Would the Phillies really consider dealing this top prospect at the trade deadline?

There's a chance that the team's No. 5 prospect, Starlyn Caba, will factor into a classic Dave Dombrowski franchise-altering trade.
Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski
Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski / Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski came to the organization with a reputation for not being afraid to trade top prospects for All-Star caliber players. While his reputation for breaking open the checkbook to sign marquee free agents remains intact, he seems to have learned some lessons from his time spent with the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins.

Has Dombrowski finally embraced the concept of organizational sustainability?

It's not like he hasn't been afraid to make deals involving some of the Phillies' top prospects during his tenure. Remember Logan 'O Hoppe for Brandon Marsh at the 2022 MLB trade deadline? That deal seems to be working out just fine.

How about Hao-Yu Lee for Michael Lorenzen at the deadline last season? A success if you count Lorenzen's no-hitter as a historically important moment but a failure if you consider the cost of dealing away a good young player for a two-month rental.

All told, Dombrowski isn't afraid to make moves to help his team during the home stretch of the season. With a farm system starting to flourish with some future MLB talent, the question shifts to who among the top prospects is untouchable and who could be traded if the team is required to part with a young player in a deal for an impact player.

Do the Phillies have any untouchable prospects?

The list of who is unlikely to be shopped includes top pitching prospects Andrew Painter (No. 1), Mick Abel (No. 2) and George Klassen (No. 29), outfielder Justin Crawford (No. 4), and third baseman Aidan Miller (No. 3).

Is any player untouchable? Absolutely not. But it would likely take an offer of a young and controllable superstar talent to even pique the Phillies' interest in moving any of these players.

That begs the question: What prospects would the Phillies possibly be willing to part with if they are forced to make a substantial trade this season? The list could include names like pitcher Griff McGarry (No. 11), outfielder Gabriel Rincones Jr.(No. 10), and shortstops Bryan Rincon (No. 8) and Starlyn Caba (No. 5).

A recent article from ESPN's David Schoenfield suggests that Ricon and Caba are prospects the Phillies would be willing to move in the right trade package.

"While trade partners will surely ask for pitchers Andrew Painter or Mick Abel, the Phillies are unlikely to part with either one -- even if president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski is never shy about trading away prospects," writes Schoenfield. "The Phillies do have a couple young shortstops in the lower rungs of the farm system in Caba and Bryan Rincon, with Rincon a couple years older but Caba possessing a higher ceiling."

Why would the Phillies be willing to trade Starlyn Caba?

Caba, an 18-year-old shortstop, currently ranked as the fifth-best Phillies prospect by MLB Pipeline, has started to generate some buzz as a defensive wizard with the potential to be an above-average hitter if he continues on his current development path.

Signed as an international free agent in January 2023, Caba has batted .303 with a .795 OPS, 43 hits and 17 stolen bases across 142 at-bats between his first taste of affiliated ball in the DSL last year and the Florida Complex League this season.

Trading Caba makes sense if the Phillies want to deal from a position of organizational strength. Trea Turner and Bryson Stott are currently entrenched as the long-term options at shortstop and second base. The Phillies have a few young, promising shortstops and likely no future openings at the position with Turner under contract until the 2033 season.

Is there a scenario in which Starlyn Caba could be traded this season?

The Phillies entered the 2024 season with question marks in a few different areas of the major league roster. Johan Rojas' early struggles had many fans hoping the Phillies would be in the market for additional outfield help, but he has started to hit enough to justify his spot on the roster.

Starting pitching depth was also a major question mark. A spring training injury to Taijuan Walker tested the team's depth immediately, with Spencer Turnbull emerging as a viable option to join the rotation. With Walker back from the IL and Turnbull biding his time in the bullpen, the Phillies no longer have a pressing need to upgrade the rotation, for now.

The bullpen? It's still a work in progress as we wrap up the first week of May. The Phillies have seemingly settled on a combination of Jeff Hoffman and José Alvarado in the ninth inning, with Alvarado getting the most looks in the ninth inning most recently.

Middle relief has been one area where the bullpen has been somewhat inconsistent. The recent struggles of Seranthony Domínguez have been troubling. That has left the Phillies hoping that rookie Orion Kerkering can pick up the slack in high-leverage situations.

The bullpen is definitely one area the team may look to upgrade at some point in the season. Would the Phillies potentially use a prospect like Caba to try to acquire a closer? That would make sense if Alvarado and Hoffman fail in that role, and the Phillies can swing a deal for a closer who carries enough team control beyond this season.

So far, players who fit that description are non-existent. The Phillies will almost certainly acquire bullpen help at the trade deadline, but the cost will probably be less than the Phillies giving up their fifth-best prospect.

A far more likely scenario where dealing Caba makes sense is if the Phillies were to suffer a rash of rotation injuries. If they're forced to add at least one top-of-the-rotation arm to punch their ticket to October, Caba's a no-brainer to include in a package if they can acquire a pitcher for more than a two-month rental.

The cost of making a major trade deadline acquisition is usually steep, and rival teams will certainly request a haul of top prospects in exchange for All-Star caliber talent. Caba is a reasonable prospect to include if the Phillies need to swing a franchise-altering trade in July.

They have successfully restocked the farm system over the last couple of years with enough talent that they now have a few young players with obvious roadblocks at the major league level. That's a sign of a healthy organization.

What will the future hold for Starlyn Caba? Only Dave Dombrowski knows.