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Identifying starting pitching options for the Phillies

Injuries are starting to test their depth

Atlanta Braves v Cincinnati Reds Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Yesterday, the Phillies had to park Ranger Suarez on the bench for a while thanks to back spasms, meaning two-fifths of their starting rotation are out of commission for a while. While they’ve skirted the baseball gods with how many times the original five have made starts this year, they’re now starting to get bitten a bit by the injury bug. They’ve already had to bring up Bailey Falter to substitute for Zach Eflin, now it looks like either Cristopher Sanchez or Kent Emanuel are going to get some run.

Sounds great, huh?

That means that it’s probably time for the team to start (if they haven’t already) scouring the outside teams for help in the rotation. Luckily for them, there really is a clear divide this year in the standings between teams still in the playoff race and those that are already looking toward 2023. So, some options have made themselves available, as unappealing as they might be.

The cream of the crop

Luis Castillo

With the Reds still not able to dig themselves out of their 3-22 start to the season, Castillo becomes the best option on the trade market for someone looking to acquire a top of the rotation starter. Castillo’s availability likely depends how whether or not Cincinnati thinks they can get back to contender status next year, but if they think they are still a ways away, he becomes enticing. He took a while to debut this season, not making his first start until May 9, and even then, he wasn’t exactly pitching like an ace. His first two starts saw him go only 9 23 innings combined, giving up six runs on those innings, allowing seven hits, two home runs and striking out only seven. Since then, he’s made eight starts, throwing 47 13 innings of 2.85 ERA (2.70 FIP) ball, allowing on 38 hits while striking out 53 and walking only 17. The best part is he’s only given up two home runs in those eight starts, something that would fit in well on this pitching staff.

The issue, of course, is what Castillo would bring back. He’s got another year of arbitration, so that kind of control and performance combine to equal a huge price tag. The team would likely need to give up one of Mick Abel or Andrew Painter, plus someone from the next group of prospects, the #3-8 range and maybe even a few more guys in the #15-20 group. That’s a hefty price tag that might not even be enough to better other offers for him, but the Phillies would be gaining his services this year and next. Are they really going to pay that?

Frankie Montas

The A’s held a fire sale prior to the season, trading away Matt Olson, Matt Chapman and Sean Manaea, but they strangely held onto Montas. As the season as carried on, it’s starting to make sense why. They needed not only innings for their own team, but they needed to hold onto a trade chip to use at the deadline that might cause teams to overpay in the hopes of bolstering their own playoff chances. It was a roll of the dice and it looks like it might pay off.

Montas has been very good this year, striking out 25.8% of the batters he sees while walking only 6.3% of them. He’s kept the ball on the ground quite a bit and hasn’t allowed many longballs this year. He’s durable, 95 23 innings in 16 starts and still has a year of team control himself.

The package to acquire him probably looks very much like what it would take to get Castillo, one of the team’s top two starting pitching prospects plus a bunch more. At first, like Castillo, it might be worth the freight, but with his leaving Sunday’s start after experiencing a two mile an hour drop in velocity (it’s been diagnosed as inflammation as far), teams will all of a sudden be a bit more hesitant in dealing. If the Phillies are looking to make a splash right now, Montas may not be the guy. He’s one to watch as the month keeps moving along.

Middle of the road options

German Marquez

Once upon a time, acquiring Marquez might have meant the team needing to deal from the very top of their system. Colorado had themselves a solid #2 starting pitcher that they decided to extend, hoping that he might anchor a homegrown rotation that helped bring the Rockies back into playoff contention.

The beginning of this season, the Rockies were looking like a playoff contender too. After play on May 7, they were 16-11, had an offense that was surprisingly potent and looked like they had the potential to maybe, just maybe, surprise people with a run at the third playoff spot. Since then, they’ve gone 18-33 and have fallen into “wait ‘til next year” status in the National League. Marquez has been a big reason. Counted on to be a rock in the rotation, he has instead disappointed to the tune of an ERA near six and peripherals that suggest maybe the Rockies missed the boat on dealing him.

