With the MLB All-Star Game come and gone, it’s now officially trade season. The Philadelphia Phillies will enter the second half of the season tied with the St. Louis Cardinals for the third and final Wild Card spot in the National League. They are also just two games back of the San Diego Padres for the second WC spot. That means the Phillies will firmly be in the buyers category this trade deadline, which arrives on August 2nd.
What do the Phillies need?
This could be said for just about any team this time of year. That usual demand coupled with a weak market for starters will mean mid-level pitchers will be going for premium prices. However, the Phillies should be looking for someone to fill Zach Eflin’s spot in the rotation for the rest of the season and possibly beyond. Eflin’s chronic knee problems have limited him to just 68 IP in 13 starts this season. There’s currently no timetable for Eflin’s return this season, and with his impending free agency, the Phillies would be smart to start thinking about replacements.
Center field is the obvious need here, with Phillies CFers ranking 27th in OPS among 30 teams. Matt Vierling has stabilized the position of late, but at a minimum the Phillies need an upgrade for the left-handed side of a platoon.
Corner outfield is also a need due to the absence of Bryce Harper. Philadelphia has managed to go 12-8 in the reigning MVP’s absence, but his broken thumb will keep him out of action until at least mid-August. And their offense has lagged in the games he’s missed. Nick Castellanos has been playing the field even when Harper was active due to a separate UCL injury to Harper. Castellanos has struggled at the plate this season with a .697 OPS and just 8 homers. Acquiring an OFer with some pop, especially left-handed, and solid defense who could easily slide into a bench role after Harper’s return would be wise.
The Phillies bullpen has actually been a strength of late, thanks to the emergence of Jose Alvarado and the re-emergence of Corey Knebel. Still, a reliable bullpen is a must in today’s postseason games, and you can never have enough quality relievers. Philadelphia could go for a lockdown closer despite the success of Seranthony Dominguez, but added depth is never a bad thing.
Two possible options were already outlined here after Bryce Harper was injured. They were Andrew Benintendi and Tommy Pham. We won’t retread that discussion, even though both are still good options.
Merril Kelly, Arizona Diamondbacks, SP, age 33
The starting pitching market is incredibly thin this deadline season, so the Phillies will have to be looking for bargains. Kelly has turned in a durable season on the mound in Arizona, posting a 3.26 ERA in 19 starts. That number of starts is tied for the most in baseball and Kelly’s 110.1 IP are good for 15th most in the Majors. Kelly doesn’t throw hard (92.7 MPH) and doesn’t strike many hitters out (19.7 K%) but he has been a consistent source of quality innings. His expected ERA of 3.29 and FIP of 3.33 point to Kelly not being the beneficiary of his home stadium or defense so the Phillies could feel comfortable putting him in a hitter’s park with their shaky defense.
Kelly is exactly the type of pitcher the Phillies could use with the uncertainty surrounding Eflin. His best quality is his ability to pitch a number of productive innings, as he has 10 quality starts out of 19 trips to the mound this season. Kelly is also under control for two more years at $8M and has a club option for 2025. He could replace Eflin this season and give the Phillies a ready alternative when they contemplate Eflin’s impending free agency.
Madison Bumgarner, Arizona Diamondbacks, SP, age 32
Bumgarner would be a means of lessening the blow of any trade package to acquire Kelly. The former Giants World Series hero hasn’t been awful this season, posting a 3.83 ERA across 98.1 IP in 19 starts. However, his peripherals are not encouraging. Bumgarner has an expected ERA of 5.03 and a FIP of 4.59. He averages just 91 MPH on his fastball and doesn’t have a particularly high ground ball rate (39.8%) for someone who doesn’t miss many bats.
Bumgarner on his own would not be a wise trade idea. But, if the Phillies were to take the remaining $37M of his salary remaining through 2024, they would be able to spare their light farm system in a trade for Kelly and add a pitcher with near-legendary postseason experience as depth.
Jose Quintana, Pittsburgh Pirates, SP, age 33
Quintana has emerged back on the scene after three dreadful years with the Cubs, Angels, and Giants where he had a 5.13 ERA in 65 appearances with 42 starts. This season, Quintana has a respectable 3.99 ERA through 90.1 IP in 18 starts with an expected ERA of 4.26. He dramatically reduced his walk rate from last season’s 5 BB/9 to a more reasonable 2.9. Quintana has also dramatically cut on his home runs allowed, as he has allowed 7 in 90 IP whereas last season, he allowed 12 in just 63 IP.
The left-handed Quintana would give the Phillies a cheap back of the rotation option, as he signed a one-year deal worth $2M before the season. It seems he’s regained some of the form of the Quintana that posted a 3.51 ERA over five and a half seasons with the White Sox before being traded to the Cubs at the deadline in 2017.
