Now that the trade deadline dust has settled, the Philadelphia Phillies' inability to land a right-handed outfield bat, as they were rumored to be looking for, looks less like a failing of the front office and more like a not-so-subtle message to the current roster.
In his post-deadline comments, president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski addressed the lack of bats brought in. With so many teams in the hunt for a postseason berth, it was a seller's market, and there wasn't much to choose from.
"Well, there were not a lot of right-handed-hitting outfielders that moved," Dombrowski said in defense of the team's deadline moves, per Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
"First and foremost, the pitching was the priority for us," Dombrowski explained. "We really wanted to get pitching depth because we were concerned about the depth of our organization if something would happen over the next couple of months."
Dombrowski looking to star players to perform down the stretch
Speaking to the lack of an additional impact bat coming to Philadelphia, Dombrowski took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the key players already in the lineup.
"Really, from a run-scoring perspective, we have struggled," Dombrowski told reporters, per Matt Gelb of The Athletic. No secret there. The Phillies have scored 485 runs, 17th in the majors, while their 115 home runs are the ninth-fewest. However, his following remark was the most telling about his feelings regarding his team's performance.
"We have a lot of stars on our club. Sometimes, you just need complementary players to help them."
There it is, if you read between the lines. The president of baseball operations calling out the star players who were supposed to carry the load this season.
He's not wrong either. This Phillies team is laden with experienced star power. Unfortunately, there seems to be a power outage in the veteran bats, at least compared to the expected offense this season. The offense has been middling at best. Now, two games into August, the Phillies have the 15th overall team wOBA (.318) and OPS (.733) with an 18th-ranked wRC+ of 97.
Many thought that the addition of superstar shortstop Trea Turner this past offseason would put last season's World Series runners-up over the hump and help carry them back to the fall classic, especially after his incredible showing at the World Baseball Classic.
Instead, the 30-year-old Turner has struggled immensely in his debut season in Philadelphia. He's hitting a shocking .237/.291/.370 with 10 home runs, 34 RBI and 60 runs scored for an eye-poppingly low 77 wRC+.
Turner isn't the only veteran not pulling his weight, however. If you rank the lineup by FanGraphs' offensive rating (min. 100 PA), Turner rounds out the bottom at -7.7. J.T. Realmuto comes in at -1.5, while Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos sit below zero, at -0.5 and -0.2, respectively. Bryce Harper is the only veteran hitter with a positive offensive rating of 6.7.
So, who has been carrying the offense? It has been the complementary players. Youngsters Brandon Marsh (10.0), Bryson Stott (7.5) and Alec Bohm (3.3) hold three of the top four offensive rating spots. That can't be what Dombrowski and Fuld had in mind when they drew up the plans for this season.
With rookie Johan Rojas, who the team is high on for the skills he offers, and the imminent return of Christian Pache, there certainly isn't a lack of complementary pieces, pieces that aren't the problem.
"From the right-handed-hitting perspective, we talked long and hard'" Dombrowski said. "We really liked the job that Rojas has done for us. He's a young kid coming up that's given us energy. We like him. His defense is outstanding. His speed is good. He's felt comfortable at the big-league level."
Dombrowski's correct in his assessment. Even without a deadline addition, and as flawed as they are, the pieces are already in place for this team to succeed, and in the end, their playoff hopes rest on those veteran bats to perform.