The Philadelphia Phillies may be under .500, but they rank second in their division and are just four games back from the first-place New York Mets. Philadelphia does have an identical record as the Atlanta Braves, though the latter might be bracing itself for a downhill spiral after Ronald Acuña Jr. suffered a season-ending ACL injury. The Braves can still be a threat, but the Phillies should be primarily focused on catching up to the Mets in the waning months of the 2021 campaign.
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Rank: Second in NL East (4.0 GB)
For most teams, a winning percentage around .500 leads to plenty of deliberation about whether to buy or sell. However, no such debate exists for the Phillies. First of all, the club is second in its division and just four games behind the Mets. Translation: a playoff bid is well within reach and a few key additions at the deadline could boost them into contention. Additionally, the Phillies won’t be rebuilding anytime soon. With big-money players like Zack Wheeler and Bryce Harper on the roster, the team may re-tool from time to time but will never truly rip things apart and sell.
As such, let’s explore whom the club should look into ahead of the July 30 trade deadline.
Ian Kennedy, Closing Pitcher, Texas Rangers
The Phillies need to find an upgrade at closer. Hector Neris has secured 12 saves this season, but he has also blown six. Further, he owns a miserable 4.93 ERA. Kennedy could be just what the Phillies need to bolster the back end of the bullpen. The 36-year-old owns a 2.59 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and .233 OBA through 31 outings this year. He’s converted 15 saves while blowing just one. Velocity has been a key part of his success in 2021 as he’s throwing his fastball at 94.3 mph, which is a 0.7 mph increase from last season. He’s also throwing the pitch more frequently; the pitch had 50 percent usage in 2020 and 83 percent usage so far in 2021. The price to acquire him may be fairly high, but having a top-tier closer is imperative for playoff-hopeful clubs.
Jon Gray, Starting Pitcher, Colorado Rockies
The Phillies don’t need a huge addition to their rotation, but it’s quite possible that they can acquire Gray for cheap if he flies under the radar while other teams pursue higher-profile names like Kyle Gibson or Jose Berrios. Gray is 6-6 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.22 WHIP this season. In the month of July alone, he has gone 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and .214 OBA in addition to walking six batters and striking out 22. The 29-year-old is set to hit free agency this upcoming offseason and likely won’t re-sign with the Rockies due to the challenges of Coors Field. As such, Colorado should move on from him while they can still fetch a haul of prospects in return.
Hansel Robles, Relief Pitcher, Minnesota Twins
Robles isn’t a sexy option, but in a market where teams are willing to drastically overspend for relief pitching, the Phillies might not go crazy. Through 43 outings this year, the 30-year-old has gone 3-4 with a 4.25 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 24.2 percent strikeout rate, and 12.4 percent walk rate. Much like Kennedy, Robles has seen his velocity increase, too. His fastball (52.3 percent usage this year) has risen 1.2 mph since 2020, his changeup (34.7 percent usage) 1.2 mph, his slider (12.3 percent usage) 1.4 mph, and his sinker (0.7 percent usage) 1.6 mph. While his ERA is concerning for a true closer, Robles could at least complement Neris in the back end of the bullpen in a co-closer type of role. At the very least, he’ll give the Phillies ever-valuable relief pitching depth as they look to compete down the stretch.
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