Phillies: 2021’s Cost for Kimbrel

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By Tal Venada, Sports Talk Philly Contributor

While the Philadelphia Phillies faithful waver between quietly hopeful and skeptically vocal, Dave Dombrowski, president of baseball operations, is in various stages of negotiating with selling franchises to shore up some roster holes. Ergo, due diligence!                   


Deadline Fixes:

For the Phillies front office, they can’t acquire a difference-making talent without offering value in return. And even though fans will balk at the cost, contending organizations will easily outbid unattractive proposals. But the bottom line is top-tier stars are more expensive.


“When you're building something, you know all of the trade-offs.” – Nolan Bushnell

For July, the Fightins are 12-8 (.600); and they must play .600 ball, be within range of the division lead, and be moving in the right direction. Basically, they will be at the 23-game mark on July 28, and a 14-9 record (.609) is within reach with two victories out of the next three contests.               

The Phils have been facing clubs in the same position they are: having to win for the higher-ups to be buyers prior to the July 30 deadline on Friday. But since they have evened the season series at 2-2 with the red pinstripes, the New York Yankees lost three of four to the Boston Red Sox.    

The Fightins are now 9-7 against the Atlanta Braves –7-3 at the Bank. Yes, both teams must win to add pieces for the stretch drive, but Atlanta has a five-game away set versus the New York Mets, while the Phillies have four home contests with the Washington Nationals.               

While the Seattle Mariners are 1.5 games out of the second wild card in the American League, the Toronto Blue Jays are four out of the AL Wild Card race. And only Toronto would have interest in a closer if they have a realistic shot, but they have four contests in Boston after going 1-2 in Queens against the Mets.    

For the red pinstripes, the minimal acquisition is a right-handed bench bat, and they will likely pick one up regardless of other finalized deals. Basically, this may be the next swap or salary-dump add, so don’t start fingering your prayer beads before the last day of the deadline. 

Pitching is always a consideration, but the Phils could play serious October baseball if Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin are effective. Yes, they’re capable! But doing it will determine this campaign. So, they could trade for a fourth starter to replace Vince Velasquez.  

The big-ticket arm is a closer: Craig Kimbrel of the Chicago Cubs, Richard Rodriquez of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Brad Hand of Washington. Competition-wise, the Metropolitans, Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are other organizations who may also go this route.              

The Fightins will likely prefer to take on Kimbrel’s entire contract: He isn’t just a rental. Presently, his pact calls for $6.3 million (including a $1 million buyout) and a club option of $16 million for 2022. Translation: Pay the whole amount and give up less MiLB talent.        

The Phillies are at $206.45 million AAV (average annual value), and Kimbrel’s $6.3 million AAV would put them at $212.75 million AAV. Ergo, the Luxury Tax penalty is 20 percent on $2.75 million or $0.55 million, and they’d still be under the $230 million second CBT (competitive balance threshold) for other pickups. 

For some locals, hands-off players like Alec Bohm and Spencer Howard could be in a swap because the Mets, Giants, Jays and/or Dodgers may be bidding also. But will the Blue Jays survive the Red Sox series, or will the Dodgers trust Kenley Jansen to get the job done?                     

In the NL, Los Angeles is leaning toward Ian Kennedy as a backup plan if Jansen struggles, New York wants to shore up their rotation, and San Francisco is prioritizing center field. But if Toronto gains ground in the AL Wild Card chase, they will be dealing for relievers and –maybe?– a top-shelf fireman.                            

Aside from Bohm and Howard, Dombrowski has catching prospect Rafael Marchan, and the two is a premium spot the Cubs may prefer. And another sought-after position is shortstop, but Bryson Stott is Didi Gregorius’ replacement for 2023. Additionally, draft selections from 2019 and 2020 are possibilities.  

Phillies MiLB Hitting Stats through July 25:

  • Mickey Moniak, 23: 62 AAA Gms., 258 PA, a .258 Avg., 12 HR, 49 RBI, a .311 OBP, a .809 OPS and a 105 wRC+.
  • Rafael Marchan, 22.5: 40 AAA Gms., 149 PA, a .200 Avg., 0 HR, 8 RBI, a .285 OBP, a .500 OPS and a 41 wRC+.
  • *Cornelius Randolph, 24: 21 AAA Gms., 82 PA, a .311 Avg., 4 HR, 14 RBI, a .378 OBP, a .919 OPS and a 143 wRC+.
  • Bryson Stott, 23.5: 41 AA Gms., 176 PA, a .261 Avg., 5 HR, 17 RBI, a .330 OBP, a .764 OPS and a 107 wRC+.
  • * He will return from the IL approximately July 28.

If Mickey Moniak and/or Cornelius Randolph change uniforms, many fans won’t be upset because they expect first rounders to quickly be standouts. Following five MiLB years, though, the success rate of high school picks in round one to make the majors is 58 percent according to Jim Sannes of numberFire at that time.              

For Moniak drafted in 2016, he would make the big leagues in 2022 due to the pandemic, and Randoph selected in 2015 would arrive this summer after missing 2020. Yes, another franchise could have more interest than disappointed locals with high expectations.

Phillies MiLB Pitching Stats through July 25:

  • Spencer Howard, almost 25: 6 AAA Gms., 21 ⅔ Inn., 1-0 and a 1.25 ERA.
  • Bailey Falter, 24: 7 AAA Gms. (1 relief), 29 ⅔ Inn., 2-0 and a 1.82 ERA.
  • Adonis Medina, 24.5: 10 AAA Gms., 44 Inn., 3-5 and a 5.73 ERA.

Other pitching trade chips include Bailey Falter and Adonis Medina. So, the red pinstripes have some minor leaguers NL teams besides Washington might find interesting. And some clubs, recently, had a heavy scouting presence in the Cubbies set with the Arizona Diamondbacks: Both have available players.       

With grip enhancers inflating hurlers’ stats due to spin rate, management will scrutinize substance-enforcement numbers to avoid bad moves. But if you’re looking at overall statistics, you could arrive at a different –and, perhaps, wrong– conclusion. 

To paraphrase Dombrowski with seven games before July 30, the Phillies will be aggressive buyers unless they lose seven, and the Metropolitans win seven. Translation: He sees the Nationals falling farther behind and the Braves struggling without Ronald Acuna Jr. And this is a direct message of support to the clubhouse!    

Mets Rotation:

  1. Jacob deGrom on the IL (injured list) with recurring forearm tightness.
  2. Tiajuan Walker with consecutive debacles: 4 ⅓ innings, 12 runs (11 earned).   
  3. David Peterson out for the season.
  4. Carlos Carrasco rehabbed up to 3 innings and will return this week on an MLB pitch count.
  5. Noah Syndergaard expected back in September after Tommy John surgery.
  6. Rich Hill acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays after his last seven performances: 20 earned runs in 33⅓ innings.
  7. Hill’s first Mets outing: 5 innings and 3 runs (all earned).

Realistically, the Amazins have a solid arm in Marcus Stroman, but Walker could be feeling the pressure with teammates counting on him more. They also have rookie Tyler Megill and Rich Hill, 41, who went south after inspections began. So, what isn’t in Dombrowski’s crystal ball for the playoffs? A vulnerable Mets squad!  



2021’s Healthy Expectations



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