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July 26, 2021

Live MLB trade deadline rumors: Phillies among teams 'active in the starting pitching market'

But what's really available for Dave Dombrowski's team? And is any of it worth paying for?

It's MLB trade deadline week, and with the Phillies still in the hunt for the National League East title, it's expected that the club will be on the adding assets side of the old buy-sell debate that every middling team goes through this time of year.

In any other division, the Phillies would likely be packing it in and considering selling some assets and trying to end their playoff drought next season. But this is the NL East, where the first-place Mets are only a few games over .500 and the Phillies remain within striking distance. That could lead to things getting real interesting in the lead up to this Friday's deadline.

The team has already been linked to relievers like Craig Kimbrel, as well as outfielders Byron Buxton and Starling Marte, as two of their biggest areas of need remain bullpen and center field. Just this weekend, the Phillies reportedly sent some scouts to check in on the Cubs. And there are likely going to be even more players available at those positions, as they're not only glaring needs, but also being pursued by a traditionally aggressive front office head in Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. In in recent weeks, Dombrowski has been signaling publicly that his team will be looking to add.

In addition to upgrades at those positions, the Phillies could also be looking to improve their starting rotation, although that's somewhat less of a concern as they have a solid top three of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin. And while it's a crapshoot after that, starting rotations typically shorten when the playoffs arrive, which would put more of an emphasis on the bullpen and outfield since these moves would all be about winning in the postseason. 

Still, reports suggest the Phillies, who already reportedly attended free agent Cole Hamels' workout, could be looking to make a move to improve their rotation. That's the word according to MLB insider Jon Morosi.

Unfortunately for Dombrowski, there doesn't appear to be a lot of pitchers available at the deadline, and with so many teams looking to upgrade their rotation, the cost could get too high for a Phillies team with a depleted farm system to afford. 

As Scott Lauber recently wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the market lacks a true difference-maker at the position. Fortunately for the Phillies, that's not exactly what they'd be shopping for necessarily... 

Unless the Nationals sell Max Scherzer, who was scratched Saturday with triceps soreness, or the Twins give up trying to extend José Berríos, or the Reds shift from buyer to seller and make Luis Castillo available, the trade market lacks a difference-making starter. But the Phillies are shopping more for a back-end rotation piece anyway, at least as long as they remain confident that Zach Eflin (knee) won’t miss more than another start or two.  []

If the Phillies, who are barely "contenders" but remain in the hunt because of their weak division, want to go with a move that could help them beyond the 2021 season, they could go for someone like Arizona's Merrill Kelly, who is under contract through 2024 and has already been linked to the club.

But he's already 32 years old, only has 23 games of MLB experience and has a 4.39 ERA this season, up significantly from the 2.59 ERA he posted in five starts last season.

If they're thinking more short-term, they could always go with a guy like Hamels who likely won't be ready until closer to the postseason. He won't cost them anything in terms of prospects, so in that sense it's a relatively low-risk move. But they'll have to decide whether or not they think a 37-year-old Hamels would be the difference for them.

And if they don't want to get into a bidding war, they could always go with a cheaper option like Tyler Anderson who wouldn't hurt them as badly when it comes to the luxury tax.

But with a 4.35 ERA this season — his best since his rookie year in 2016 — would the 31-year-old lefty be a significant enough upgrade to make a difference?

MORE: Cooney: Deadline buyers or not, Phillies should spend second half of season looking inward

At that point, it will likely depend on what other moves (if any) Dombrowski and Co. make over the next couple of days. And if/when they do decide to get in on the action, we'll have you covered with a new live updates post each day. So keep it locked right here for all the latest news and rumors surrounding the Phillies and the rest of MLB ahead of Friday's trade deadline... 

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