Aug 3, 2022

The Arrival Of Thor and Captain Caveman

While the Phillies didn't make as big of a splash at the deadline as the San Diego Padres did, they made a handful of moves to significantly improve the areas on the team that needed to be improved.  The biggest additions came by way of the Los Angeles Angels in two separate trades that brought right handed pitcher Noah Syndergaard and center fielder Brandon Marsh to Philadelphia.

One of the biggest needs the Phillies had going into the trade deadline was the middle of the rotation due to yet another Zach Eflin injury, and Noah Syndergaard seems like he could be the right man at the right time and for the right price.  At the start of the season, Thor signed a one year contact with the Angels.  Like Eflin, Syndergaard has had his own history of injuries, the worst of which resulted in Tommy John surgery that kept him off of the field in 2020 and most of 2021.  So far, his return to baseball in 2022 has been highly encouraging.  He's 29 years old and in the second half of a season that will very likely determine the rest of his career.  A good second half, and a potential playoff run will probably result in a lucrative multi-year deal this winter, while a poor end to the season could see him singing another one year deal to prove that he's regained his form, so he has all of the motivation in the world.

My expectations are that Noah Syndergaard is a rental and that the Phillies don't see him as a part of the rotation after this season, but if given the choice between the team moving forward with he or Zach Eflin, I think I'd rather see them take a chance with Syndergaard.  Even if they don't, it wouldn't make me sad to see the Phillies decline the $15 million option they have on Zach Eflin for 2023.  Eflin has had flashes of brilliance in his career, but he's shown that he can't be relied on to stay healthy, and I'm not sure he's ever come close to living up to the hype when he was able to pitch.  Zach Eflin isn't a young prospect anymore, and I think it's time for the Phillies to move on.

With Eflin being moved to the 60 day IL and barring any other injuries, the Phillies will play out the rest of the season with a rotation of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, Noah Syndergaard, Ranger Suarez and Kyle GibsonWheeler and Nola have been outstanding, and after a rough start to his season, Suarez seems to be recapturing some of the magic he had in 2021.  Gibson is a solid and dependable #5, so if Syndergaard can continue to impress in his comeback season, the Phillies could have one of the best rotations in the National League.

Brandon Marsh is the player that I'm the most excited about the Phillies receiving at the deadline.  The center fielder, who was affectionately known to Angels fans as Captain Caveman, is just 24 years old and playing in his second season in the big leagues.  The Phillies have been weak in center field for most of the past ten years.  The fact that Dave Dombrowski was able to fill this need with a young, dynamic player who will be under team control through the end of the 2027 season without giving up any of our top pitching prospects is nothing short of a stroke of genius.  Marsh is an excellent defensive center fielder, and the Phillies coaching staff see a lot of potential in his bat.  In a lot of ways, this reminds me of when Shane Victorino was brought to Philadelphia.  That turned out very well, and I have high hopes that this acquisition will as well.

My dad called me when I was driving home from work to tell me about Brandon Marsh trade and to remind me that we saw him play at the Angels vs Phillies game that he and I went to earlier this year.  The game was on June 5th, and Marsh made a couple of impressive plays that day and went 1-4 at the plate with an RBI single in the top of the 8th off of Jeurys Familia.  I remember that while we were watching the game, Dad actually mentioned to me that he thought Marsh would be a good player to try to pick up.  Little did we both know at the time that he'd be wearing a Phillies uniform less than two months later.

Thankfully, the Phillies made significant improvements to the team without having to give up top prospects Mick Abel, Andrew Painter or Griff McGarry.  They're the most solid trio of pitching prospects the Phillies have had in their organization for a long time.  However they did have to give up some legitimate talent to the Los Angeles Angels.

The Phillies traded Mickey Moniak and Jadiel Sanchez for Noah Syndergaard.  I'm not familiar with Sanchez, but Moniak was one of my favorite players to have come through our system in recent years.  He was off to a great start in Spring Training, but he was hit in the hand by a pitch in the last Spring game before the start of the 2022 season which took him off the field for a while.  Unfortunately, he wasn't able to regain his momentum when he was healthy enough to return to the field.  I can definitely see why the Angels would want him.  Getting a 24 year old who is just six years removed from being the #1 Overall Pick in the draft is a pretty good return for a pitcher that they would have only had until the end of the season.

The other prospect that the Phillies traded away was even more highly regarded than Moniak.  Double A catcher Logan O'Hoppe is arguably the team's best non-pitching prospect and one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball.  Unfortunately for O'Hoppe, he was with a team that had very recently signed JT Realmuto to a seven year contract, and while Rafael Marchan might not be quite as highly regarded as a prospect, he's in Triple A and on the 40 man roster, so he would be the next logical call-up in case of injury.  I hate to lose a player with as much potential as O'Hoppe, but trading him for Brandon Marsh is a deal that makes sense for everyone.  The Angels have two catchers at the big league level: Max Stassi, who is serviceable, but not the kind of talent who is good enough to block a top prospect, and Kurt Suzuki, who is 38 years old and only signed through the end of this season.  Not only does this trade give O'Hoppe a clear path to the Major Leagues, but it allows the Phillies to trade a player from a position where they have a great deal of organizational depth for someone who plays a position that they've needed to lock down for quite some time.

