How an uninspiring trade deadline affects the Phillies long-term

Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies v Miami Marlins / Sam Navarro/GettyImages

If we're being objective about it, the Philadelphia Phillies made more of a whimper than a bang at the trade deadline, although the additions of Michael Lorenzen and Rodolfo Castro might yet bear some fruit for the remainder of 2023 and beyond. But there are other factors at play here.

Aside from bringing in these two players, the knee-jerk reaction seems to have been about what the Phillies didn't do, and that's worth discussing. We all assumed that the Phillies would be hot on the trail of a right-handed, corner outfielder who could hopefully add some pop to an underperforming lineup while ideally also improving the team's defense by allow Kyle Schwarber to become the full-time DH for the remainder of 2023, with Bryce Harper taking up his spot at first. That didn't happen, of course, but it's worth wondering if it ever had much of a chance of materializing to begin with.

Solid-hitting outfielders who also hold their own in the field don't exactly grow on trees, and the fact that there were far more buyers than sellers meant that the cost would be steep. The Phillies' farm system, while not as watered down as it was for years, doesn't really have the depth to be able to swing a deal at the moment, which made a trade for a rental player like Teoscar Hernández unlikely. Furthermore, would the Phillies really be gaining much by bringing such a player aboard? The occasional home run aside, Hernández and guys like him seem like 'more of the same' for the Phillies without really bringing a different element to the team.

On the flip side, the player that they should have really had a keen eye for, Lane Thomas, would have been a good fit but was likely just too expensive in terms of the return. It's a shame too, because Thomas' manageable salary through 2025 would have been just what this team needed: cost certainty from a starting lineup position on a team awash with huge-money contracts. Instead, they've only added Castro as a hitter. While he figures to be an upgrade as a bench bat/rotation player over Josh Harrison, who is completely washed, it remains to be seen if he'll stick around past this season. A good few months, and maybe he'll be the Phillies' new Tomas Perez for next season and beyond. But if he no-shows, then expect the club to look elsewhere to fill such a role in 2024 if they can shave a few dollars off the price tag for a similar player.

Speaking of power bats, how about Rhys Hoskins? The Phillies' inability to add a long-term starter to the lineup mix means that a spot will potentially be there for the taking next year. And that could mean a return by Hoskins on a one-year, prove-it type of contract coming off of his knee injuries. There are worse ideas out there, but how about a Hoskins/Harper platoon at first, with both of those players rotating with Schwarber at the DH slot? Mix in a few DH appearances for J.T. Realmuto to try and stave off Father Time, and you have the makings of a plan. On another note, the Phillies must get a more reliable backup catcher, something that they really should have looked into at the deadline but nary a whisper was ever heard about. Garrett Stubbs has gone into Andrew Knapp mode, and the team just needs to upgrade that spot in the offseason, especially if they are going to ease off the gas with Realmuto behind the plate.

As for the pitching side of the ledger, Michael Lorenzen looked very good in his first start with the team on Thursday. This now affords the Phils the luxury of going with six starters for parts of the season's final third, although you figure that they will skip over Christopher Sanchez a few times and/or send someone to the bullpen eventually. Lorenzen also profiles as the kind of guy who the Phillies could look to re-sign past this year, which could have an interesting domino effect.

The elephant in the room here is Aaron Nola. Great talent and an awesome performance down the stretch last season for this team, but so divisive and seemingly prone to the biggest blow-ups at the worst times, often to terrible opposition. What if the Phillies let him walk? What if they took the money that would have been allotted for him and used it to re-sign Lorenzen AND grab another starter from next year's free agent class? Think Sonny Gray, Lucas Giolito, Brad Keller, or someone to that effect. That's still a solid rotation when you factor in the other returning starters, not to mention hopefully getting something out of Griff McGarry and Mick Abel. Hopefully Andrew Painter can debut late in 2024, as well. The team is going to have to break the bank if they want to keep Nola, but there's possibly an avenue to remaining in the mix, even if he leaves.

We'll have to wait for quite some time to see what kind of long-term 'cause and effect' relationship the 2023 deadline has on the Phillies, as nothing earth-shattering jumps out at the moment. But baseball can be subtle like that. It remains to be seen if the moves that the team did and didn't make in 2023 end up creating a chain reaction that's either a net positive or a headache in future seasons.