The 2020 Philadelphia Phillies experience was on full display this past Thursday. The club’s high-powered offense scored seven runs in the top of the first inning against the Blue Jays. Starter Vince Velasquez and the bullpen then proceeded to blow the game, most notably allowing seven runs in sixth inning of a seven-inning game. Toronto went on to win 9-8 (box score).

“That’s (GM Matt Klentak’s) job and people above me,” manager Joe Girardi told reporters, including Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, after the game when asked about trading for bullpen help. “My job is to manage the players that they give me and to get the best out of them. So, I will continue to try to do that. You know, everyone talks about trades during the trade deadline and it always takes two to tango. I’ll let them handle that and I’ll manage the guys they give me.”

Klentak did not wait long to act following that ugly come-from-ahead loss. On Friday, the Phillies acquired Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree in a four-player trade with the Red Sox, and also added veteran swingman David Hale in a minor trade with the Yankees. Those moves alone won’t cure what ails the bullpen, but they are certainly a start.

“We think Workman and Hembree will come in and give our group a boost and that’s what we need right now,” Klentak told Salisbury following the trade. “This season is very unique. On one hand, our trade acquisitions might only be here for six weeks, but that’s two-thirds of the season, which is significantly longer than a typical trade deadline would allow.”  

The Phillies have been up and down all year — going 2-8 against the Blue Jays, Marlins, Orioles, and Red Sox is no way to go through a 60-game season — though they are within striking distance of a postseason spot, and there was never any reason to believe the club would do anything but add at the deadline. They’ve spent too much money and traded too many prospects to not go for it.

Klentak and his staff have been fairly aggressive at the trade deadline the last few years even though it hasn’t led to a postseason spot. Last season they added Jay Bruce, Corey Dickerson, and Jason Vargas at the deadline. The year before they brought in Jose Bautista, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Wilson Ramos, among others. Le’s preview the deadline for Klentak and the Phillies.

Biggest needs

Phillies GM Matt Klentak will be busy looking for bullpen help at the deadline.
USATSI

The bullpen. Even after the Workman and Hembree trade, the bullpen remains priorities No. 1, 2, and 3 for the Phillies. They have the worst bullpen ERA in baseball by nearly two full runs and I’m not sure Girardi, who was a wizard with his bullpen management during his time with the Yankees, has enough magic to make this group succeed. More help is needed.

Beyond the bullpen, the Phillies could use help in center field and at the back of the rotation depending on their willingness to be patient with top prospect Spencer Howard, who has allowed nine runs in 11 2/3 innings in his three starts. The bullpen is the very top priority right now. Center field and rotation depth are on the shopping list as well.

Possible targets

The Red Sox are open for business and they have two rental center fielders who make sense for the Phillies in Jackie Bradley Jr. and Kevin Pillar. Pillar is having the better season and, as a right-handed hitter, he would better complement the lefty swinging Adam Haseley. Either he or Bradley would represent a significant defensive upgrade for the Phillies, whose outfield defense has ranged from poor to atrocious this season.

Reports indicate the disappointing Angels will sell at the trade deadline and their best trade chip (non-Mike Trout division) is Dylan Bundy, who tweaked his pitch mix after coming over from the Orioles and has pitched like an ace early on. Bundy will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player next season, so he’s not a rental, and that means he won’t come cheap. He might be the best available starter, though it’s unclear if the Phillies will meet that asking price.

Similar to Bundy, Kevin Gausman tweaked his pitch mix after signing with the Giants this past offseason and he’s now running the highest strikeout rate of his career. Gausman is working on an affordable one-year contract, and with San Francisco in rebuilding mode, he figures to be available at the deadline. There’s a decent chance he will be the best rental starter on the market and that could create a bidding war. Then again, it’s Kevin Gausman. The price won’t be that high.

It’s a bit surprising the Orioles haven’t traded Mychal Givens yet. He is the top trade candidate on the roster and because he will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player next season, Givens should fetch Baltimore a nice return. As noted, the Phillies desperately need bullpen help, and Givens would fit nicely this year and next. Late-inning bullpen help is hard to find and this may be a spot where Philadelphia is willing to step outside their comfort zone to get a player they can keep beyond 2020.

The Phillies and Red Sox match up pretty, pretty well this trade season. The Workman and Hembree trade was a natural fit, Bradley or Pillar would make sense as well, and so would Martin Perez. The veteran left-hander has been good this year, not great, but he has bullpen experience and that could prove quite valuable come postseason time. Also, Perez’s contract includes a $6.25 million club option for next season, so if he pitches well, the Phillies can keep him around in 2021.

Other potential targets: RHP Ian Kennedy, Royals; RHP Keone Kela, Pirates; RHP Matt Magill, Mariners; RHP Richard Rodriguez, Pirates; RHP Trevor Rosenthal, Royals; Taijuan Walker, Mariners

Trade chips

Howard and fellow top prospect Alec Bohm are presumably off limits at the trade deadline. The Phillies were reportedly willing to part with Bohm in Kris Bryant trade talks over the winter, but that was a potentially significant trade, and it’s hard to see something that complex going down prior to Aug. 31. Possible? Sure, absolutely. Unlikely? Yeah. Hard to see Bohm moving before Aug. 31.

Only players included in a team’s 60-man player pool can be traded this year and the Phillies have four of their top 15 prospects according to MLB.com at the alternate site: Bryson Stott (No. 3), Adonis Medina (No. 6), Rafael Marchan (No. 8), and Enyel De Los Santos (No. 10). Righty Connor Seabold went to the Red Sox in the Workman and Hembree trade and was a prime trade chip.

One name to keep in mind: Damon Jones, a 6-foot-5 southpaw who posted a 2.91 ERA with 152 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings at three minor-league levels last season, including Triple-A. He has a mid-90s fastball and is making enough progress with his secondary pitches (changeup, curveball, slider) that starting long-term is a possibility. Jones will be in demand at the deadline.

Teams can get around the 60-man player pool rule with players to be named later. They can include a player to be named in a trade as a placeholder, then, once the season ends, a non-60-man player becomes the player to be named. So, really, anyone in the system can be traded, and Philadelphia’s list of untouchables is likely small with their World Series window as open as it’s going to get.

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