The Phillies got one strong start from recently-signed pitcher Drew Smyly. Starter Nick Pivetta is now in the bullpen.  But the Phillies appear that they are still looking at adding substantial pitching upgrades between now and the trade deadline, just nine days away.  A couple recent reports have the Phillies in on some of the bigger names that are expected to be moved.

Both Greinke and Ray are acquisitions that are more than two-month rentals.

Greinke is signed to two more seasons and $70 million beyond the $34.5 he is earning this season.  Greinke will be a $34.5 million average annual value applied against the competitive balance tax for each of the next two seasons.  Approximately one-third of that would go against the 2019 Phillies, who could sustain that hit now, but do little else.

The Phillies could get the Diamondbacks to take a contract back to help the Phillies in the short-term.  If the Diamondbacks agreed to take say, Pat Neshek back in a trade, even though he would be of no help to the Diamondbacks, that could help the Phillies comfortably stay below.

After this season Neshek, Tommy Hunter, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco could all be free agents (if Franco is a non-tender) at a combined $29 million that will cover almost the whole cost of competitive balance tax hit.

Ray is signed to an affordable $6,050,000 contract for 2019 and has one year of arbitration left beyond this season.  Compared to Greinke, Ray would cost more in terms of prospect.  The biggest asset the Phillies could give to the Diamondbacks in a Greinke trade is salary relief. For Ray, they'll want prospects.

But the Phillies are not only shopping in the desert.

According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, the Phillies are looking at the arms available from the Detroit Tigers that are catching the eye of teams, including starter Matthew Boyd and closer Shane Greene:

The Phillies have big needs in the starting rotation and at the back end of the bullpen. Sources say the Phils have had conversations with the Tigers about all of their available players, particularly Boyd and Greene. Both are the type of pitcher the Phillies would like to acquire in that they are talented and under contractual control beyond this season.

And with the control comes a higher price.

The Phillies will be looking to balance the average annual value of incoming contracts with the competitive balance tax threshold.  While the Phillies are not afraid to spend money, the Phillies could be hit with other penalties for exceeding the salary threshold, including losing draft slot placement.

With Neshek, Hunter, and Juan Nicasio, the Phillies took on big-dollar relievers that have provided little relief in 2019.  Neshek and Hunter were shorter-term deals that were overpays that would disappear when the Phillies were closer to winning.  Nicasio was a salary dump by Seattle as part of the Carlos Santana-Jean Segura trade.  Those will be memories after this season.

The Phillies are just a half-game out of the Wild Card and the teams surrounding them in the Wild Card hunt are scuffling as much as the Phillies are at times.  A couple key acquisitions and the Phillies could separate from the pack.  That could build some momentum going into next season.

The trade deadline is July 31 at 4:00 p.m.  Unlike other seasons, an August 31 trade deadline is no longer an option for teams to acquire players.  Therefore, the next nine days should be busy.

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