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July 31, 2021

What they're saying: Phillies are trade deadline losers, didn't do nearly enough to compete

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Dave-Dombrowski_012821_usat Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski.

With blockbuster trades flying around left and right, with division foes selling (the Nationals) and buying hard (the Mets and Braves), the Phillies were kind of sitting there, watching and stuck hesitant.

With a few hours to go on deadline day, the Phils were sitting 3.5 games back and at an even .500. Did that warrant a push?

Dave Dombrowski and the rest of the front office finally made a minor splash just before the passage of the cutoff, acquiring some pitching and a re-tread shortstop. None of it excited the fan base. And the Phillies proceeded to lose, 7-0, to the lowly Pirates later on Friday night.

What could be more Phillies than that?

Are Kyle Gibson, Ian Kennedy and Freddy Galvis enough to help the Phillies catch the Mets in the NL East? For what it's worth, Philly is currently at +650 (tied with the Braves) via Pickswise with regard to division odds. Prior to the deadline (and Friday night’s loss; the Phillies were alone in second at +400). The Mets are comfortably at -345.

If you believe what you read, it's probably not going to help much. Here's what they're saying about the Phillies pair of trades Friday:

Lucky 13 

Mike Petriello | MLB.com

Over at MLB.com they ranked all the deadline deals and the Phillies' came in at 13th of 19. Why? Well, Gibson may be overvalued quite a bit.

On the surface, you’ll see Gibson’s 2.87 ERA and his first All-Star appearance in a seemingly breakout campaign. You’ll see an upgrade over the incumbents, and that he's under contract for 2022, too. Fair.

But under the hood, it’s not that simple, because none of the underlying metrics support that there’s a real skill change here -- his strikeout rate is actually down from 2018 and ‘19 -- and he’s been awful over his last three starts (12 walks and 16 runs allowed in 17 1/3 innings) and he’s going from a pitcher-friendly ballpark and strong infield defense to a hitter-friendly park and one of baseball’s weakest defenses, though a reacquisition of Freddy Galvis was aimed toward that. [MLB.com]

Not enough

Joe Giglio | NJ.com

The Phillies probably needed to do more if they wanted to seriously contend this fall. They still have a makeshift outfield, and Gibson's arrival — paired with a hopeful healthy return from Zach Eflin — still leaves the Phillies likely starting Vince Velasquez every five days. Bleh. 

Over at NJ.com, they saw the Phillies as losers for this very reason.

Just not enough. The Phillies landed three players (Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson and closer Ian Kennedy, and Orioles shortstop Freddy Galvis) on Friday. All will help, but this team needed more. Gibson has struggled since the break and walked eight in his last start. He’s a No. 4 starter, which isn’t a bad thing. Kennedy will give the bullpen a jolt. I’m not sure how Galvis will be used, but shortstop Didi Gregorius could lose playing time soon. Giving up Spencer Howard to Texas showed how far the former top prospect has fallen. Another year, another deadline without impact for a team that’s gone a decade since making it to October. [NJ.com]

Even the losers

Michael Baumann | The Ringer

The Ringer called the Phillies losers for their decision to flip Spencer Howard and others for the aforementioned trio of Ramgers hurlers — however, as the great Tom Petty once sang, "even the losers get lucky sometimes."

The best pitcher the Phillies got back, weirdly enough, might end up being Crouse, a 22-year-old who’s impressed at Double-A for Texas this year. [The Ringer]
Fantastic — another pitching prospect to get Philly's hopes up.

Classic move

Bradford Doolittle | ESPN

Another sports publication, another "Phillies are losers" blurb. Here's what the Worldwide Leader had to say:

Trading young starter Spencer Howard to the Rangers for veterans Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy was a classic Dave Dombrowski trade. This one, though, might not really work out. Kennedy has had periods of success as a high-leverage reliever. He's had a decent 2021 season. But you'd never accuse Kennedy of being consistent. Still, it would be hard for him not to upgrade what the Phillies have gotten from their bullpen the last couple of seasons. [ESPN]

Can't touch this

Matt Gelb | The Athletic

Plugged-in Phillies fans no doubt have some extreme mixed feelings about the team's decision to trade away Howard, very recently the best pitching prospect on the team and a player in whom there was a lot of hope. He was not bad in 2020, but got hurt as the Phillies faltered down the stretch. This season, he was frustratingly micromanaged and perhaps as a result, wasn't able to really put together a fully impressive start — though he was dominant in short stretches.

Did the Phillies punt on him too soon?

But the Phillies sold low on Howard, who would have fetched more eight months ago. He was deemed untouchable by the previous front-office regime. He has suffered shoulder trouble in his past two seasons. He was on an innings limit in 2021 because the Phillies were concerned about his arm, yet they were willing to alter his role every few weeks. For an organization that extended the longest of leashes to Vince Velasquez and Nick Pivetta, Howard’s 52 2/3 innings in the majors were a cameo. That the Phillies turned him into a fourth starter, a potential closer and a lesser prospect prompts the question: Did the industry’s opinion of Howard fall this far, or did the Phillies bungle it?

The further and further Howard crept from his breakout season in 2018, the more doubt filled any discussion about him. Last week, the Phillies told interested teams they were willing to talk about Howard in a trade — as long as it wasn’t for a rental player. The Phillies had bigger ideas in mind for the deadline, but according to multiple sources, they encountered tepid interest in the prospects they were willing to deal. Howard was their best trade chip — and, even then, his value was not what it once was.

“He’s not established,” president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said. “And, really for us this year, if you were telling me we’re going to get four to five innings out of him the rest of the year on a consistent basis, I’d be thrilled. Would have been thrilled. With us to try to win, I don’t think that’s really enough right now from that spot.”

If anything, Howard represents another in a long line of developmental failures for the Phillies. [The Athletic]

Making the grade

Josh Hill | Fansided

Okay we've depressed you enough for one post. The reviews weren't all bad. Over at Fansided, they graded all the moves over the past week and the Phillies actually received a respectable B-. Here's why:

The arms race that exploded ahead of the deadline on Friday is the gauge with which to read whether a team won or lost a trade. On a normal playing field, the Phillies landing two solid starting pitchers for a postseason push is a decent haul. Juxtaposed against the juggernaut deals that were made by the Dodgers, Mets, and others, it’s a mid-tier move that moves the needle but not by much. It’s not a bad trade, is it enough to allow the Phillies to go blow-for-blow with the Dodgers in the NLCS? [Fansided]

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