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June 13, 2023

MLB rumors: Phillies may have issues shopping for a much-needed fifth starter

The Phillies have been wasting their offense every fifth day with no fifth starter.

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Matt-Strahm-Phillies-Nationals-6.3.2023-MLB.jpg Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

Matt Strahm is a jack of all trades pitcher.

The Phillies scored eight runs in Arizona Monday night and still lost, wasting a J.T. Realmuto cycle in the process.

They lost the game, in large part, because the team has no fifth starter and has been running the bullpen out every fifth game this season. 

In six instances since they replaced Bailey Falter with, well, nobody in the rotation, moving Matt Straham to the bullpen, the Phillies are 2-4 in games Rob Thomson has attempted to use openers and the bullpen. It taxes the pen for future games, and results in losses more often than not. It's a losing strategy.

It's also something the Phillies have no real solution for in house. Their top prospects are either not healthy or not ready right now, and there is no depth for starters in Triple-A.

The Phillies are very likely to be one of the more active shoppers in the starting pitching market this summer in the lead up to the July 31 trade deadline. The problem is, the expanded playoffs make for very few sellers and an abundance of buyers.

Via the standings, there are just seven teams further than 5.5 games out of the final playoff spot. With so many games to go and 14 total playoff teams, that really does mean fewer organizations will be looking to rebuild and ship off MLB quality players. It also means that prices for players will soar.

What should the Phillies be willing to pay for a rental starter who can throw five or so innings once a week — and who will likely not play a role in the postseason (should they make it there)? 

It depends on who is available. If you look at the seven losing teams — the Cardinals, Nationals, Rockies, Athletics, Royals, Tigers and White Sox — there are nine, or so starters who fit the profile of "likely to be traded" arms right now who fit the profile of a fourth or fifth starter type. 

These names are in addition to blockbuster aces like Shohei Ohtani or Patrick Corbin, guys who could be moved but would likely take a massive package of prospects. Some fifth starter types Philly might target (and bid against a dozen other teams for) include:

Pitcher, ageTeam2023 stats
Trevor May, 33Athletics2-3, 7.04 ERA
Trevor Williams, 31Nationals3-4, 4.11 ERA
Zack Greinke, 39Royals1-6, 4.65 ERA
 Kyle Freeland, 30Rockies4-7, 3.91 ERA
Lucas Giolito, 28White Sox5-4, 3.54 ERA
Lance Lynn, 36White Sox4-6, 6.72 ERA
Dylan Cease, 27White Sox3-3, 4.38 ERA
Jack Flaherty, 27Cardinals3-4, 4.15 ERA
Eduardo Rodriguez, 30Tigers4-4, 2.31 ERA

There is a mix of young up and comers and veterans who could use a change of scenery on this list. All of them would probably offer the Phillies a chance to win every fifth game — but chances are they'll need to overpay.

How aggressive will Dave Dombrowski be at adding another starting pitcher? If the Phillies can push past the .500 mark before the All-Star break that will give the Phillies' president the answer he needs. 

Until then, expect to see the Phillies struggle every fifth day as they trot out the bullpen.

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