing down Phillies batters for years. It averaged 97.8 mph in 2019 before he had Tommy John surgery in 2020. It averaged a career-best 98.7 mph in 2016. Syndergaard is more of a ground-ball pitcher these days, generating fewer swings and misses and fewer swings outside the zone.
Here are Syndergaard’s percentile rankings over the years by whiff rate/chase rate:
Syndergaard’s success this season is coming from his sinker. Opponents are batting just .179 with a .211 slugging percentage against it. So, the defense behind him will play a role in his success. It is not why the Phillies got Marsh and Edmundo Sosa, but they should help.
Robertson will have a chance to make up for lost time. He signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies before 2019, but pitched only 6 2/3 innings because of an injured right elbow. He has pitched well with the Cubs.
Really, Robertson is pitching like his old self again.
His whiff rate (32.4 percent) is in the 89th percentile in baseball. His expected batting average (.175) is in the 97th percentile. His expected slugging percentage (.299) is in the 92nd percentile. His cutter is moving like it has in the past. It is averaging 93.3 mph. It averaged a career-best 93.5 mph in 2011. Opponents have hit .062 with a .169 slugging percentage against his curveball and slider.
Thomson said Robertson will not close for the Phillies, but he will close if needed. Seranthony Domínguez and Brad Hand have worked well in the eighth and ninth innings, so they will continue to be used in those spots. But sometimes one or both of them will not be available. Enter Robertson,Corey Knebel and others.
Marsh is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. He is tied for second among outfielders with +9 Outs Above Average, according to Statcast. He is tied for fifth with 7 Defensive Runs Saved, according to FanGraphs.
He will play mostly center field, but he gives Thomson options because he can play the corners, too. Matt Vierling will see time in center against left-handers. He also can play the corners late in games. Phillies pitchers should like Marsh and Vierling out there at the same time.
But Marsh has struggled offensively. He has the highest strikeout rate (36.2 percent) in baseball. He is batting .168 with a .274 slugging percentage against breaking balls. Opposing pitchers know he will swing at them, so they are throwing them. The Phillies said they have identified a few things in his swing that makes them believe he can improve.
The Phillies have time to work with him. He is under team control through 2026, while Syndergaard and Robertson will be free agents after the season.