When the MLB trade deadline was all said and done yesterday, the Phillies did not stand pat. They did not go all-in. As they had been promising for weeks, general manager Matt Klentak avoided consummating a headline-grabbing move and instead tinkered around the edges.
He traded a player to be named later and international slot money for outfielder Corey Dickerson, who will pair with Jay Bruce as either a bench bat or corner outfielder. He traded for New York Mets starting pitcher Jason Vargas for a AA catcher and signed starter Drew Smyly to a big league contract after he was released by Milwaukee. He signed reliever Blake Parker to a deal after he was let go by Minnesota.
These are the types of moves a general manager makes when he knows his team is in playoff contention and needs a little help but also recognizes that playoff spot is tenuous at best. So they did not trade for Marcus Stroman or Zack Greinke. They did not pick up any relief pitchers of note. They did not add a marquee bat to the lineup. They got some bench depth (which was sorely needed) and grabbed a few low-risk, no-cost pitchers.
It was unexciting and underwhelming and, at the end of the day, probably the right decision.
After last night’s 5-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, the Phillies are 7.0 games out of first place in the NL East but are half a game outside the second wild card spot, tied with the Milwaukee Brewers and two games up on the Giants. It’s a tricky situation the Phils find themselves in, out of the divisional race but one of a handful of teams still in the NL wild card race, probably the most difficult a GM can find themselves in at this time of the year.
For that reason, adding rentals for prospects didn’t make much sense and the Phils avoided that scenario. However, they also decided not to pony up the prospects for pitchers who are under team control next year.
In order to get Stroman for a season and a half, the Mets had to give up their Nos. 4 and 5-ranked prospects, including their best pitching prospect. The Astros had to give up four prospects to get Greinke. We don’t know what the asking prices for Mike Minor, Matthew Boyd and Robbie Ray were, but we do know the Yankees, who desperately needed high-end pitching yet declined to meet the asking prices of the current teams of the aforementioned pitchers, decided it was too much to bear. The Phillies have far more holes than New York, so it’s not crazy to see why Klentak went with Jason Vargas and Drew Smyly.
Sure, adding a pitcher like Tanner Roark or Sonny Gray would have been helpful, and it’s unclear why Klentak wasn’t more aggressive for a pitcher of that ilk. That’s a fair complaint. And the Phils could have beefed up their bullpen for minimal cost. The Nationals and Braves each added three relievers yesterday, with Washington landing Daniel Hudson, Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland and Atlanta getting Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin. Even one of those bullpen arms would have been invaluable, but Klentak decided the additions of Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin to the ‘pen was enough.
That’s hope as a tactic, and that generally doesn’t work out.
So yes, Klentak could have done more, but at the end of the day, a trip to the postseason isn’t going to rest on having Tanner Roark or not. It’s going to rest on the core that was added to this team during the off-season. Klentak looked at how his team has played over the last two months and decided adding big names at the deadline was unwise, and that their core of stars was going to be the driving force for any playoff run this summer.
It was an understandable decision, even if it wasn’t inspired.
On Episode 307 of Hittin’ Season, MLB.com’s Mike Petriello joined me to talk about the Phillies’ trade deadline strategy and the other big moves that went down across the Majors on Wednesday.