ATLANTA — Dave Dombrowski wanted to find a starting pitcher before Tuesday’s 6:00 p.m. ET close.
He got one with a few minutes left.
He also got a center fielder and a reliever.
The Phillies announced Tuesday that they have acquired right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Brandon Marsh in separate deals with the Angels, and right-hander David Robertson in a trade with the Cubs. The Phillies woke up Tuesday morning 55-47, holding the third and final NL wild card berth with a 59.4% chance of making the postseason, according to FanGraphs. That’s an encouraging point for a team that hasn’t made the postseason since 2011 when they won the NL East.
The Phils believe Tuesday’s trades increased their odds even further.
“I think we’re a much better ball club,” Dombrowski said. “We have a tough division and tough people who are in the race but I think we’re better. How much better are we? We tried to address certain areas because we knew we could do it [Jean] Segura back soon. and [Bryce] Harper is making progress, which is very encouraging.”
“It gives us that little boost,” Kyle Schwarber said after Tuesday’s 13-1 loss to the Braves at Truist Park. “We’ve fought, scratched, grabbed for everything we’ve gotten so far. Getting out there and getting a really good bullpen piece, getting a nice center fielder and a starting pitcher who has a reputation for pitching in the NL East and being successful at it… it was definitely all really good today.
The Phillies needed Syndergaard because right-hander Zach Eflin is sidelined indefinitely with an injured right knee. He’s on the 60-day injured list, which means the earliest he can return to the team is August 25. There is no timetable for his return.
Bailey Falter took over from Eflin, but the Phillies were concerned about her batting depth. If anything happened to another starter, they would be in trouble. Despite these concerns, Philadelphia found the asking price for some starting pitchers on the market too high.
Other teams wanted top promotional contenders Andrew Painter and Mick Abel, both of whom are on the MLB Pipeline Top 100 list. The Phillies said no every time. Teams asked for Griff McGarry, who ranks seventh in the Phillies system. They said no again.
The Phillies and Angels had been talking about Syndergaard for days, but it seemed like nothing was happening.
Then the angels called at the last minute.
“I guess whatever they were working on didn’t work for them,” Dombrowski said.
The Phillies sent outfielder Mickey Moniak and Class A outfielder Jadiel Sánchez to Los Angeles to finalize the deal. Philadelphia will take over the approximately $7 million remaining on Syndergaard’s contract.
Well, Syndergaard, 29, isn’t the hard-throwing Thor of previous seasons with the Mets. His fastball once averaged 97-98 mph. He now averages 94 mph, but he’s 5-8 with a 3.83 ERA and a 1.2 WAR in 15 starts with the Angels.
“He’s still throwing in the mid-90s,” Dombrowski said. “He’s just a different pitcher. He has a big sinker at this point. He’s played very effectively in a five, six-inning role this year. We think along with our other starters – we’re not looking for a #1 guy. We’ve never really delved into this market because there were some players in our organization that we just didn’t want to give up.
“We still believe Syndergaard is an effective major league pitcher. With the bullpen that we have, if we can get five to six strong innings with our guys, we’re deep enough in the pen now that we can win some games that way.”
Before the Phillies got Syndergaard, they got Marsh and Robertson (and infielder Edmundo Sosa on Saturday). Marsh, 24, hit .226 with eight home runs, 37 RBIs and .637 OPS with the Angels. He has the highest strikeout rate (36.2%) in baseball, but the Phillies believe they’ve found ways to improve his contact rate. They also consider him one of the best defensive outfield players in the game.
He will take over the main tasks in midfield.
“It was our goal to get better defensively,” said Dombrowski.
The Phillies sent double-a-catcher Logan O’Hoppe to Los Angeles for Marsh. O’Hoppe was the No. 3 in the Phillies and No. 86 in baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Dombrowski explained that he only wanted to trade O’Hoppe if he could get a young, controllable position player in return.
Marsh is under team control until 2026.
“He’s one of baseball’s best midfield defensemen,” said interim manager Rob Thomson. “Of course it’s an upgrade. He can run. He’s just a grinder, gamer guy. He’s been beaten in the past. He hasn’t batted lately, but I think there are some things that [hitting coach] Kevin [Long] can do to help him. he wants to learn he wants to play He wants to win.”
Odúbel Herrera has been tasked with making room for Marsh, who could join the team on Thursday.
The Phillies sent Double-A right-hander Ben Brown to the Cubs for Robertson. Brown would have been named among the Phillies’ top 15 prospects in MLB Pipeline’s new ranking, which is expected later this month. The Phillies’ bullpen has been fantastic since early June, when Thomson became interim manager. Robertson contributes to the mix. Thomson said he will continue to field Seranthony Domínguez and Brad Hand primarily in the eighth and ninth innings, although Robertson can close when necessary, just like Corey Knebel and others have this season.
Robertson was 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA and 14 saves for the Cubs. He signed a two-year, $23 million contract with the Phillies prior to the 2019 season, but pitched only 6 2/3 innings in those two seasons due to a right elbow injury.
It would be a nice redemption story for Robertson to return to Philadelphia and help the Phillies get through the postseason.
“His stuff is back,” Thomson said.