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Phillies Don't Add Big Bat At Deadline. Will Reliance On Struggling Veterans Backfire?

August 2, 2023

Morgan Killian-Moseley

The Phillies surprised and confused plenty of fans by not adding a high-profile bat at the trade deadline. While the Phillies did bolster their pitching staff by acquiring All-Star starter Michael Lorenzen from the Detroit Tigers for High-A infielder Hao-Yu Lee, the only position player the Phillies acquired at the deadline was infielder Rodolfo Castro, best known for his cell phone coming out of his pocket sliding into third base; who the Phils received from the Pittsburgh Pirates for lefty hurler Bailey Falter.

There were rumors the Phillies were targeting Paul Goldschmidt in St. Louis's fire sale, but Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado seemed to be the only two pieces Cardinals General Manager John Mozeliak was not willing to part with. Colorado's C.J. Cron and Randall Grichuk were seen as upgrade options, but the Los Angeles Angels scooped them up. Adam Duvall was a sought-after target, but the Red Sox, like the Phillies, are in the thick of the Wild Card race and wouldn't give him up.

In fact, with so many teams still in the legitimate fight for a playoff spot, there were very few true sellers this year; though the Mets emphatically added themselves to the list by sending David Robertson to Miami, Max Scherzer to the Rangers, Mark Canha to Milwaukee, Tommy Pham to Arizona, and Justin Verlander back to Houston. But there was definitely some quality talent on the market.

So why did President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski and GM Sam Fuld choose to play it safe and place their faith in their current bats? Quite simply put, there's too much money invested in them not to do so.

The Phillies are paying Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber, and J.T. Realmuto a total of $118.7 million this year and each of the next two years. And all have had their share of problems this season.

Harper's .292 average is 2nd-best on the team, but Tommy John surgery and learning how to play first base essentially on the fly seems to have sapped his power stroke; Harper has hit only five home runs this season.

Castellanos had been arguably the Phillies' most consistent hitter before the All-Star break, but he's struggled since, hitting only .130 in the second half of the season.

Everyone knows that Schwarber is a "three true outcome" hitter and while his .325 on-base percentage isn't too bad for a leadoff hitter, his .184 average definitely is. Not to mention Schwarber's 18 runs saved BELOW replacement. The hope was having Harper at 1st would allow Schwarber some DH time to focus on his hitting, but it looks like what you see is what you get with Schwarbs. Either he hits the ball a long way or he doesn't hit it at all.

Realmuto's struggles tend to come with runners in scoring position, as he's hitting .185 in those situations. In fact, Realmuto is hitting only .210 with runners on base as opposed to .270 with the bases empty.

And despite Turner's team-leading 21 stolen bases, his 114 strikeouts and 13 defensive errors have left much to be desired; prompting many people to say the Phillies made a mistake in signing him to essentially a lifetime contract.

In fact as a whole, the big money veterans have been outplayed by "Phillies Daycare", Bryson Stott and Brandon Marsh, who have been much more consistent with the ashwood and the leather. And Alec Bohm has looked like team MVP this season, leading the team with 66 RBIs and excelling at an approach that seems to be on life support in today's baseball: hitting to the opposite field.

It's a lot to ask of any player, young or old, to carry a team to victory every night. It's an even more daunting task when you have to overcome the worst defense in the Majors and the fact that your opening day starting pitcher seven years running, Aaron Nola, is getting shelled nearly every time he takes the mound this season. Nola has allowed 24 home runs this year, the most by any Phillies starter, and has been taken deep in 18 of his 22 starts. His 4.43 ERA is worst in the Phils' rotation as well. Whether it's not adjusting well to the pitch clock (including what seems to be a predictable delivery pattern from the stretch), having thrown more pitches last season than in any year his entire career, or the shortened recovery time as a result of the Phillies winning the pennant, it's clear Nola's performance has been even more inconsistent than ever before; and that the odds of him returning to the Phils next season in free agency are dwindling.

In any case, the Daycare Boys can't carry the team into a Wild Card spot by themselves, nor should they be expected to. By not adding a big bat at the deadline, the Phillies are betting on their "Stupid Money" hitters to turn things around down the stretch. Considering what we've seen from them this season it's a sizable risk, one that quite possibly won't pay off.


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