And yet, he’s also a possibility to perform as a bounceback candidate who also has some cost control to his name.

Now, these are no doubt about it bad peripherals.

Marquez has earned every part of that ERA this year, pitching some of the worst baseball of his career. Hitters are hitting him hard and hitting him often. The velocity is still there, but he has been just absolutely wretched at locating his entire arsenal this year.

Therein lies the problem. Location and the lack thereof might be the result of some bad mechanics, something the team might be able to fix were they to acquire him. There is probably something else that is going on with Marquez, but that would be something they need to figure out.

His contract isn’t prohibitive, but it is something to think about. He’s owed quite a bit of money this year, $15.3 million next year and has a $16 million club option for 2024. That likely lowers the cost to acquire him a considerable amount, probably to the point the Rockies would rather just keep him to see if he can be fixed and moved in the offseason. However, if the team sees something that they feel can be tinkered, the cost might be right to trade for the Rockies’ hurler.

Kyle Hendricks

In the past, Hendricks got by on control, guile and deception. Armed with a fastball and changeup that were roughly the same velocity, Hendricks could put either pitch wherever he wanted to. Many thought that the magic would run out and it looks like, over the past two seasons, it has.

However, like Marquez before him, it’s possible the team might be able to get him on a deal that wouldn’t require a ton of prospects going back so long as they were willing to absorb the contract that would come with Hendricks (roughly $35 million if the 2024 option vests).

To be clear, Hendricks has been pretty bad this year. All of his peripherals numbers back up the previously mentioned idea that the magic would run out, but buying Hendricks, much like buying on Marquez, would be hoping that maybe putting him on a team where he doesn’t have to be much more than an average innings eater rather than staff ace would lower pressure and expectations. Hendricks would merely be looked at as a bottom of the rotation starter in the mold of Kyle Gibson,

Tyler Mahle

Mahle might sneak under the radar a bit, but if you look past his rather ugly ERA, there are some things that are worth considering.

The 4.48 ERA is pretty rough, but right away, we see his 3.56 FIP shows the peripherals are much better.

He’s in the red with a lot of the important things, the red being the place a pitcher wants to be. While his stuff doesn’t induce a lot of hitters to chase (especially with a fastball that isn’t high octane), they aren’t hitting the ball hard. A lot of this might be living on a prayer a bit, but so far, Mahle has been sneakily pretty decent. Now, it would be a mistake to think of him as much more than a #4 starter, a #3 if he’s having a really good day, but that also might drive his price tag down a bit. He’s in the bin of available starters next to those in the “ace” bin, so he probably wouldn’t cost the team someone like an Abel or a Painter, but if the team was willing to consider dealing players in the #3-10 prospect range, there might be a deal to be had.

I mean, it’s somebody

Zack Greinke

He doesn’t strike anyone out anymore. He’s the very definition of bottom of the rotation starter. He’s expensive contract-wise, so he’d probably only cost a lottery ticket. His peripherals stink and he’s likely living on borrowed time.

But admit it, wouldn’t it be fun to have Greinke on the pitching staff?

Brad Keller

<copy and paste all the stuff from Greinke>

But admit it, it wouldn’t be fun to have Keller on the pitching staff.

Keller is the one guy on the Royals’ pitching staff that other teams might actually want that will probably be available. No, he isn’t someone who would start a playoff game, the target of any team at the trade deadline. No, he isn’t someone you’d probably want in a crucial September series with a playoff spot on the line. What Keller is is someone who should give them 5-6 decent inning each start with a stinker thrown in every now and again. Those types of pitchers do have some value to a club, particularly one like the Phillies who have very little depth in the upper minors.

There are going to be a lot of options out there for the Phillies to consider at the trade deadline. These are but a few of them, but it’s looking like they are going to have act quicker than they may have anticipated. While there is time still, they won’t want to fall too far behind if they’re forced to rely on the minor league depth they have.