Phillies news: Dombrowski swings first big trade, bolsters the pitching staff

May 16, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) pitches against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports
May 16, 2021; Houston, Texas, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Kyle Gibson (44) pitches against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

With the MLB trade deadline how having officially wrapped up, it’s time to dissect what exactly the Philadelphia Phillies were able to accomplish, starting first with the semi-blockbuster move that Dave Dombrowski orchestrated with the Texas Rangers.

Two veteran pitchers who were highly likely to be moved at this year’s trade deadline due to the rebuild that the Rangers are currently in, both Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy are having very impressive seasons in their respective roles. Gibson has pitched to the tune of a 2.87 ERA over the course of 19 starts, and Kennedy is 16/17 in save opportunities with a 2.51 ERA.

Needless to say, both pitchers will immediately enter the Phillies organization in important roles. Gibson slots in as the Phillies #3/#4 starter (depending how you feel about Zach Eflin), and Kennedy will likely takeover closing duties. If Joe Girardi opts to keep Ranger Suarez as the closer, then Kennedy should be a favorite for the primary setup job.

Now the big talking point to this trade is what the Phillies gave up, as they sent over a package constructed around the likes of RHP Spencer Howard. Once viewed as Philadelphia’s top pitching prospect, Howard has not had a productive past year or so. Between shaky MLB outings and limited minor league starts, Howard was made available in trade discussions at this year’s deadline.

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At first glance, giving up a recent top-100 prospect (even one who’s been struggling like Howard) for two aging, ground-ball pitchers is a really bad trade. It appeared the Phillies had massively overpaid for two arms who may or may not get the team into the postseason, and had seriously undervalued Howard’s longterm potential.

While the latter may still be true (the Phillies really shoulder the most amount of blame for how they attempted to “develop” Howard this season), it was reported a little later in the afternoon that the Rangers were actually sending over RHP Hans Crouse as well. The 22 year old starter currently has a 3.35 ERA and a 0.902 WHIP over the course of 13 starts down in AA.

Crouse was the #9 prospect in Texas’ minor league rankings prior to the trade, and will likely crack the Phillies top-10 as well.

The Phillies also included two low-A prospects in the deal in Kevin Gowdy and Josh Gessner, who aren’t all that significant in the grand scheme of things:

The Phillies have swung a big-time trade with the Texas Rangers for pitchers Kyle Gibson and Ian Kennedy.

Upon evaluating this trade, the addition of Hans Crouse to the return is what really moves the needle for me personally. Not only was Dave Dombrowski able to snag two arms who will immediately contribute to the team’s postseason goal here in 2021, but he was able to add another high-upside starter to the farm system — somewhat “replacing” the void created by Howard’s departure.

Gibson is also under contract through 2022, which makes Dombrowski’s job of building a playoff-caliber rotation next offseason a little easier.

It is worth highlighting that both Gibson and Kennedy are major regression candidates, as each pitcher heavily relies on ground-balls to induce outs. The Phillies defense isn’t really built for said style, but that’s where the recent addition of Freddy Galvis comes into play (article about him coming out soon).

Only time will tell if Gibson and Kennedy are enough to vault the Phils over the now Javy Baez led New York Mets, but the initial impression is that this isn’t a super crazy trade one way or another. A lot of it depends on what the future holds for Howard and Crouse, but we’ll revisit that discussion in a few year’s time.

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