The Phillies entered the Trade Deadline firmly in the National League Wild Card hunt and with an outside shot at catching the Braves in the division.
It was widely accepted that the Phillies needed to focus on three specific areas to upgrade in order to close the gap. They needed starting pitching, to provide reinforcements for a beleaguered bullpen, and maybe grab a bat or two for the bench.
By the time the dust settled on Wednesday, the Phillies had acquired Corey Dickerson from the Pirates and Dan Straily from the Orioles. These moves are in addition to acquiring Jason Vargas on Monday. We covered the Vargas trade here.
Now we’ll cover the deals the Phils actually made on deadline day.
The Phillies acquired Dickerson from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for international signing bonus money and a player to be named later. Dickerson, 30, is a left handed hitting outfielder who will be a free agent at the end of the season. He is a career .285 hitter with 107 home runs over a six year career spanning three teams. He was an All Star in 2017 and a Gold Glove winner in 2018.
Dickerson was hitting .317/.376/.556 with 4 home runs and 25 RBIs across 141 plate appearances with the Pirates. He mainly plays against right handed pitching, hitting .333 with 17 doubles and all 4 home runs.
Dickerson will most likely play left field for the Phillies, sharing time with Jay Bruce when the latter is healthy. He is also dealing with a groin injury, so sharing time with the already injured Bruce will allow both to get time off. Splitting the two will also give the Phillies a late game option off of the bench. Dickerson has four hits with two doubles in 10 plate appearances as a pinch hitter this season.
The addition of Dickerson to the Phillies’ crowded outfield will require more shuffling. The thinking here is that the Phillies will primarily move Adam Haseley to center and move Scott Kingery to third to replace Maikel Franco. However, Matt Klentak has also stated that Dickerson could play some center field according to the Inquirer’s Matt Breen.
Corey Dickerson has a groin injury and will be eased into action, Matt Klentak said. The Phillies believe he can play some center field.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 31, 2019
Dickerson is a good pickup for the Phillies. Getting him for practically nothing is almost unfair. He is a steady hitter who gives the Phillies more flexibility with their lineup and most importantly improves their bench. Dickerson can slot in nicely either in the top or bottom of the lineup, giving the lineup more depth and another left handed option.
Matt Klentak announced that the Phillies acquired Dan Straily from the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for cash considerations. Straily will report to Triple-A according to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki.
Matt Klentak said the Phillies acquired RHP Dan Straily from the Orioles for cash. He will go to Triple-A.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) July 31, 2019
Straily, 30, is purely a move to hopefully gain more pitching depth. The right-hander appeared in 14 games for the Orioles this year with 8 starts. He has a 6.23 ERA across 47 2/3 innings at the Major League level this year. In six starts in AAA, Straily is 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA.
The Phillies needed another starter for their rotation even after adding Vargas. As other mid-to-back end starters went off the board for relatively little, Matt Klentak and the Phillies opted to add Straily instead to bolster their minor league depth.
Straily has a career 4.56 ERA in 156 appearances. He will most likely just serve as a body when rosters expand in September. Perhaps his presence in AAA will allow for the Phillies to experiment with starters such as Enyel De Los Santos in the bullpen. Or they feel this makes them more comfortable with moving Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the bullpen.
Overall Deadline Thoughts
General Manager Matt Klentak has now presided over two trade deadlines where the Phillies were operating as “buyers.” In both instances, Klentak opted to make smaller moves for depth rather than adding impact talent by expending prospect capital.
Now, this is not necessarily a bad strategy. The Phillies improved their depth at the 2019 Trade Deadline. They did not pay premium prices to fix their glaring holes. They added multiple players in the weeks leading up to the deadline that will not make splashes but will improve the overall roster.
So the #Phillies' July additions are:— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 31, 2019
Also, Jay Bruce & Brad Miller in June. All for minimal prospect cost.
There's no real impact there, but it's a significant depth upgrade if nothing else. https://t.co/QENQV6j5yp
None of these moves will hurt the Phillies because they gave up very little to make them. But, it’s the moves Matt Klentak didn’t make that led them to be in the position they are in.
The Phillies desperately needed rotation help. They got some in the form of Jason Vargas. However, they were in the position of having to trade for an underwhelming player like Vargas because Klentak and Co. vastly overestimated the rotation entering the season. Instead of acquiring affordable upgrades, Klentak opted to roll the same five starters out in 2019.
And it has been an unmitigated disaster.
Of course hindsight is 20/20, but not making an attempt to sign Charlie Morton last offseason or trade for Cole Hamels at last year’s deadline are both big mistakes.
Morton signed a very affordable 2 year, $30M contract with the Rays. He is 12-3 with a 2.78 ERA in Tampa Bay.
Hamels was traded to the Cubs at a relatively low price tag. He had a 2.38 ERA in 76 1/3 innings for the Cubs last year as the Phillies rotation crumbled and the team fell out of the postseason chase. This year, Hamels is 6-3 in 17 starts with a 2.98 ERA.
One thing the Phillies have an abundance of is money. While they are reluctant to part with top prospects, the Phillies seem to have little qualms about spending money to upgrade the roster. So, why when Dallas Keuchel was sitting around doing nothing in June did the Phillies not offer him a contract?
Keuchel signed a one year, $21M contract with an adjusted salary of $13M with the Atlanta Braves on June 7th. Since then, Keuchel is 3-4 in 8 starts with a 3.86 ERA.
Since June 7th, non-Aaron Nola Phillies starters have a 5.79 ERA.
These are just a few examples, but they illustrate how the Phillies front office has let multiple affordable pitching upgrades go by the wayside.
If Matt Klentak was more proactive, the Phillies may not have been in the spot where they were this desperate for pitching. His moves at this deadline are fine. They are improvements. Klentak cannot be criticized for doing nothing about the floundering rotation.
But criticism about not doing enough now or in the past is absolutely warranted. His inactivity is partly to blame for the predicament his moves were trying to fix. The front office has a lot of work ahead of them in the offseason if the Phillies want to catch the Braves next year.
For now, the Phillies will have to hope their stars play better and their added depth helps them keep up in the Wild Card race.
If not, the heat will continue to rise in the front office.