Notes, quotes and observations from Phillies' trade deadline


Now that the sun has set on a busy Phillies trade deadline, let's take a look at what happened and what it all might mean.

Did the Phillies get better?

Yes. They got marginally better and every little bit counts in the tight National League East race.

In Kyle Gibson, they acquired a competent, veteran major-league starter to slide into the fourth spot in the rotation. He's better than what the Phillies had been using there. 

Closer had been a problem for this team for more than a year. Ian Kennedy knows his way around the ninth inning. He doesn't get scared, and that's big. He throws strikes, and that's even bigger.

So the Phils filled two holes, not with marquee guys, but with experienced competence.

But the onus is still on the players who have been here all year to be the biggest difference makers.

"We're happy with what took place, we think we have a little better chance to win based on what we did," president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski said. "Of course, we've got to take care of it on the field."

A huge key to it all

Zach Eflin has missed three starts with right knee tendinitis. If he doesn't return soon, the Phils are going to be right back where they started, with a starting pitching deficit and needing to rely on the inconsistent pair of Vince Velasquez and Matt Moore. With a healthy Eflin, the Phils can go four deep with Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Gibson completing the foursome.

"I'm hopeful that within two to three weeks, Zach will be back and all of the sudden we'll be running four established starting pitchers out there that have been successful at the big-league level, and then fill in that fifth spot," Dombrowski said. "It was really important, for me, if we're going to compete to try to win our division -- if you're only throwing two established starters out there, that makes it really tough. I think you can piecemeal a lot of it together but if you're trying to piecemeal three spots together, that's really hard."

Will Kennedy be the closer?

Dombrowski deferred to manager Joe Girardi on that one, but, in time, and probably not very far off, you can bet Kennedy is going to be closing games for this team. The Phils did not get him to be a setup man. They have guys who can handle that role. Kennedy can fix a problem and the Phils should use him thusly.

Did the Phils aim high on a closer?

Yes. Sources say Craig Kimbrel was the apple of their eye. He's dominant and under contractual control for next season. The Cubs' price for Kimbrel started with pitcher Mick Abel, the Phillies' top prospect. That was a nonstarter. The Phils need to build a sustainable pitching staff from within and Abel was an untouchable.

The Phils were also very protective of third baseman Alec Bohm, shortstop Bryson Stott and recently drafted pitcher Andrew Painter.

On their winning curve, the Phils are not one piece away from the World Series. It would have been unwise to mortgage too much of the future.

So why did they trade former top prospect Spencer Howard?

Because, after injury setbacks, endurance issues, drops in velocity and slower than expected development, he was no longer their top prospect. The Phillies still liked Howard, but given their desperation to end a nine-year playoff drought before it reaches a decade, and their need for help now in a bad but winnable division, he was the value piece the Phillies felt most comfortable parting with.

Howard, 25, was the centerpiece in the deal that brought the Phillies Gibson, Kennedy and 22-year-old right-handed pitching prospect Hans Crouse from Texas.

"It was a very difficult decision," Dombrowski said. "I think Spencer has a chance to have a real nice big-league career. But we thought if we were going to try to win this year, we needed a chance to have a more established guy go out there with consistent innings."

Dombrowski would not have traded Howard without getting Crouse, a second-round pick out of Dana Hills High School in southern California in 2017. That's the same draft in which the Phils got Howard in the second round -- and the same high school that produced Luke Williams.

"It was really important if we were going to talk about Spencer, we wanted to get another young pitcher in return that we liked a great deal," Dombrowski said. "We would not have made the trade, trading that caliber of player, unless we got Crouse back in the deal. You look at Crouse's numbers and his pedigree, he's a good pitcher, a good prospect. A little bit further away. He could end up pitching in Triple A by the end of the year. We like Spencer. We just think with what we were trying to do, we were willing to give up potential there, replacing it with Crouse."

What about Ranger?

One of the attractions of adding an elite closer like Kimbrel was it would have allowed the Phils to move Ranger Suarez to the rotation. He's done a nice job filling a problem spot at the end of games, but he was groomed as a starter.

Could it happen now that the Phils have Kennedy?

Possibly. Dombrowski said the matter has been discussed and he needs to circle back with Girardi and others on the topic.

"Joe needs to sit down and look at how his 'pen looks with Kennedy here and the other guys we have and decide the best way to go," Dombrowski said.

Any more pitching coming?

No more trades can be made, not even the old waiver trades. It is possible that the Phils could add through free agency.

Cole Hamels is still out there. The Phils have watched him work out.

"That's a topic we still need to revisit," Dombrowski said. "We like Cole. We'll revisit it in our conversations and see where it goes."

So, there's a chance.

What about the luxury tax?

The Phils remain about $4 million to $5 million under it because the Rangers sent along about $4 million in the deal.

Dombrowski indicated that he was under no mandate to stay under the tax. His guiding principle was: try to get to the postseason the best he can without wiping out the future.

Freddy is back

Don't underestimate the importance of trading for old friend Freddy Galvis. One of the Phillies' middle infielders (Didi Gregorius) is a major defensive liability and the other (Jean Segura) has been on the IL twice. Third baseman Bohm has also struggled defensively. Ronald Torreyes has almost become a semi-regular. Having Galvis around for infield depth, and maybe even more than that, is a smart play, even if he's still nursing a quad injury and might not be ready to play in the big leagues for a couple of more weeks.

No harm, no foul

Dombrowski had a deal for Pittsburgh lefty Tyler Anderson fall through earlier in the week when the Pirates flunked a Phillies prospect on a review of medical records. Pittsburgh backed off the agreement and swung a deal for Anderson with Seattle.

Dombrowski said he had no problem with what the Pirates did. The two sides tried to restructure the deal with a different player but could not agree on value.

"I don't think there was any impropriety," he said. Pirates GM Ben Cherington "called to explain the situation and what took place and I understood it."

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