The Philadelphia Phillies can’t trade for Tarik Skubal. Here’s why:
Tarik Skubal is having an up-and-down season.
After posting an impressive 2.15 ERA over his first ten starts of the season, he struggled through most of June and July, allowing three or more earned runs in seven of eight starts between June 7 and July 13. However, he’s turned things around over his last two starts, both shutout gems. His resurgence comes at the perfect time for the Detroit Tigers, who’ve made it clear they’re willing to trade the former top prospect.
So, why shouldn’t the Philadelphia Phillies go for him?
Based on what they’re unwilling to give up, the Phils aren’t likely to get a pitcher of Skubal’s caliber and potential (and club control) regardless. But that’s not why they know they can’t target him.
Simply put, the Phillies aren’t a good enough team defensively to bolster him.
With Skubal on the mound, the Tigers’ defense has -6 OAA. That his 2.92 FIP is so much lower than his 3.88 ERA only strengthens the claim that with better defenders backing him up, he’d be a significantly more formidable weapon.
Collectively, the Phillies’ -21 OAA is third-worst in the league. They’re currently half a game out of the third National League Wild Card spot and the three teams ahead of them are all +OAA defenders; the San Diego Padres have the best mark in the game, a whopping +27 OAA.
It’s a glaring indictment on the Phillies that their defense is so weak that it prevents them from improving their roster. Any time they consider upgrading the team, the front office has to consider if the team might actually make the upgrade worse.
To really hammer the point home, the -6 OAA with Skubal on the mound is tied for the fourth-worst mark with several other pitchers around the league, including Philly’s own Zack Wheeler and Jeurys Familia. The only pitchers on the roster getting +OAA defense are Nick Nelson, Bailey Falter, and the injured Zach Eflin, whom the Phillies need to replace at the deadline, hence this discussion about Skubal.
The Phillies are well aware that they need to improve their defense and plan to address that by the deadline as well, but this dilemma speaks to a much larger organizational failure. For years, this club has remained a mediocre group of also-rans because their plan of attack was to simply out-slug their opponents, with pitching and defense as afterthoughts. While failing to develop prospects, the Phillies constructed top-heavy, expensive rosters full of big bats with little defensive substance; the signings of Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos speak to that strategy.
The front office won’t be able to fix these issues entirely at the deadline, but hopefully, they’ll make them a priority going forward, so that their roster won’t hurt its own chances.