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June 24, 2021

The 2021 Phillies weren't built very well

Phillies MLB
Phillies-Cardinals-Didi-Gregorius-Kate-Frese_041721-88.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Phillies shortstop Didi Gregorius.

It's beyond frustrating to watch the Phillies blow leads, strand runners and misplay routine defensive balls night after night.

The 2021 Phils may be at a tipping point, with four games against the NL East-leading Mets this weekend. If Philadelphia doesn't find a way to scrape out at least a series tie, they'll be way behind New York and may put themselves in a hole too large to dig out of before the trade deadline arrives at the end of July.

Dave Dombrowski and the Phils front office will be watching closely, and though Joe Girardi has certainly mismanaged the bullpen and the injury landscape has been brutal, one can't help but feel like this mess is in large part the new President of Baseball Operations' fault.

Many were excited that a World Series-winning GM would be calling the shots for the Phillies when he was hired last December. He made a bevy of moves hailed as being smart and additional fixes to a team that has hovered around .500 over the last few seasons.

But the more the 2021 season progresses, the more it seems as though his moves have backfired big time. Dombrowski was in Nashville when he was hired by Philly, focused on helping that city secure an expansion team someday. He was not following baseball as closely as most GM candidates might have been, and maybe that's why so many of his moves this winter have not panned out.

A few are working out. Most of them are epic failures. Here's a look:

Bad moves

Signed Didi Gregorius ($28 million over two years)

The Phillies had no shortstop on the roster when February arrived, so the front office panicked and gave Gregorius pretty much everything he wanted to return to Philly. In return, the Phils have seen him play in just 32 games this season, during which time he has hit .229. His injury woes appear to be never-ending, and the hole left on the roster has been filled by Nick Maton, Ronald Torreyes and Luke Williams. None of them held the job for long. The shortstop spot has a -1.2 WAR, third-worst in baseball. Will the 31-year-old power-hitting SS bounce back over the course of his remaining contract? He better; otherwise, this will go down as a stain on Dombrowski's record.

Signed Archie Bradley ($6 million)

Bradley has been...fine. He's got a 4.20 ERA, but hasn't been able to pitch much as he's battled injuries throughout the spring. In fact, he has pitched just 15 innings in total so far with only 12 strikeouts. He was signed to be an ace in the bullpen and an innings-eater. Instead, he's made just a handful of middle relief appearances. So far, this signing is a bust. And a theme is starting to emerge — signing players over 30 can lead to injuries or regression.

Signed Matt Moore, Chase Anderson for $7 million total

The Phillies sold this as a brilliant, under-the-radar way to ink two veteran starters with good track records (both of them in their 30s, by the way). Instead, both have been terrible, and both have been on the injured list. Neither appears to be suited to return to the rotation anytime soon. What a total waste of cash that could have been spent on someone like Cole Hamels — or on two roster spots that could have been used on a younger starter with some real potential.

Traded away Cole Irvin

In hindsight, this was a bad one. With the Phillies desperately in need of a 4th and 5th starter, Irvin has done well in that role with the Athletics. He's started 15 games so far this year and has an ERA just under 4. The Phillies would kill for a starter, like Irvin, who has kept his team in games and thrown 89 innings. But they traded him for some reason for some cash this winter.

Signed Matt Joyce

Joyce was supposed to be the wryly veteran fourth outfielder. He has five hits in 50 at bats this season (.100 average).

Signed Brandon Kintzler

In 18 innings, Kintzler has allowed 31 hits and 17 runs. His ERA is 8.50.

Good moves

Signed J.T. Realmuto ($115.5 million over five years)

It's hard to argue signing JT wasn't a good move, despite his injuries earlier this year. The Phillies have a franchise cornerstone locked up for five years — though one can't help but worry about his health as he will be 35 when this deal ends. Just how much Dombrowski had to do with this pact being signed, as John Middleton was clearly the catalyst for it, remains unknown. But the deal got done and the Phillies do not have question marks at the catcher's spot. So that is a good thing.

Traded Garrett Cleavenger for Jose Alvarado

Cleavenger is a reliever for the Dodgers and has a 3.24 ERA. Alvarado, meanwhile, has an absolute gun for an arm routinely throwing over 100 mph. This one seems to be working out, despite how frustrating Alvarado and his control issues can be. He has a 2.70 ERA and is one of the few bright spots in the bullpen right now.

Signed Brad Miller

Miller has six homers as a reserve and is hitting .244. Relative to the rest of this list, those numbers are fine. Good signing I guess.

Signed Ronald Torreyes

Torreyes is hitting .270 and is a solid fill-in infielder. They've needed those, with injuries to almost every infielder this offseason making it hard for the lineup to find consistency.

So in short, Dombrowki's fourth and fifth starters failed miserably. His big ticket shortstop signing can't stay healthy. His bullpen signings are not performing up to par. Somehow, this team built around veterans has not managed to stay healthy. Go figure. Dombrowski knew the team needed depth, but he didn't go nearly far enough to give the Phillies the kind of backup reinforcements they need. 

He also didn't let the team get younger, which puts a ton of stress on the team's salary situation. The Phillies have the fifth highest payroll in baseball and the 22nd best record.

It would probably be unfair to blame Dombrowski for unforeseen consequences, injuries and the fairly unpredictable play of the players he brought in. But the moves are not panning out, and the high hopes that ownership and fans had for this regime could sputter into despair pretty quickly if things continue going south.

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