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Pondering Phillies trade ideas after Bryce Harper's bad break originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Blake Snell became part of unfortunate Phillies trivia lore when his up-and-in fastball broke Bryce Harper's left thumb Saturday night in San Diego.
Give yourself a star if you recall that it was Washington Nationals rookie left-hander John Lannan, in his big-league debut, who broke the right hand of Chase Utley with a pitch in July 2007.
Give yourself five stars if you remember that Steve Trachsel of the Chicago Cubs was the guy who broke Scott Rolen's right forearm with a pitch in September 1996.
In the latter two cases, the Phillies rebounded nicely from a tough break. Pat Gillick acquired Tad Iguchi from guilt-racked Kenny Williams and the White Sox -- Williams, then the Sox' GM, felt badly about his club sending the highly respected Gillick a banged-up pitcher (Freddy Garcia) the previous winter -- and Iguchi held down the fort nicely at second base before Utley could make it 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 eligibility for the prize would have ended if he hadn't been hit by Trachsel's pitch the season, thus shelving him at 130 at-bats.
The Phillies -- from the clubhouse to the front office -- need to handle the loss of Harper with similar aplomb if they're going to save their season and break a 10-year postseason drought, the longest in the NL.
There is still some fluidity to this situation. Harper is to undergo further medical evaluation early this week. A simple break might have him back for the stretch drive. A more complicated break, one that would require surgery and pinning of the break, would keep him out longer. Second baseman Jean Segura recently suffered a broken right index finger. The injury could keep him out for up to 12 weeks because the fracture was "displaced" and required pinning.
Regardless of how long Harper is out, his loss puts the Phillies in survival mode. Their starting rotation has been somewhere between solid and very good. The bullpen lately has been very good, though it's fair to question how sustainable that will be. Kyle Schwarber has been a June savior and Rhys Hoskins has also carried a big load during the month. But if the Phils are going to survive the loss of Harper, the lineup's alpha dog, they will need more from Nick Castellanos and J.T. Realmuto, both of whom have shown some signs of warming, and others.
Like Gillick in 2007, the front office needs to go to work here and prevent this team from dying on the vine. This is not to suggest it already wasn't working hard to improve the roster. Dave Dombrowski signed a four-year deal here. Now, he might end up staying longer -- he's in Year 2 and the Nashville project that he's connected with isn't moving quickly -- but the simple fact is he didn't come here to mess around and oversee a long, slow climb. He came to get to the postseason -- now -- and his desire matches that of ownership. Certainly, Dombrowski, Sam Fuld, Jorge Velandia and the rest of the front office have already been plotting trade-deadline strategy. Bullpen and starting pitching depth might have led that list a week ago. A center fielder or some outfield defense was probably on there. These needs haven't gone away, but they now have company.
With Harper out, the Phils are going to need a bat either at DH or in the outfield. A lefty bat would be nice, but production, from either side, is key.
You can bet Dombrowski and his cabinet have already touched base with the Washington Nationals, who could move Josh Bell or Nelson Cruz. Staying in the NL East, Jesus Aguilar 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 deal an interesting package of outfielder Ian Happ and reliever David Robertson. Ditto for Arizona, which could move outfielder David Peralta and reliever Mark Melancon, who has struggled this season but led the majors with 39 saves in 2021. Pittsburgh continues to have an excellent trade chip in center fielder Brian Reynolds, though he would likely cost significant young talent.
There is top pitching out there with Oakland's Frankie Montas and Cincinnati's Luis Castillo, but those prices will be steep, too. As badly as the Phils need to improve to prevent this $230 million investment from playing golf in October, they do need to be protective of Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, who could blossom into the core of a starting rotation in Philadelphia in a few years. Griff McGarry, Ben Brown and potential closer Francisco Morales are also top prospects. Would the Phillies part with one in the right deal? The Phils have upper-level catching depth in Rafael Marchan and Logan O'Hoppe. They'd move Marchan but rivals would likely prefer O'Hoppe, who continues to break through. Can the Phils afford to use O'Hoppe as a trade chip with Realmuto showing signs of decline? Tough call. For a sure-fire World Series team, probably. For a team that squeaks into the playoffs ... tough call.
It's popular to the point of cliché to mention that the Atlanta Braves suffered a huge blow with the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. (and others) last year and that the remainder of their roster, players like Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, as well as GM Alex Anthopoulos, who remade the outfield at that trade deadline, stepped up to save the season and help rally the club to a World Series title. The Phillies know all about how the 2021 Braves handled adversity. They will need similar contributions from their existing nucleus and similar help from the front office to survive the loss of Harper. A quick healing left thumb would also help.