Last week, the Philadelphia Phillies hired veteran executive Dave Dombrowski as their new president of baseball operations. Dombrowski, who was fired by the Boston Red Sox in September 2019, will now attempt to guide the Phillies to their first playoff berth since 2011 by building around a core that includes Bryce Harper, Aaron Nola, and Zack Wheeler.
If Dombrowski is known for two acts: building contenders and making blockbuster trades. His formula has worked to good effect with the Detroit Tigers, whom he led to four consecutive postseason appearances, and the Red Sox, the winners of the 2018 World Series. Dombrowski has, time and again, ponied up to acquire star power: Miguel Cabrera, Chris Sale, David Price, Craig Kimbrel, and others have all been had in trades -- and that's without considering the crop of big names he's signed through free agency, ranging from Ivan Rodriguez to J.D. Martinez.
Whether or not Dombrowski can enjoy the same success in Philadelphia is to be determined. If he follows his usual blueprint, the Phillies are likely to become active on the trade front in the near future. Who do they have to offer to other teams? Below, we've assessed the names worth knowing throughout the system, organizing them into the following five bins:
top prospects (those who could realistically anchor a trade)
additional prospects of note (those who would fill out a package)
cost-controlled players (anyone with three years or less of big-league service time)
team-controlled players (anyone with more than three years but less than six years of service time)
everyone else who might attract interest in negotiations
Well, "top prospect," anyway.
The Phillies landed right-hander Mick Abel with the 15th pick last June. Were the draft based on sheer upside alone, he would've gone earlier. Abel has the frame and the athleticism, along with the budding arsenal, to become an above-average starter in due time. The league's aversion to risk -- and, thereby, its apprehension toward taking prep right-handers too early -- resulted in him becoming the sixth pitcher off the board, and the first who didn't attend college.
Abel is clearly the best prospect in the Phillies system, and the only prospect at Dombrowski's disposal who could serve as a convincing centerpiece in a trade for a star-level player. Predictably, rival front office members are already joking about his impending departure. One scout joked Abel's odds of remaining in the organization into next spring were less than 25 percent; another executive quipped that the real question is if he'd make it through next July.
If Dombrowski does retain Abel, then a different dynamic will come into play. Remember, Dombrowski had both Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner in the Show after they turned 20. For now, though, we should probably wait until after Abel's pro debut to have that conversation.
Additional prospects of note
The Phillies do have some other prospects who are polarizing and who could be deemed "interesting" by certain teams. Shortstop Bryson Stott, Philly's 2019 first-round pick, has good pop and should remain at the position, though his hit tool could limit his offensive ceiling. Francisco Morales and Adonis Medina will probably end up in a bullpen, but a team who believes in their potential to start could value them higher than the average bear. Then there's catcher Rafael Marchan, whose defense should grant him a backup floor, if nothing else.
Some others who could round out a deal include outfielders Simon Muzziotti, former No. 1 pick Mickey Moniak and shortstops Luis Garcia and Casey Martin (though he's likely to end up in the outfield, too). Your mileage may vary on them all.
The Phillies were rumored to be willing to part with third baseman Alec Bohm last winter if it netted them Kris Bryant. That didn't happen, obviously; rather, Bohm stayed and finished second in Rookie of the Year Award voting by hitting .338/.400/.481 (136 OPS+) in 44 games. Bohm may, in time, have to move to another corner -- perhaps first -- but he should be a quality hitter, even if his production (despite a large frame) stays slanted toward average than power.
Right-hander Spencer Howard was limited to six starts before missing time because of shoulder stiffness. Provided he can stay healthy, he should be able to slot in as a mid-rotation starter with a deep arsenal; there is some risk in that regard, however, since he's been limited to fewer than 75 innings in three of his four professional seasons.
Outfielder Adam Haseley's hit-over-power profile has so far resulted in 334 subpar big-league plate appearances. He has a patient approach, but his flat swing path limits his power potential. The Phillies have primarily used him in center, though his long-term home could be in left. Barring a transformation at the plate, Haseley's realistic upside is as a platoon outfielder.
The Phillies tendered right-hander Vince Velasquez a contract despite him 1) posting an ERA+ of 85 or worse in three of the last four seasons; and 2) being projected to make $4 million or more in his final arbitration year. Velasquez will, ostensibly, be traded to a team over the coming weeks who believes they can unlock his upside.
Reliever Hector Neris is also entering his walk year and is scheduled to make around $5 million. In theory, the Phillies could try to move him to free up additional funds; in practice, they've had issues finding competent relievers. (You can extend that same logic to first-year arb-eligible reliever Seranthony Dominguez, too.)
Veteran infielder Jean Segura has two years and nearly $30 million guaranteed remaining on his contract. He split the 2020 season between second and third base, moving off shortstop in deference to free-agent import Didi Gregorious. A team less-than-infatuated with the free-agent shortstop class could see him as a potential fix there; ditto for a club that's simply seeking a protean infielder with some offensive chops, as he's batted .288/.334/.418 (102 OPS+) with 29 home runs and 32 stolen bases since 2018. It's worth noting that Segura's season did provide a few reasons for concern heading forward: his in-zone contact rate plummeted, from 92 to 84 percent, and he got under the ball more frequently, suggesting his bat-to-ball skills could be eroding. (Of course, those numbers could be small-sample noise from a plague year, too.)
The Phillies appear more likely to retain Scott Kingery, who fits in this category by virtue of signing a six-year pact worth $24 million (plus three option years) before he had appeared in a big-league game. Kingery has bookended a breakout 2019 with replacement-level efforts. His skill set has some clear deficiencies -- he swings and misses a lot more than you'd expect, and is ineffectual on pitches up in the zone -- but we're willing to overlook his season (especially his lack of stolen-base attempts) because of his nasty bout over the summer with COVID-19.
At the risk of receiving an angry phone call, we'll note that others have reported the Phillies are open to talking turkey as it pertains to right-hander Zack Wheeler. He's one season into a five-year pact worth $118 million. Wheeler would slot in as the second-best starter on the free-agent market, but it's unclear if any team would be willing to assume that contract and give up good players to make it happen. Besides, if the Phillies want to win -- and paying an executive $5 million a season seems to indicate they do -- Wheeler is likely a big part of their plans.