Perhaps the high point of the Phillies’ 2018 season came August 7 in the heat of the Arizona desert. Nick Pivetta helped the Phillies bounce back from a tough loss the night before in which the bullpen faltered. At 64-49, they were 15 games over .500. You wanted to believe. It was fine to believe.
It was about a week after the trade deadline, and some of the players Matt Klentak had acquired before the deadline were finally starting to settle in a bit. Of course, there’s that whole non-waiver trade deadline business, and there would be more moves in the offing in the month of August.
Mid-way through the year, it became evident the Phillies had an opportunity to make the post-season. They certainly made plenty of moves in trying to get there. They did not. What did they learn? What did we learn? Here’s a look back at the flurry of activity the Phillies engaged in during the heat of the summer.
July 27: Phillies trade RHP Franklyn Kilome to New York Mets for SS Asdrubal Cabrera
It might have been an opening salvo, but it was a clear sign that Klentak was serious about trying to get to the postseason. With J.P. Crawford on the shelf for a good part of the season and Scott Kingery struggling, the Phillies began by addressing the shortstop position.
Cabrera was in the midst of a fine season, hitting .277./329/.488 with the Mets prior to the deal. It... did not work out here.
Cabrera hit just .228 with five homers and 17 RBI for the Phillies, with a measly .286 on-base percentage and .392 slugging percentage. The magic just wasn’t there. Cabrera might have scuffled at the plate, but he was actually fine in the field, both by the eye test and the advanced numbers. That was certainly a bit of a surprise, because he wasn’t known for his glove work.
2019 contract status: Free agent.
The Phillies paid just over $2.8 million to carry Cabrera on the roster for the remainder of the 2018 season. It was a gamble. It did not pay off. He will not be back in 2019.
July 31: Phillies acquire C Wilson Ramos from Tampa Bay Rays for player to be named later.
Ramos was on the disabled list when the Phillies acquired him. His nagging hamstring injury would eventually end up being a sort of cloud hanging over him for the remainder of the year. But when he was in the lineup, he certainly did what was expected of him.
Ramos ended up hitting .337 for the Phillies, with an .879 OPS. He had just one homer in 89 at-bats, a bit of a surprise after having 14 for Tampa. But he did display some gap power, and he had his moments. It was tough to watch him move around the bases at times, and he could be better suited as a designated hitter with an AL team in 2019.
Contract status: Free agent.
Ramos will be on the market this winter. It would be a bit foolish to close the door this early on things, but it seems like the Phillies will be turning 110-115 games over to Jorge Alfaro next year. Andrew Knapp does not seem like a likely partner, but Ramos could be a bit out of the Phillies’ price range, and he may want some more playing time. Expect someone in the mold of an Erik Kratz or A.J. Ellis instead of someone like Ramos.
July 31: Phillies acquire LHP Aaron Loup from Toronto Blue Jays for RHP Jacob Waguespack
There’s really not much to say here. The Phillies were looking for an additional lefty to give Gabe Kapler every opportunity to turn any September game into a bullpen extravaganza, but by the time September rolled around, things just didn’t feel the same as they did on deadline day.
Loup went on the DL with a forearm strain on August 16. He appeared in just nine games, tossing four innings. He was, for all intents and purposes, a non-factor.
Contract status: Free agent.
Loup will be on the open market this winter. It would be hard to see him fitting on the 2019 Phillies in any way.
August 10: Phillies acquire Justin Bour from Miami Marlins for LHP McKenzie Mills
This was certainly the move that made you refresh Twitter, waiting to see what else the Phillies had given up, if they had given up anything. Eventually, the Marlins came away with Mills, whom the Phillies had acquired last summer when they dealt Howie Kendrick to the Nationals.
Regardless, the Phillies received Bour from the Marlins, a late bloomer who had hit 64 home runs in the last two-and-a-half seasons, and seemed a good bet to bring some power off the bench. He ended up receiving just 54 plate appearances, and went on the DL with a left oblique strain about two weeks after the Phillies acquired him.
He ended up returning fairly quickly, and was available throughout the entire month of September. He finished with a .643 OPS with the Phillies.
Contract status: Arbitration, team control through 2020.
The Phillies are certainly in an interesting spot with Bour. They don’t have to tender him a contract, but he’s got two more years of team control if they want. And, this isn’t a team with high payroll right now. Keeping him could cost north of $5 million, and he’d certainly be in a reduced role, particularly if Rhys Hoskins is moved back to first.
But, if Hoskins remains in left and Carlos Santana shifts to third base, it’s entirely possible Bour could end up being a valuable piece to have. His status obviously depends on how the Phillies approach the rest of the roster.
August 22: Phillies acquire LHP Luis Avilan from Chicago White Sox for RHP Felix Paulino
Again, the Phillies were trying to have as many bullpen options in place as possible for Kapler in September. By this point, the Phillies’ record had slipped to 68-57, and they’d go on to lose this night, too.
Avilan appeared in 12 games, but only threw 5 2⁄3 innings. We didn’t get much of a feel for what he’s capable of, but lefties have hit just .213 against him with a .581 OPS in his career.
Contract status: Arbitration, team control through 2019.
There’s a good chance Avilan is here next season and in the Phillies’ bullpen. It wouldn’t hurt to have another lefty option out there to pair with Adam Morgan, and he’s under team control, so hey, it can’t hurt to give him around $3 million and see what happens. You’ll need him for the tough NL East lefties like Freddie Freeman and Juan Soto. And definitely not Bryce Harper, who will be Avilan’s teammate. That’s how that works, right?
August 28: Phillies acquire Jose Bautista from New York Mets for player to be named later
Jose Bautista? Really? Yes, that’s probably the reaction you had when this move went down, as the Phillies were in the midst of essentially proving that none of these moves had really worked, the bullpen wasn’t that great, and that things weren’t so hunky-dory, as they were a month earlier.
But yep, here was Bautista, who you’ll at least be able to remember as a trivia question sometime in the near future, having hit homers for three NL East teams in one season.
Frankly, Bautista probably got a little too much run in September, but he did end up hitting .244/.404/.467 here. He did what was asked of him.
Contract status: Free agent.
Bautista doesn’t look done yet. Next year will be his age 38 season, but perhaps he’s got something left in the bat. It would be hard to see him getting a chance to continue his career in Philadelphia.
Grade: B-, I guess?
The Phillies’ season certainly didn’t have to end the way it did. Had a few of these moves worked out a bit better, perhaps things would have been different. But the players who were already here certainly didn’t help the cause. The offense went into a major funk to close the season, the bullpen struggled, and the rotation ran out of steam. It was a collective effort in just about every regard.
But what we did learn this year is that the Phillies certainly did try to make the post-season, perhaps when they didn’t expect to have an opportunity to do so. They were aggressive at the deadline and after, trying to upgrade the roster.
At the end of the day, it also became clear that the Phillies are going to need consistent performance from the core players and the talent in the high minors to ensure that any mid-season acquisition can have an impact. And, oh yeah, a free agent or two might help the cause, too.