Expect the Phillies to buy at the trade deadline
If the Phillies remain in contention into July — even if they resemble just a fringe playoff team — they’re going to buy before the trade deadline. They have to go for it with a core of Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler in their primes.
Adding elite, shutdown lefty relievers is something contenders do at the deadline. But the truth is, it will be hard for the Phillies to add a bullpen southpaw who fits that description.
There just are not a lot of top-tier lefty relievers who 1.) will be available in a trade or 2.) that the Phillies can afford in a trade. Landing the best of the best will require giving up solid prospects and/or controllable young Major-League talent.
The Phillies don’t have a strong farm system. With the prospect capital they do have in the minors, will they spend it on a lefty reliever when they may have more important needs elsewhere, like in center field or the back end of the rotation?
It’s still May, so the list of teams who are sellers will change and grow by trade season in July. But for now, here are a few realistic (and a couple overly optimistic) lefty options who could be difference-makers in Philly:
Sean Doolittle – Reds
Doolittle was a key member of the 2019 World Series champion Nationals and has posted a 2.42 ERA with a 23/3 K/BB ratio in 20 career postseason games. He’s posted a 132 ERA+ and 112 saves and has held lefties to a .186 batting average and .537 OPS in his 10-year career. Doolittle will be a free agent after the 2021 season, making him a cheap trade candidate if available.
Andrew Chafin and Rex Brothers – Cubs
Chafin has a 2.70 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 20 appearances for the Cubs this season. Lefties have hit under .230 against him in his career and he’s allowed just 18 home runs in 294 2/3 career innings (0.5 HR/9). His contract includes a $5.25 million mutual option for 2022, but there’s a cheap $500K buyout. Chafin could end up being just a rental for the rest of this season, which lowers the price tag.
Brothers, meanwhile, is under club control through 2022. He’s still arbitration-eligible, too, so any team that trades for him won’t have to commit to him beyond this season. Brothers is having an even better season than Chafin. He’s struck out 26 of the 62 batters he’s faced and lefties are hitting .087 with a .430 OPS against him this season.
Taylor Rogers and Caleb Thielbar – Twins
The Twins will have to be completely out of the postseason race for this to be a possibility. But they’re a mess right now with the worst record in the American League.
Rogers is one of the game’s elite relief pitchers, and because he isn’t a free agent until after the 2022 season, he’ll be by far the most expensive of anyone on this list. He’ll also be tough to acquire because if he’s available, almost every single contender will be in on him. Rogers has held lefties to a .206 batting average and .558 OPS in parts of six seasons with the Twins. He has a 23/2 K/BB ratio in 14 appearances in 2021.
Thielbar could be a trade option as well, but he’s controllable through 2024, so the Twins may be hesitant to trade him unless they’re blown away by an offer.
Other LHRP possibilities
- Alex Claudio and Tony Watson (yes, that Tony Watson) – Angels
- Richard Bleier – Marlins
- Paul Fry – Orioles
*All stats updated through games played on Tuesday, May 18