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July 16, 2021

Kevin Cooney: What moves can the Phillies actually afford to make at the trade deadline?

Years of poor farm development could come back to haunt Philly at the trade deadline, especially if they're looking to make a big splash

You almost expect the first commercial after the Phillies broadcast last Sunday afternoon from Fenway Park to sound like one of those Fanatics ads, trying to sell merchandise for a team that just won a championship.

Congratulations, Phillies fans! The late surge at the end of the first half of the season means that your team will likely spend this trade deadline season at the buyers end of the discussion. And that means its time to stock up on your favorite gear coming up for the stretch run.

But before you bust out that credit card and start pre-ordering those jerseys for the elite level guys in either cherry red pinstripes, cream colored alternates or simple plain gray uniform tops, there’s this one note of warning: the club’s farm system will likely have you shopping in the discount aisles more than the luxury goods department.

You want to know how a bad, depleted, poorly drafted minor league system hurts you? You could be about to find out in the next few weeks. Because the Phils system is likely not deep enough to get the big ticket items – sold primarily this July by the Chicago Cubs, apparently.

Mickey Moniak ain’t getting you Craig Kimbrel. Adam Haseley doesn’t equal Kris Bryant. You can keep going down the list of prime guys and the Phils are likely not deep enough — unless Dave Dombrowski gets realllly creative or particularly bold — to go do it.

Still, there are certain needs that this team has and they're pretty clear. Yes, you may have fallen in love with the idea of Ranger Suarez being a closer, but getting another guy who can work the ninth inning should be in order. Starting pitching should be on the docket to fill back of the rotation gaps. And there probably is a need for one more bat – maybe specifically, one more reliable glove — in this lineup every day, either in center (a pretty bare market) or perhaps allowing for some infield shifting.

Over the next few weeks, you will be deluged by rumors. The glam names are the draws. Realistically, we’re providing a more economic and reasonable option to look at so you don’t get let down either with trades or, in one case, a free agent signing.


Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: Craig Kimbrel, Cubs

Yes, he’s the best closer on the market and the Cubs have decided to open the doors on the world’s biggest flea market at the corner of Clark and Addison. It is likely that every expert will throw the Phils into the picture for Kimbrel because they have the biggest bullpen issue of any contender. But Kimbrel is going to cost a ton in prospects and that’s something the Phillies have very few of. If the closer market turns into an arms race – and it usually does — the Cubs could get a few big pieces back for the likely free agent in the off-season. By default, that almost takes the Phils out of this mix.

What’s Realistic: Ian Kennedy, Rangers

Like Kimbrel, Kennedy is going to be a free agent at the end of the year. And like Kimbrel, he’s had a remarkable year so far for a team now out of the race — 15 saves, 2.67 ERA for a Rangers team that is 35-55 at the break. But his price should be cheaper because of his age (36, three years older than Kimbrel) and not having as long of a track record. Again, it’s about finding value on the edges when you have a depleted system. This would be the definition of that.


What’s Realistic: Cole Hamels, Free Agent

Depending on how Hamels' workout goes this week, it certainly would seem possible that one of two men to ever win a World Series MVP award for the Phillies could end up being the 2009 version of Pedro Martinez for some team — solid down the stretch as a last hurrah. It isn’t hard to see that happening in Philadelphia. Before Hamels went to the Cubs in 2018, he was linked to the Phillies. Matt Klentak resisted that urge and decided that Nick Pivetta was a better option — another fine choice for the former GM. Still, Hamels and his wife have always loved the area, he’s maintained great relationships within the organization and would be treated better by the fan base that’s well aware of what he is and isn’t at this point in his career than anybody else. And the price tag for the remainder of 2021 would likely not be huge. That works for this club.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up: A Significant Upgrade At Starter

This isn’t a great market to get a starting pitcher. And the Phillies — at least in theory — are only looking for a fourth or fifth starter to replace a body out of the Matt Moore/Chase Anderson/Vince Velasquez/Spencer Howard foursome. So you are not going to get Danny Duffy from the Royals or Kyle Gibson from the Rangers, players who could draw more sizable rewards in a bare market.


Get It Out Of Your Mind: Kris Bryant, Cubs

See everything we wrote about Kimbrel and add about 20 million more reasons on Bryant, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Would Bryant be thrilled to team back up with Bryce Harper? Absolutely. But he’s also the biggest fish in this trade deadline pond who had a decent start to 2021 – he’s leveled off when the Cubs tanked — and the Phillies would not appear to have the arsenal to be a serious player in this discussion. The one caveat is if they decide to trade Alec Bohm – but at that point, you have to get Bryant to sign a new contract almost immediately. Being this close to free agency, that’s not going to happen.

What’s Realistic: Jonathan Schoop, Tigers

It seems like the Phillies have been linked with Schoop dating back to his time with the Orioles. But this could be part of a chain reaction of moves that could make the Phils bench better and not cost a lot. Schoop – another free agent at the end of the year — could play second. That would allow Jean Segura to move to third, who would be a major defensive upgrade over Bohm. What to do with Bohm? It takes a ton of pressure off him to be a major contributor down the stretch and also let’s the Phillies contemplate an eventual position move (left field, first base, etc.) down the road.

Again, the Phillies aren’t in a position now for the big fish in this pond with their prospect count low. But that doesn’t mean they can’t throw their pole in the water and see what nibbles.

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Kevin hosts the “Working The Beat” podcast with Mike Kern, available on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere podcasts are heard. A regular on WIP, Kevin loves to interact with readers on Twitter. Follow him there at @KevinCooney.

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