Thinking about Phillies trade ideas after Bryce Harper’s bad break originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Star yourself if you remember it was Washington Nationals rookie lefthander John Lannan, in his big league debut, broke Chase Utley’s right hand with a pitch in July 2007.
Give yourself five stars if you remember Steve Trachsel from the Chicago Cubs was the man who broke Scott Rolen’s right forearm with a pitch in September 1996.
In the last two cases, the Phillies recovered nicely from a heavy break. Pat Gillick has taken over Tad Iguchi from Kenny Williams and the White socks — Williams, then the GM of the Sox, had a bad feeling that his club had sent the highly respected Gillick a blown pitcher (Freddy Garcia) last winter — and Iguchi held onto the fortress neatly at second base before Utley could come back and help the Phillies win the NL East.
Rolen earned the NL Rookie of the Year award with a fantastic season in 1997, but his chance at the award would have ended if he hadn’t hit Trachsel’s pitch this season, leaving him with 130 at bats.
The Phillies — from the clubhouse to the front office — must deal with Harper’s loss with the same confidence if they are to salvage their season and break through a 10-year post-season drought, the longest in the Netherlands.
There is still some fluidity in this situation. Harper is due for further medical examination early this week. A simple break could bring him back for the stretch drive. A more complicated break, one that would require surgery and pinning the break, would keep him out longer. Second baseman Jean Segura recently suffered a broken right index finger. The injury could sideline him for up to 12 weeks as the fracture had “displaced” and needed to be fixed.
Regardless of how long Harper is out, his loss puts the Phillies in survival mode. Their starting spin was somewhere between solid and very good. The bullpen has been very good lately, although the question is how sustainable that will be. Kyle Schwarber has been a savior in June and Rhys Hoskins has also carried a major burden during the month. But if the Phils are to survive the loss of Harper, the alpha dog of the lineup, they’ll need more from Nick Castellanos and JT Realmuto, who have both shown signs of warming, among others.
Like Gillick in 2007, the front office has to get to work here to prevent this team from dying on the brink of death. This is not to say that it was not already hard at work improving the roster. Dave Dombrowski signed a four-year contract here. Now he may be staying longer — he’s in Year 2 and the Nashville project he’s associated with isn’t moving fast — but the simple fact is, he didn’t come here to mess around and oversee a long, slow climb. . He came to make it to the postseason – now – and his desire matches that of ownership. Dombrowski, Sam Fuld, Jorge Velandia and the rest of the front office have certainly already mapped out a trading deadline strategy. Bullpen and novice pitching depth might have led that list a week ago. There was probably a center fielder or an outfield defense there. These needs have not disappeared, but they now have company.
With Harper out, the Phils need a bat at DH or in the outfield. A lefty bat would be nice, but production, either way, is key.
You can bet Dombrowski and his cabinet have already been in touch with the Washington Nationals, who could move Josh Bell or Nelson Cruz. If Jesus Aguilar remains in the NL-East, it could be attractive if the Miami Marlins sell. Baltimore could move Trey Mancini or Anthony Santander. The Royals could trade Whit Merrifield or Andrew Benintendi. The Cubs could share an interesting package from outfielder Ian Happ and reliever David Robertson. Ditto for Arizona, which could displace outfielder David Peralta and reliever Mark Melancon, who struggled this season but led the majors with 39 saves in 2021. Pittsburgh continues to have an excellent trading chip in center fielder Brian Reynolds, although he would likely cost a lot of money Young talent.
There will be top pitching with Frankie Montas from Oakland and Luis Castillo from Cincinnati, but those prices will be high too. As much as the Phils need to improve to keep this $230 million investment from hitting golf in October, they need to protect Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, who in a few years could become the nucleus of a startup rotation in Philadelphia. Griff McGarry, Ben Brown and possibly closer Francisco Morales are also top prospects. Would the Phillies say goodbye to one in the right deal? The Phils have top-level catch depth in Rafael Marchan and Logan O’Hoppe. They would move Marchan, but rivals would probably prefer O’Hoppe, who keeps breaking through. Can the Phils afford to use O’Hoppe as a trading chip while Realmuto is showing signs of decline? Difficult decision. For a certain World Series team, probably. For a team peeping into the playoffs… tough decision.
It’s almost cliché to say that the Atlanta Braves took a huge blow last year with the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. (and others) and that the rest of their roster, players like Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, as well as GM Alex Anthopoulos, who remade the outfield on that trade deadline, stepped up to save the season and help the club progress to a World Series -title. The Phillies know all about how the 2021 Braves dealt with adversity. They will need similar contributions from their existing core and similar front office help to survive the loss of Harper. A fast healing left thumb would also help.