Phillies is predicted to be aggressive because the buying and selling deadline approaches

While the Phillies have a -12 run differential over the course of the year, they could pose the greatest threat to the leadership of the Mets division in the National League East. The Nationals are 3-7 in their last ten, now seven games behind the Mets, and the cavalry may not come. The Braves know they will do without their biggest star, and while they currently have the best run difference in the division at +26, it’s hard to see Atlanta as a viable threat without Ronald Acuna Jr. The Marlins are 41-57, 12 games out, and they are in full sell mode.

That leaves the Phillies. Although they’re exactly .500 at 48-48, right where they were for most of the Bryce Harper era. That team didn’t sign JT Realmuto and hired Dave Dombrowski to run the front office just to listen. Not only do the competing executives expect the Phillies to get aggressive this trading deadline, but they believe the Phillies will be ready to break the luxury tax if it needs to be to find the right upgrades, according to MLB’s Jon Heyman Network.

As for the Phillies, there are many ways that the list can be improved. Heyman suggests they could use a starter, several helpers, and a midfielder. Alec Bohm wasn’t good (-0.1 fWAR) on the third base, but they’re not close to breaking away from the 25-year-old former top prospect.

The bullpen’s shortcomings have been thoroughly identified, and it now seems almost certain that they will add at least one bullpen arm. The question is whether they go for a premium arm like the Cubs’ Craig Kimbrel or target cheaper options like the Pirates’ Richard Rodriguez or the Rangers’ Ian Kennedy.

You could aim even deeper and shop in the opposing bullpen’s non-premium section, which has plenty of viable options at the right price: Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin from the Cubs, Caleb Thielbar and Tyler Duffey from the twins, or Anthony Bass, Dylan Floro and Yimi Garcia of the Marlins are some names worth checking out. That said, if there’s a team looking for a fire-tested seamstress to take the reins, it would be Philly.

In the middle, Starling Marte would be the obvious target, though it’s unclear how willing the Marlins are to move him within the division – it’s still clear whether the Phillies have what Miami GM Kim Ng wants in a return package. For starters, the Marlins are looking for a long-term replacement for Marte in the center, according to the Craig Mish of the Swings and Mishes podcast. That will slow trade discussions as most teams will be reluctant to move a younger, cheaper option into the center, especially if the Marlins are prioritizing close ML-ready prospects.

The Phillies have some midfield prospects they could dangle like Simon Muzziotti, their 10th place prospect from Fangraphs, Mickey Moniak, their 8th place prospect, or Johan Rojas, their fourth place prospect. Of the three, Muzziotti probably comes closest to starting the conversation for Marte.

Neither of the three is a blue chipper, however, and only Moniak has progressed past High-A. Moniak was of course the former No. 1 overall draft pick, but since his selection in the 2016 draft he has fallen in the prospect charts. Baseball America calls him “a fourth or fifth outfielder,” and he probably wouldn’t be seen as the centerpiece of a Marte deal.

Without a ton of options in the market, Philly may have to stick with its internal options. Odubel Herrera has bravely made a return after missing out on all of 2020, but he’s only rocking an 86 WRC +. Travis Jankowski was a revelation with 68 record appearances, although the 30-year-old was 76 wRC + hitter with 994 record appearances before this season. The fact remains that outside of Marte there aren’t many available midfielders in the market.

The Phillies may have an easier time upgrading their pitching staff, especially given the low bar. In addition to the bullpen, Philadelphia needs more for the rotation, although Dombrowski has not exactly succeeded in doing so, writes Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Off-season newcomers Matt Moore and Chase Anderson both grossed -0.1 fWAR and made $ 7 million together.

Philly starters have an ERA of 4.21, which is 21 in the majors overall, finishing 10th overall in innings. Still, given the uncertain track record of Vince Velasquez and rookie Spencer Howard, they might well find upgrades to 60 percent of the rotation. They are unlikely to find three starters, but it’s also hard to justify Dombrowski leaving the trading deadline with no new weapons in the rotation.

Cole Hamels has been a popular name lately, and it would certainly be fun to see the 37-year-old in a Phillies uniform again. It also has the added benefit that prospects do not incur any costs. Hamels alone won’t be enough, but there’s little risk to see if he can improve Moore’s place in the rotation.