June 18, 2024

On MLB Network Radio, former Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden claimed that various officials have told him that the Philadelphia Phillies’ top objective in trade talks thus far has been an outfield upgrade.

Despite an MLB-best 41-18 record, the Phillies are currently in a shaky situation with their three starting outfielders.

Right fielder Nick Castellanos has struggled this season, with a.612 OPS in 59 games. However, he was an All-Star last season and is currently in the third season of a five-year, $100 million contract.
Center fielder Johan Rojas is hitting only.223, and if the Phillies stick with him, he risks becoming a non-factor in the postseason at the plate, as he was last year, when he hit.093. At the same time, Rojas has 13 stolen bases, and despite some early-season glitches, he possesses game-changing defensive skills in center field.

Brandon Marsh, a left fielder, has seven defensive runs saved this season and is an All-Star when faced with right-handed pitching, against whom he has an OPS of.878. However, Marsh has only five hits in 36 at-bats (.139) against left-handed pitching this season, fueling speculation that he may require a platoon partner.

So it’s hardly surprising that Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is scouting the outfield market with less than two months until the July 30 trade deadline. The question is, what happens to Castellanos, Rojas, and Marsh if the Phillies make an upgrade?

That will most certainly be determined by how much the Phillies add, should they eventually acquire an outfielder.

They could, for example, trade for Lane Thomas of the Washington Nationals and have him replace Marsh in the lineup against left-handed pitching, as well as provide manager Rob Thomson with someone who can play left field if the team chose to employ Marsh in center field instead of Rojas. That would be more of a minor addition, essentially aimed at upgrading over Cristian Pache.

However, with a core of players primarily in their early 30s and the best record in baseball, the Phillies’ window will never be wider than it is now, so this does not appear to be a summer for minor tweaks. So possibly a larger increase is in the works.

From here, it’s difficult to imagine anything significant happening with Castellanos during the season. For now, the Phillies can only hope he warms up. While his.706 OPS in May is not very outstanding, it is a significant improvement from his.501 figure in April.

What they could do from there is seek for a player like Tyler O’Neill of the Boston Red Sox, with the expectation that he will be the full-time left fielder, with Marsh and Rojas platooning in center field depending on who is pitching for the other side. O’Neill, a two-time Gold Glove Award winner, has 11 home runs and a.843 OPS this year. The only issue is that he has failed to stay fit, and the 28-year-old is currently on the disabled list due to right knee inflammation. However, as a rental, the asking price would likely be manageable for O’Neill.

 

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On the most recent episode of The Phillies Show with Ruben Amaro Jr., Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki — trading for a controllable outfielder like Luis Robert of the Chicago White Sox.

Robert has missed the majority of the season due to a right hip flexor strain, but he is now on a rehab assignment and could provide the Phillies with a significant upgrade in center field if he can show his fitness. A year ago, Robert batted.264 with 38 home runs, 80 RBIs, 20 stolen bases, six defensive runs saved, and a 4.9 WAR. Robert would add to an already star-studded Phillies roster. And in his instance, he is still only 26 years old. He’s also signed for $15 million next season, with inexpensive $20 million club options in 2026 and 2027.

Of course, trading for someone like Robert would entail a huge loss of capital. No. 1 overall prospect Andrew Painter, who is sidelined for the season due to Tommy John surgery, is unlikely to be included. However, the White Sox would be interested in infielder Aidan Miller, outfielder Justin Crawford, and RHP Mick Abel, all of whom were selected in the first round. So would some of the system’s rising talents, such as shortstop Starlyn Caba and RHP George Klassen. Rojas would most likely participate in such a transaction.

Dombrowski will have to strike a balance this summer between not wanting to leave the cupboard bare and ensuring that this era of Phillies baseball concludes with at least one World Series championship. It’s difficult to believe that the latter won’t take priority to some extent.

 

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