Best of luck to all three of the prospects the Phillies traded to the Angels this week, and a special thank you to Logan O'Hoppe for the free drinks from Sheetz that we got from his homer against the Senators on April 24th.

A few days before the trade deadline, the Phillies acquired utility infielder Edmundo Sosa from the St. Louis Cardinals.  This move came as a bit of a surprise to me because the Phillies problem at the moment seems to be too many middle infielders, and it's only going to get more complicated when Jean Segura returns to the team in a few days.

Edmundo Sosa is another newcomer to Philadelphia that I got to see in person earlier this year.  He was the starting shortstop for the Cardinals against the Phillies for my birthday game this year.  He doesn't hit for much power, but he had a .271/.346/.389 slash line last season, and he's an above average defensive player at multiple infield positions.  The Phillies sent Johan Camargo down to Allentown after the trade was finalized, so I suppose they see Sosa as a defensive replacement upgrade off of the bench.  Unfortunately, they had to trade away another one of my favorite players to bring Sosa to town.

I've always appreciated the intensity of relief pitcher JoJo Romero.  He's been very effective coming out of the bullpen for both the Fightin' Phils and the Iron Pigs, but he's run into difficulty in his limited time in the big leagues since he was first called up during the Covid-shortened 2020 season.  Injuries derailed his career early last season, but he's recovered from Tommy John surgery and has been pitching in minor league rehab assignments.  We got to see him pitch for the Iron Pigs on the 4th of July this year, and he looked like he was back on track to return to the Major Leagues, but that return is now going to happen in St. Louis instead of Philadelphia.  I wish you the best of luck, Mr. Romero, but since you're now pitching for our wild card competition, I'm thinking that you might be getting bumped down to being my second favorite JoJo.

In addition to the two deals that they made with the Angels, the Phillies traded pitching prospect Ben Brown to the Chicago Cubs to bring closer David Robertson back to Philadelphia.

The Phillies originally signed Robertson to a two year contract before the start of the 2019 season.  At the time, he was one of the most dependable and accomplished relief pitchers in all of baseball.  We went to Opening Day that year, and Robertson was brought in to face the Braves in the top of the 8th.  It wasn't a typical situation for a team to debut their new closer.  The Phillies were up by 7 runs, so it would have been a no-save situation even if he were to remain in the game through the 9th, but Robertson had suspiciously few appearances during Spring Training games in 2019, so I figured they were just trying to get him some work in a low pressure situation.  He walked Josh Donaldson, then gave up a single to Freddie Freeman, followed by an RBI single off the bat of Ronald Acuna Jr before he was able to record his first out.  At the time, I wasn't too overly concerned.  After all, he had faced three of the best hitters in the Braves lineup, and he hadn't thrown much in the Spring.  What I didn't realize at the time is that that single inning would represent about 15% of his Phillies career.  His season ended on April 14th after pitching 6 ⅔ innings across 7 appearances.  He went in for Tommy John surgery and was not able to return in 2020, and that was it for David Robertson's time as a member of the Phillies... just another Danny Tartabull story to tell when we reminisce about the bad luck this franchise has faced over the years... or so I thought.

Robertson returned to the mound with the Tampa Bay Rays on September 1st of last season.  He hadn't appeared in a big league game in over 27 months, but he was effective across 12 innings in the final month of the 2021 season.  He signed a one year contract with the Cubs at the start of this season, and so far, the 37 year old has shown that he has more left in the tank.  In over 40 innings of work in Chicago, he has pitched to a 2.23 ERA with 54 strikeouts and a 1.041 WHIP.  He's also earned 14 saves, including one against the Phillies last month.  The Phillies have had a strong bullpen in 2022, and adding a resurgent David Robertson as the closer is going to make it that much better.

Finally, the Phillies picked up left handed reliever Andrew Vasquez off of waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays.  He's currently on the injured list with an ankle sprain, but he's been added to the 40 man roster and will report to Allentown when he's healthy.  I'm not sure if we can expect to see him come up to the Phillies this season unless someone else gets hurt, but he has MLB experience in parts of four seasons with the Twins, Dodgers and Blue Jays.  His numbers at the major league level are pretty rough, but he's only 28 years old and he's got a 2.42 ERA with 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings in his minor league career.  Also, he is said to have an elite breaking ball that's been compared to Rich Hill, so it's possible that the Phillies may have uncovered a diamond in the rough.

The addition of four players to the 40 man roster meant that a couple of players had to go, and it ended up being the two guys that I never wanted to see on the team in the first place.  I'm almost as happy to see them go as I am to see the new talent the Phillies brought in at the deadline.  Both Odubel Herrera and Jeurys Familia had been suspended during their careers for domestic violence, so I thought it was a horrible move for the Phillies to sign both of them this past winter.  In addition to their alleged behavior off of the field, both have been pretty terrible this season, so their removal is the very definition of addition by subtraction.

There are two months left in the season and the Phillies are in a better position to reach the playoffs than they have been in recent memory.  The team is sitting on a record of 55-48 entering today's game against the Braves and they've been in the hunt for the final NL Wild Card spot for most of the summer.  They've found ways to win despite the fact that they've been without Bryce Harper and Jean Segura for over a month.  With these new additions to the lineup, and with Segura and possibly even Harper returning to the team before the end of August, there is every reason to believe that the Phillies can finally break out of their playoff drought.  After that, anything can happen.