David Bednar, Pittsburgh Pirates, RP, age 27
Unlike his teammate Quintana, Bednar will come at a very steep price to acquire. The right hander was named to his first All-Star team after carrying a 2.89 ERA through 43 IP in 37 appearances with 16 saves in 20 opportunities. Bednar has nasty stuff, with a fastball that averages a hair under 97 MPH and a curveball that opponents are hitting .156 against. His K% of 32.4 is among the best in the league and his 57 punchouts are the fourth most among all relievers.
Bednar is arguably the best reliever on the market and is under control through 2026. Every contending team will be in on Bednar and the price to acquire him will likely be exorbitant. If the Phillies were to acquire him, Bednar would give them a potent 8th and 9th inning combo for the foreseeable with current closer Seranthony Dominguez possibly sliding into a setup role.
Noah Syndergaard, Los Angeles Angels, SP, age 29
Syndergaard is a very different pitcher from when he was a young phenom with the Mets. After a few injuries and decreased fastball velocity, the man nicknamed “Thor” has evolved into a mid-rotation starter. The right hander owns a 4.00 ERA in 74.1 IP across 14 starts this season. He averages just over 5 IP and has a WHIP of 1.20. He’s no longer a strikeout pitcher, as Syndergaard has the lowest K% (18.6) and strikeouts per nine (7.0) of his career. However, he does have a good ground ball rate of 46% and doesn’t walk many batters with a 6.4 BB%.
It’s not explicitly clear that the Angels will be sellers, but with a record of 39-53 and 10.5 games back of the Wild Card with Mike Trout heading to the IL, it’s safe to assume they will at least sell off some rentals. Syndergaard is exactly that, as he signed a one year, $21M deal with the Angels before this season. He’s been able to stay healthy after undergoing Tommy John surgery in February of 2021, but it’s becoming clear that his ace days are likely over. However, Syndergaard shouldn’t cost too much to acquire considering his injury history and his status as a high salary rental.
Ian Happ, Chicago Cubs, OF, age 27
The former top prospect has had a productive year in Chicago. The switch-hitting Happ made his first All-Star team this year after hitting .274 with an .808 OPS and 9 home runs in 90 games for the Cubs. Happ has never posted an OPS+ of under 100 in any of his 6 seasons in the big leagues. He played all over the field when he was promoted to the big leagues in 2017 but he’s primarily an outfielder now, usually occupying a corner spot.
Happ would give the Phillies a versatile switch hitter that could man right field until Bryce Harper’s return, allowing Nick Castellanos to slide to DH. When everyone is healthy, Happ can become the everyday centerfielder. He isn’t a standout defensively, but he’s not a negative either. Happ can competently patrol centerfield and give the Phillies consistent production, something they haven’t had in years. He’s also under control through next season, so there will be many teams interested in him.
Michael A. Taylor, Kansas City Royals, CF, age 31
Taylor is an elite defender who is enjoying one of the best offensive seasons of his career. The 2021 Gold Glove winner is hitting .264 with a .725 OPS with 5 home runs in 64 games for the Royals. The former Washington National has never been a strong hitter, but a career high .340 on-base percentage this season and career low strikeout percentage (23.7%) have brought good results at the plate. In the field, Taylor has 7 DRS in center this season and averages 12 DRS per 1,200 innings for his career.
Taylor is under control through next season with a $4.5M salary. He would be a massive defensive upgrade for the Phillies in center field from day one while also providing what is essentially league average offense. However, this is only the second year in Taylor’s career he has a wRC+ of over 100, with the other in 2017. It’s hard to fully buy into the offensive improvement for that reason. Also, Taylor and Matt Vierling are both right-handed, so the Phillies would still be lacking in left-handed outfield options. Vierling would slide to the bench in a fourth outfielder role with an acquisition of Taylor.
Josh Staumont, Kansas City Royals, RP, age 28
Staumont could come with Taylor in an interesting package deal. The hard throwing right hander has a 3.67 ERA across 27 IP in 30 appearances this season. However, he walks a tremendous number of batters with 6 BB/9 and a 15.1 BB%. Staumont allows a lot of baserunners in general with a WHIP of 1.44.
Staumont fits the profile of current Phillies reliever Sam Coonrod when he was acquired from the Giants. Coonrod too had a high WHIP (1.63) and struggled with walks despite having a good power fastball. Staumont doesn’t throw as hard as Coonrod, but he fits the bill of someone the Phillies and their current regime believes they can “fix” as they did with Coonrod in the past and as they have with Andrew Bellatti this season. Staumont’s three remaining years of control after 2022 add a bonus to anyone who can unlock him.