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July 19, 2023

Do Phillies need a fifth starter at the trade deadline?

Phillies president Dave Dombrowski spoke about the club's trade deadline needs.

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Dave-Dombrowski-Phillies-Spring-Training-2022-MLB.jpg Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports

Phillies president Dave Dombrowski among the crowd during spring training down in Clearwater last March.

It seems like a pretty obvious and foregone conclusion that the Phillies, as they continue to play stellar baseball and hang on to an NL wild card spot, will be buyers at the trade deadline in two weeks. 

Adding a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitter would be necessary upgrades for the club to keep pushing for playoff positioning and eventually another run to the World Series. But appearing on "The Show" with the New York Post's Jon Heyman, Phillies president Dave Dombrowski seemed to dampen expectations. 

Sure, it makes sense that the person everyone on the Phillies answers to sings the praises of the depth pitching pieces. But they couldn't possibly just chance it and go past the trade deadline with the players they currently have, right?

"I think we're a situation where if we stay healthy," Dombrowski said (transcribed from the clip above), "when you start looking at the depth aspect of it, I'm not sure. We do have a guy like Bailey Falter who is starting now to throw the ball real well at Triple-A, we got Nick Nelson who protects us at Triple-A, Mick Abel is a quality young pitcher and so is [Griff McGarry]. They're quality young pitchers, but it's a situation where any of them could come up and pitch for us, but would that be ideally what we want if we had an injury? That's what we'll have to determine."

Phillies fans wouldn't be too pleased with no moves being made and ending the year with Falter back as the team's fifth starter. Nelson is a depth piece who is better suited as a long reliever, and neither McGarry nor Abel have had experience in the majors yet. 

With top prospect Andrew Painter currently shut down — though possibly back pitching again soon with a minor elbow re-injury — the Phillies are as of right now leaning on Cristopher Sánchez, who has been solid in six starts. He has a 3.26 ERA over 30.1 combined innings. 

Yes, the team could stand pat with their rotation as is and take a look at right-handed outfielders to replace Kyle Schwarber in left, after he replaces Bryce Harper at DH, after Harper replaces the makeshift disaster that has been first base since Rhys Hoskins' injury. 

"The right-handed bat would be more of a replacement for us losing Rhys Hoskins earlier in the year," Dombrowski said. "I think for us, it's just a matter of what makes us better as we go through, what do we think can make a difference? Of course, we'll be talking to clubs, we've already started like everybody else, and we'll see what ends up happening."

Quite frankly, the Phillies need to look at this impending trade deadline as an opportunity. Dombrowski is no stranger to making in-season trades, and there are prospects in the farm system who are basically blocked from contributing anytime soon. There's no reason why a starting pitcher and a talented right-handed hitter can't be acquired before the deadline passes on August 1.

If the Phillies keep winning the way they have been — they are 27-12 since the start of June — the front office will have no choice but to swing for the fences.

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