July 19, 2021
If the Phillies keep winning — they've won 10 of 14 and are now 47-45 on the season, just two games behind the Mets for first place in the NL East — get ready for a lot more stories in the next week and a half about their interest in this player and that player.
President of baseball operation Dave Dombrowski has already made it publicly known that his team will be buyers ahead of the July 30 trade deadline. But just how aggressive they are likely depends on how they perform on the field over their next 11 games, starting on Tuesday night against the Yankees.
"We're not selling," Dombrowski told NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark on his "Takeoff" podcast. "We're not in a position where we're looking to move players off our team," he continued. "Anything can happen in 10 days or two weeks. I mean, if all of a sudden — and I don't like to take this scenario — if you lose 10 games in a row, well that might be one thing that's a little bit different. Or if you win 10 games in a row, it's a little bit different. But we're in a position where we're in this and we're gonna try to make our club better here over the next time period."
How aggressive the Phillies will be also depends on some things outside of Dombrowski's control at the current moment, like the fact that the Phillies only have a limited amount of desirable prospects to offer in return for a potential splashy trade. We've already looked at the Phillies reported ties to closer Craig Kimbrel and the fact that getting a deal done will be tough given the Phillies' overall lack of enticing assets.
That, however, hasn't stopped — and likely won't stop — the Phillies from being linked to every available player that fits their list of needs. And being an imperfect team, the Phillies still have plenty of needs, from the bullpen to the lineup.
One of those needs is some outfield help, which is why the Phillies have already been linked to Byron Buxton. Now, it appears, the Phillies are also looking into another outfielder who they just got a first-hand look at during their recent four-game series against the Marlins: veteran centerfielder Starling Marte, who scored five runs and knocked in four more all while going 8-for-16 with a home run over the weekend. On the season, Marte is slashing .285/.387/.444 with seven home runs, 49 runs scored and 19 stolen bases.
According to MLB insider Jon Heyman, the Phillies are one of three teams who have already checked in on the availability of the former All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner.
Phillies, Astros and Yanks are among teams to check in on Starling Marte who seems likely to be traded. A sizable gap remains in contract talks with the Marlins as @BNightengale said. Miami’s offer is for more than the reported $30M for 3 years but extension hopes are fading.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 18, 2021
As Heyman alluded to, the 32-year-old outfielder recently turned down a three-year, $30 million contract offer from the Marlins, according to multiple reports, meaning Marte is now likely to be traded ahead of the deadline.
Here's more from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, who noted the Phillies and Braves as the two most obvious fits for his services.
According to numerous reports on Sunday, Marte rejected the Marlins’ offer of a three-year, $30 million extension, making it likely he will be traded. The Braves (26th in OPS in center field) and the Phillies (27th) are perhaps the most obvious fits, but first things first:
Why won’t the Marlins make Marte a better offer?
Sure, Marte turns 33 on Oct. 9, but he continues to perform at a high level, batting .284 with an .828 OPS, playing an above-average center field and ranking in the top 15 percent in sprint speed, with 19 stolen bases in 22 attempts. The Marlins started 14 different players in center from 2018 until Aug. 31, 2020, the day they acquired Marte from the Diamondbacks. They should desire the stability Marte offers their young roster. And when he inevitably loses a step, he can move to a corner outfield spot and/or serve as a part-time designated hitter, assuming the next CBA includes a universal DH. [theathletic.com]
The need for an outfield upgrade might not seem as necessary as it once did, when the Phillies were boasting one of the worst centerfield groupings in MLB history. No matter who they put out there struggled. But there have been improvements. Recently, it was Odubel Herrera before he landed on the injured list. Since, it's been Travis Jankowski and Luke Williams holding down the fort. And while the overall play has improved from the early days of the season, adding a veteran like Marte would be an obvious upgrade for Joe Girardi's team on a nightly basis.
But combine this report with the previous one linking the Phillies to Buxton, and it suddenly starts to become obvious that either Dombrowski isn't sold on his outfield situation or others around baseball don't believe he is, which is why the Phils are being linked to every centerfielder that becomes available.
Of course, how aggressive Dombrowski is in the next couple of weeks is going to depend both on how much the Phillies can actually afford to spend given their less-than-stellar farm system and how close they stay in the NL East race. Currently, their two games back and the oddsmakers at DraftKings have them at +425, according to Pickswise, considerably closer than where they were as recently as a week ago.
If that trend continues, it's going to be hard for Dombrowski to not at least consider being aggressive at the deadline — at least, as aggressive has his assets will allow him.
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