PHILADELPHIA -- So is there another Tyler Anderson out there? Or is there somebody better?
The Phillies know they cannot win the National League East with the rotation they have, so they tried to make a trade on Tuesday. Multiple sources told MLB.com that the Phils agreed to acquire Anderson from the Pirates for mid-level prospects Cristian Hernandez and Abrahan Gutierrez. But the deal fell apart because of a medical issue surrounding one of the prospects.
Late Tuesday night, the Mariners announced they had acquired Anderson, leaving the Phillies scrambling with Friday’s 4 p.m. ET Trade Deadline approaching.
The Phillies are 50-50 and 3 1/2 games behind the Mets in the NL East, following Tuesday night’s 6-4 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. They have a chance to make the postseason for the first time since 2011, but they must improve their pitching to go on a run.
Before the Anderson deal crumbled, one source said the Phillies were positioning themselves to make more moves before Friday’s Deadline.
Perhaps they still will. But first they need to find a starter.
The Phillies are looking for a back-end starter to slot behind Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin, who is on the 10-day injured list with tendinitis in his right knee. The Phils hoped Eflin could rejoin the rotation as early as Friday, but that will not happen. In fact, there is no timetable for Eflin’s return, which is why finding a starter is so important.
Anderson likely would have replaced right-hander Vince Velasquez in the rotation. Velasquez is scheduled to start Thursday against the Nationals, and perhaps he will make that start now. He has a 10.91 ERA in four starts this month, a 7.74 ERA in 10 starts since May 25 and a 7.15 ERA this season against every team other than the Marlins.
Velasquez has pitched five or more innings in just eight of his 16 starts.
Left-hander Matt Moore allowed six runs in four innings on Tuesday. Moore has a 10.80 ERA in his last two starts, a 5.86 ERA in six starts since he returned from the injured list last month and a 6.98 ERA in nine starts overall.
He has pitched five or more innings three times.
If the Phillies replace Velasquez and move forward with Moore in the rotation, they could move right-hander Spencer Howard into the bullpen. He has been nearly unhittable the first time through the lineup (.331 OPS against in 63 plate appearances as a starter), while he has struggled the second time through (1.534 OPS against in 33 plate appearances as a starter).
It makes him an intriguing bullpen weapon.
“If you have the starting pitching to replace him, I think it makes some sense,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said. “It depends who’s here. You look at all the pieces here and then you make a decision. How are we best?”
But could Howard even handle a role in the bullpen? The Phillies have been incredibly protective of Howard’s health and workload.
“I think you have to watch it like we had to watch Ranger [Suárez] when we were using him,” Girardi said. “We think he’s a piece for a long time, and he’s not a guy that’s necessarily pitched a lot relief that he could go back to back. I mean, that’s the problem.”
The Phillies have a lot of problems right now. They thought they solved one Tuesday. They did not.