July 21, 2023
Eleven days away from the trade deadline, the Phillies will unquestionably be buyers as they're primed for another playoff run, but they have needs both at the plate and on the mound. The call for Tommy John surgery for prized top prospect Andrew Painter throws a wrinkle into any potential trade package for an established star, but count on Dave Dombrowski and co. to be aggressive as the calendar flips to August.
Until then, let's see what the national media is saying about the Fightins...
Over on the Major League Baseball website, a cast of writers wrote about 10 teams that need to trade for historical unicorn Shohei Ohtani, the best ballplayer on the planet. The Fightin' Phils came in at No. 2 on their list with scribe Cole Jacobson writing:
Let’s talk offense first. With Rhys Hoskins out for the year due to a torn ACL, Philadelphia has struggled to fill the second corner infield spot opposite Alec Bohm, as Edmundo Sosa (.676 OPS), Kody Clemens (.644) and Darick Hall (.469) are among the options that have tried and struggled to get going. But with Bryce Harper set to move to first base as he gets further removed from Tommy John surgery, that will leave open a DH spot with Ohtani’s name all over it.
As for pitching? Andrew Painter was supposed to be the Phillies’ fifth starter, but his season never got off the ground due to elbow issues. Enter Ohtani, who could join forces with Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Taijuan Walker and Ranger Suárez to give Philadelphia a rotation that can hang with anybody’s. [MLB.com]
I've seen writers and fans alike weigh the pros and cons of an Ohtani trade online, balancing the fact that he's an impending free agent against the ability to watch one of the greatest talents in the history of the sport, if not the greatest, play in red pinstripes. I'm firmly in the latter camp. Three months of watching Ohtani and the likely playoff run that comes with it is monumental, something you'll never forget as a Philadelphian and sports lover. Are you worried about missing out on Mick Abel, Justin Crawford and more guys' theoretical career for that nightly magic through October? It's an easy decision for me.
More so than Ohtani, the bat who feels most likely to be traded ahead of the deadline is former MVP Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger. In his age-27 season, the soon-to-be free agent has an OPS of .887 with 12 homers and 12 steals in 65 games for the Cubbies. Writer Anthony Franco doesn't believe the Phillies are a top-tier suitor for Bellinger like the Astros, Giants and Yankees, but he has the Phils as a dark horse candidate for Bellinger's services.
Here's what he had to say about the possibility of Bellinger coming to Philly:
Any interest on Philadelphia’s part would probably be contingent on Bryce Harper holding up at first base. If the Phils are convinced he’s an everyday option there, they could kick Kyle Schwarber to designated hitter and leave open a corner outfield spot for Bellinger. (The Phils could also pursue Bellinger as a first base option if Harper can’t play the field, though that’d leave Schwarber in a corner outfield spot.) It might not be the top priority — rotation depth and perhaps third base are bigger concerns — but it’d be viable if Harper can defend. Phils’ president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has never been afraid to push in for big names. [MLB Trade Rumors]
Ah, the Bryce Harper conundrum. Harper was supposed to finally play the field at first base in the Phillies' series against Milwaukee, but that did not happen. The ability of Harper to hang at first would be huge for the Phils' lineup versatility, finally moving Kyle Schwarber to the designated hitter spot where he belongs and bringing in a big corner outfielder bat to boot.
The Phillies, however, are running out of time to see if Harper would work there as we creep toward the deadline.
Bellinger would be a great bat for the Phillies to land, but what if they decide to upgrade their rotation instead? At NBC Sports Philadelphia, writer Paul Hagen debates which spot the Phils should prioritize ahead of the deadline with both being clear needs. He writes:
Burnes is good. He won the Cy Young Award two years ago. He’s made three straight All-Star teams. But the Phillies have a lineup packed with big money, in their prime stars (Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber) and good, you up-and-coming hitters (Bryson Stott, Alec Bohm, Brandon Marsh).
Despite that, they’ve scored three or fewer runs 45 times in 96 games this season and been shut out seven times. Not all those pitchers have been aces. The Phillies run differential is just +7.
While there are no flashing red alarms over the rotation, there are a few troubling statistical anomalies that could convince the big cigars to consider bolstering the pitching instead.
None more so than Taijuan Walker, who took the loss Thursday.
Yes, he was one of the Phillies best starters in the first half. Especially after getting off to a sluggish beginning, when he posted a 2.79 earned run average in his last dozen outings.
That’s great as far as it goes. The issue is that last year he was 7-2, 2.55 at the break. . .and 5-3, 4.80 after. In 2021 the falloff was even more breathtaking, from 7-3, 2.66 to 0-8, 7.13. His career ERA in the first half is almost a full run lower in the first half (3.58 to 4.56). [NBCSP]
I'll end with this: A quick way to settle the "hitter or pitcher" debate is to trade for that guy in L.A. who does both.
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