The Philadelphia Phillies acquired starting pitcher Kyle Gibson, relief pitcher Ian Kennedy, and pitching prospect Hans Crouse for Spencer Howard, and two pitching prospects in Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner.
While there are mixed feelings on both sides surrounding this trade, one thing is for certain: the Phillies front office made this team better. How much better is the question.
Gibson will join a rotation currently headlined by Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola, along with Zach Eflin who is currently sidelined with an issue concerning his knee that was surgically repaired. Gibson immediately upgrades the rotation whether or not Eflin returns from his injury sooner rather than later.
However, Gibson does not come without question marks, rightfully so. Prior to his All-Star 2021 season, Gibson owned a career 4.57 ERA, and was nothing more than a back of the rotation type of pitcher. Many of his critics cite that he is due for a regression, and a steep one at that. Yet, this season has proved to be a renaissance of sorts for the sinker-baller who has posted a 2.87 ERA with a 1.177 WHIP. However, his .267 BABIP indicates that there has been some luck, especially considering he is a pitcher that relies on putting the ball on the ground.
Those factors may lead many to imagining the faltering Phillies defense behind him and how that could spell disaster. But, the last-second addition of Freddy Galvis via trade from the Baltimore Orioles could help with that matter.
Had it not been for a couple of poor starts coming out of the All-Star break, Gibson very likely would have been sporting a sub-2.00 ERA. He isn’t the top of the rotation guy that he appeared to be with the Texas Rangers, but he will give Philadelphia quality innings in a time when those are hard to come by.
Another factor on Gibson’s side is HOW he pitches. Since the crackdown on the “sticky stuff” Gibson has been relatively unaffected due to his propensity to rely on the sinking fastball. His spin rate has remained the same and his stuff has arguably become more valuable because of it. Additionally, Gibson reworked his cutter which has helped in getting more batters out, while also improving his barrel percentages.
Other than giving up a 2R-HR to arguably the AL's best player so far this year, Kyle Gibson has been really good. Lots of movement on the cutter. It's almost as if he's throwing a hard slider and a softer slider...except the hard slider is his new cutter.— Jared Sandler (@JaredSandler) May 5, 2021
Gibson is a good veteran presence that will now be inserted into the rotation, while also being someone the club can rely on to get the job done more often than not. He received heavy praise from the Rangers for his presence in the clubhouse and how he mentored the younger players while being on a dismal team.
He will also be around next season at a reasonable rate of $7 million. It takes pressure off of finding who will provide those innings, something that has been an issue for the Phillies during the entirety of 2021.
Now, what about Kennedy?
The 36-year-old has also experienced an incredible turnaround as he has embraced his role as an arm in the Rangers bullpen. Kennedy had to transition from being a starter, who experienced an abysmal 2020, into a relief option. He has excelled in that change in order to prolong his pitching career, and has now remade himself into a viable closing option.
Kennedy has 16 saves in 17 attempts, and sports a nice 2.51 ERA with a WHIP of 1.052. The former-Ranger has only pitched 32.1 innings this season, but much of that can be attributed to Texas not experiencing a ton of high-leverage situations in 2021. He could immediately slot in as the Phillies’ closer, or he could act as a nice anchor for late innings.
While not the top option on the market, Kennedy does improve the beleaguered Philadelphia bullpen while also adding that ever so coveted veteran presence.
For now, the trade appears to be relatively balanced. The Phillies received the upgrades they needed, but gave up Howard, who has struggled but still has promise, along with two lottery tickets in Gowdy and Gessner.
Hans Crouse to the Phillies too? Wow. Crouse has been good in AA for Frisco this season and his last start was quite good. https://t.co/4paAJEdAcP— Kade Kistner (@KadeKistner) July 30, 2021
What makes this trade stick out is the addition of Hans Crouse by the Rangers. Crouse is not a throwaway prospect by any means. Once regarded as the top pitching prospect in the Rangers’ system, Crouse has since cooled off, but has still pitched well in AA for the Frisco Rough Riders this season. While he used to pitch in the upper 90s, he now sits more mid-90s, but he has improved his control and he looks good on the mound after battling with previous injuries. He will be Rule-5 eligible this winter, which may have been a deciding factor on the Rangers’ part to include him in the deal.
The biggest question is what Philadelphia has in mind for Crouse in terms of his role. Crouse has come up as a starter, but some believe his stuff is better suited for the bullpen. Regardless, his development will be crucial and the Phillies must avoid doing to Crouse what they did to Howard in terms of impacting his development.
In the end, the Phillies addressed the present, as many hoped they would, while also adding a nice piece that could impact the future.