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Report: ‘Primary targets’ of Phillies are high-leverage relievers, No. 4 starters


Dave Dombrowski is the Phillies president of baseball operations. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

With the New York Mets having lost both Jacob deGrom and Francisco Lindor to injuries recently, the Philadelphia Phillies appear to see an opening to win the National League East and return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.

And by all accounts, they’re prepared to pounce, at least in some form.

Jayson Stark and Matt Gelb of The Athletic say that there’s a belief around the league that the Phillies may exceed the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Pitching appears to be the organization’s top desire, both back-end-of-the-rotation starters and high-leverage relievers, Stark and Gelb report.

If the Phillies were in any other division in baseball, you’d be hard-pressed to make a case for them as serious buyers. But even at 47-46, the Phillies are just three games back of the Mets in the National League East, with both the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals still in the hunt as well.

Under normal circumstances, you may be inclined to just tweak around the edges like the Phillies did in 2018 with additions like Wilson Ramos and Asdrúbal Cabrera. But the Phillies haven’t been to the postseason in a decade and they have a fanbase desperate for the return of October baseball. This also isn’t a particularly young team, either. 28-year-old Rhys Hoskins was the youngest player in the starting lineup Tuesday night in New York. The answer may be never, but if not now, when will this core reach the postseason together?

A case could be made for adding franchise icon Cole Hamels — who held a showcase, attended by the Phillies and others, last Friday — on a free-agent deal. But given that Aaron Nola has struggled in 2021, Zach Eflin is on the injured list and both Matt Moore and Vince Velasquez have been inconsistent this season, Hamels would likely need to be in addition to another starter.

In some senses, Hamels — seemingly not ready to pitch at the major league level right now – could be an addition like what Pedro Martínez was in 2009. While Martínez proved to be a very good addition, the Phillies also traded for Cliff Lee in 2009. There’s not a Lee-type walking through the gates at Citizens Bank Park, but the Phillies probably would need to trade for another starter even if they add Hamels. And add a reliever(s). And a right-handed bench bat.

This isn’t like 2009 in the sense that the Phillies aren’t coming off a World Series victory — far from it. Perhaps that makes monitoring how they proceed in advance of the July 30 trade deadline that much more interesting.

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