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How far are Phils willing to go at Deadline?

@ToddZolecki
July 10, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Boy, is this next week huge for the Phillies. They return from the All-Star break on Friday to open a seven-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park, beginning with a three-game series against the Nationals. Once the Nats leave town, the Dodgers roll into Philly for a four-game series.

PHILADELPHIA -- Boy, is this next week huge for the Phillies.

They return from the All-Star break on Friday to open a seven-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park, beginning with a three-game series against the Nationals. Once the Nats leave town, the Dodgers roll into Philly for a four-game series. The last time the Phils played the Nationals, they were swept in D.C. They last time they played the Dodgers, they were swept in L.A.

It is not a stretch to think that how the Phillies fare against the Nationals and Dodgers will shape how the front office views the approaching July 31 Trade Deadline.

Current status: Buyer
The Phillies committed more than $500 million in salaries in the 2018-19 offseason: Bryce Harper ($330 million), Jean Segura ($58 million), Andrew McCutchen ($50 million), Aaron Nola ($45 milllion), David Robertson ($23 million), Juan Nicasio ($9 million) and J.T. Realmuto ($5.9 million). Then the club acquired Jay Bruce in June, paying him $2.75 million. There are millions of reasons why the Phils will be buyers before July 31.

But putting the payroll commitments aside, the Phillies would win the second National League Wild Card, if the season ended today. In other words, even though the Phils have not played well since late May, they remain in the hunt for their first postseason berth since 2011. There are expectations, from the fan base and from the players in the clubhouse, to make changes.

What are they seeking
The Phillies could use a little bit of everything, but there is no question they badly need pitching, especially following the news that Jake Arrieta has a bone spur in his right elbow and might need surgery. The rotation ranks 10th in the NL in ERA (4.56) and last in FIP (5.06). The bullpen could use some help, too, but the front office is hopeful that not only will Robertson, Seranthony Dominguez and Pat Neshek rejoin the bullpen in the coming weeks, but they will pitch effectively.

The Phillies are not pitching anywhere near as well as last season. Their strikeout rate (21.7 percent) as a staff is second lowest in the NL, and their strikeout-to-walk rate (13.1 percent) is 12th. They are averaging 1.72 home runs per nine innings, which is easily the highest mark in the NL. The Rockies are second in the league, averaging 1.47 home runs per nine innings. The league is averaging 1.33 home runs per nine innings.

Last season, the Phillies ranked second in strikeout rate (23.9 percent), second in strikeout-to-walk rate (15.7 percent) and 11th in homers per nine innings (1.06).

The Phillies could use some help offensively, too. They are in a unique position because of Scott Kingery’s defensive versatility. He can play center field, where he is becoming more and more comfortable, and third base. If the Phils could find a center fielder or a third baseman, they could move Kingery to the other position to round out the lineup.

What they have to offer
The Phillies’ farm system is not regarded as highly as it has been in the past, which might make it difficult for them to outbid another team for the player it wants. The Phillies have two players in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects list. One is Double-A Reading right-hander Adonis Medina, who has not pitched as expected (his strikeouts are down and his walks are up). Double-A third baseman Alec Bohm also is in the top 100, but it is difficult to see the Phils trading him unless they get an impact arm under team control through at least the 2020 season. He could be their everyday third baseman as early as next season.

One name to watch is Triple-A outfielder Nick Williams. He is blocked in left field by Bruce and in right field by Harper. (He is not an option in center field.) If a team has a pitcher the Phillies want, Philadelphia can dangle a potential everyday corner outfielder who showed promise the previous two seasons.

Possible scenario
Phillies fans are waiting anxiously to see where Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner goes, but the price is going to be high and unless Philadelphia surges this month, it might not be worth it. Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd is interesting because he cannot become a free agent until after the 2022 season. Detroit is looking for controllable, impact bats. Would Williams get the ball rolling there? Medina? Adam Haseley?

The most fascinating thing about this Trade Deadline for the Phillies is how far they will be willing to go. Last July, they chose to make incremental upgrades. There is nothing wrong with that. The Phils made an incremental upgrade in 2008, when they acquired right-hander Joe Blanton from the A’s. He helped them win the World Series.

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