The Phillies invested nearly a half-billion dollars last offseason to improve their roster, yet found themselves only clinging to the final National League wild-card berth on Wednesday afternoon, when Matt Klentak made his final move before baseball’s trade deadline.
The general manager said the Phillies still need their stars -- those they acquired last winter and those who were already here -- to carry them to October. But that group received some help with the addition of outfielder Corey Dickerson, who won a Gold Glove last season in Pittsburgh and was acquired from the Pirates for international signing-bonus money and a player to be named.
Dickerson, 30, has hit .317 in 43 games this season, with a .931 OPS.
It was another low-cost addition to a pricey roster. The final two months of the season -- and the postseason, if the Phillies finally return -- will be dictated by the performance of such players as Rhys Hoskins, Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, and Jean Segura. Dickerson can pitch in.
“We thought it was important to improve the team around them, provide the team with all the support that we could to put our better players in position to take us where we wanted to go,” Klentak said.
Dickerson has been slowed by a groin strain and will be eased into action when he joins the Phillies on Thursday, Klentak said. Dickerson has played exclusively in left field for the last three seasons, but the Phillies believe he can play center field.
The trade gives the Phillies a surplus of left-handed-hitting left fielders, with Adam Haseley and Jay Bruce also best-suited there. Bruce, on the injured list with a rib-cage injury, is expected to return in early August.
If the Phillies use Haseley or Dickerson in center field, they could move Scott Kingery to third base, replacing Maikel Franco.
“I don't feel like we have to see the whole staircase, I don't think we have to lay out the entire road map in the early stages of this,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “I think a lot of this is going to be based on what we see on the field.”
The Phillies did not trade Wednesday for a reliever, while losing David Robertson, who will have season-ending elbow surgery. Meanwhile, the Braves added former All-Star closers Mark Melancon (San Francisco) and Shane Greene (Detroit), and the Nationals traded for Daniel Hudson (Toronto) and Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland (Seattle).
The Phillies, with a bullpen also missing free-agents Pat Neshek and Tommy Hunter, signed Mike Morin and Blake Parker within the last week, after Minnesota designated them for assignment. They will, instead, place their trust in former starters Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta.
"The way I view the bullpen now is we have to continue to be creative and aggressive. We have to learn as much as we can as quickly as we can,” Kapler said. “Who can Nick Pivetta be out of the bullpen for us? Can he be a seventh- or eighth-inning, high-leverage guy? Does Zach Eflin fit that profile?”
The Phillies did not make a trade-deadline move to significantly increase their postseason chances. That was what the winter was for, when they measured how much each acquisition “moved the needle.”