Why are the Phillies Planning to Buy at the Trade Deadline?

Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports) /

Why are the Phillies planning to buy at the trade deadline when they can’t even stay above .500?

The Philadelphia Phillies are, once again, under .500.

Now 5-5 in their last 10 games, with a losing record on the road (20-30) and a winning record at home (27-18), the Phillies have cooled off considerably from their pre-All-Star break streak of winning three series in a row against the Padres, Cubs, and Red Sox.

At the beginning of the second half, the consensus was that the Phillies would be buyers at the deadline, and ‘aggressively‘ so. Bryce Harper acknowledged the lack of depth in the farm system but said he hoped the front office would bring them the pieces needed to make a playoffs push.

Then, earlier this week, a member of the FanSided family, David Esser, made an interesting point:

Since this tweet, the Phillies are under .500 once again, having dropped both games of the Yankees series and the opener of the current Braves series. They’re now 47-48 on the season, the same record as their opponents this weekend, and tied with them for second place.

The context of the respective divisions is noteworthy: the Phillies (and Braves) are four games out of first in the NL East, which has proven to be a largely underwhelming division this season. The Cubs are nine games out, in fourth place in the NL Central, and have already committed to unloading pretty much everyone.

The Phillies have reportedly asked about “everyone and everything,” ahead of the deadline, with an obvious focus on pitching, specifically bullpen arms. It will be fascinating to see if the Phillies buy at the deadline, if they can convince any teams to trade for some of the dead weight currently on their roster, and how much of their farm system they’re willing to give up.

The trade deadline is a little over a week away, and though the Phillies are rumored to be planning on buying ‘aggressively,’ that could change. The Phillies certainly shouldn’t be holding a fire sale like the Cubs (which one could argue the Cubs shouldn’t be doing, either), but they might not be worthy of midseason upgrades after all. Why weaken an already-weak farm system and go over the luxury tax threshold for the first time in franchise history to upgrade a team that might not sniff a Wild Card game when they can wait until some money comes off the books in the upcoming offseason, and do big things then?

On the other hand, the way the first-place Mets have been playing lately – also 5-5 in their last 10 – keeping their heads just above .500 might be all the Phillies need to do to reach the postseason for the first time since their 2011 division title.

If the Phillies drop this series to the Braves, Dombrowski should at least consider not upgrading at the deadline. He probably already has.