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Bi-Weekly Report Card: Pitching Changes + Early Deadline Plans

The Phillies have been on a role, winning 13 of their last 15 but still have some serious questions to answer,

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MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not hard to feel excited about their recent run of success. Since my last report card, the Philadelphia Phillies are 11-2 and are keeping pace in the wild-card standings.

It’s not hard to see why, Kyle Schwarber has taken over June, Nick Castellanos has continued to be a force, and they’ve gotten hot streaks from Trea Turner and JT Realmuto.

The top four starters have mostly held up, especially Taijuan Walker who has a 1.50 ERA this month after an ERA over five the previous two.

However, it’s important to talk about the potential bullpen structure and talk about some plans for the trade deadline.

I’ll be back in two weeks with a full mock trade deadline.

Bullpen Structure Changes

There are two situations the Phillies need to monitor when it comes to the structure of their bullpen.

First is Seranthony Domínguez, on June 17, he was placed on the 15-day IL with a left oblique strain and it’s unclear how long he will be out.

Domínguez certainly has had his struggles this year but from April 18 to June 11, he carried an ERA under one and was one of the most important guys out of Rob Thomson’s bullpen.

They’ve called on Domínguez in various high-leverage spots against right-handed hitters. With Craig Kimbrel establishing himself as their closer, they no longer have a right-handed reliever to go to for leverage situations.

The first step they’re going to likely take is using the lefties against righties, specifically Gregory Soto. José Alvarado’s role shouldn’t change since he always gets the toughest hitters regardless of hand but Soto doesn’t.

Soto has allowed a .705 OPS and twelve of his fifteen runs against right-handed hitters this year. Given the situation, he’s likely the guy they have to trust.

Yunior Marté recorded a clean three-strikeout save on Sunday and since May 20, has a 1.69 ERA in 10.2 innings. That save was the first time he looked dominant but he’s mostly gotten the job done when asked.

Given Marté’s stuff, you would like to see more than 11 strikeouts in that span especially since you’re about to ask for big innings out of him in the future.

Jeff Hoffman has looked the part of a back-end right-hander including a save of his own in Oakland on Saturday. Maybe they just didn’t want to use him on back-to-back days but it was stunning to see Marté get the ball on Sunday and not Hoffman.

It worked to perfection, and they’ll need Hoffman anyway, but it’s easy to wonder who Thomson prefers in a key spot.

Notice how I didn’t mention Matt Strahm, who has done much more for the club than any of the other names mentioned.

It sounds like fatigue is kicking in and kicking fast. It’s easy to see he’s pitched three more innings than all of last year but it goes even deeper.

Strahm only had 19.1 innings of work on this exact day last year. In 2021, he didn’t come back until August and pitched just 6.2 innings for the season. in 2020, he pitched just 20.2 innings.

They had a somewhat similar situation earlier this year with Andrew Bellatti, who pitched far too many innings to begin the season and was placed on the 15-day IL with right triceps tendinitis.

If they wanted to go a similar route with Strahm, they probably won’t have issues replacing his role with Andrew Vasquez, who’s been as good as it gets for them and can pitch multiple innings.

However, they probably don’t have enough depth to sacrifice two reliever injuries. They’re essentially a seven-man bullpen until Dylan Covey is off the roster, who hasn’t pitched in over a week at the time of this release.

They could bring up Andrew Bellatti again, who had an ERA over 5 while in the majors this year and has just nine strikeouts in nine innings in AAA.

Luis Oritz can offer a multi-inning role but probably won’t be trusted in big innings like Strahm. Connor Brogdon gave up a three-run home run in one of his three outings which shouldn’t inspire confidence.

A less worked arm could help them but none of the options look great. Remember they are actively choosing to keep Dylan Covey over all of them.

Deadline Plans

The trade deadline is about seven weeks away but rumors are beginning to swirl about potential options.

It sounds like the Chicago White Sox are only willing to trade rental pieces, which hurts the Phillies. Their top rental option, Lucas Giolito makes little sense for this team given the cost. He’s not starting postseason games over Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Ranger Suárez, and even Walker who signed a four-year contract.

If they wanted to go the pure number five rental route like last season, Detroit Tigers starter Michael Lorenzen makes more sense but it’s easy to ask if that actually makes the team much better.

Cristopher Sánchez at the absolute least deserves another start or two and given the hole that is the fifth starter, he has the opportunity to play himself into a role beyond July.

If he gives you something close to a 4.7 ERA and competitive five-inning starts, trading for a fifth starter won’t make you better.

If the Phillies want to shop the starting pitching market, Dylan Cease would’ve made plenty of sense for both sides. The Phillies would give themselves a contingency plan for Nola’s free agency and the White Sox would get the chance to add some young pitching to their farm system.

Looking at the bat market, despite the defensive issues it could cause (Schwarber), Paul Goldschmidt makes all of the sense in the world for the club to target.

Goldschmidt is still putting up great numbers with a .289 average and an .883 OPS. He would plug in nicely in front of Bryce Harper.

It’s just hard to imagine the Cardinals trading him away a year after winning the division in 2022. Nolan Arenado and Wilson Contreras aren’t going anywhere anytime soon plus they have promising young hitters like Jordan Walker, Nolan Gorman, and Lars Nootbar.

Their starting pitching has been a big issue but it’s a lot easier to see them address that in the off-season and put out a competitive team next season over trading away one of their best players.

Outside of those names, there aren’t many big names available this trade deadline. Cleveland could trade Shane Bieber but his strikeout rate has dropped over seven percent and he has serious issues with hard contact.

Given the Phillies’ true needs, they might have to get creative when it comes to making improvements at the deadline.