We are back once again with the 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and answer them on The Sports Bash with Mike Gill.  Tune in each Tuesday afternoon to hear your questions answered on the air.

How realistic is Luis Robert Jr to Phillies?

I think it's pretty clear - and has gotten even clearer with the demotion of Johan Rojas (more on that below) - that the Phillies are looking for an outfielder.  Luis Robert, Jr. of the Chicago White Sox is often viewed as a potential premium pickup for a contending team looking to make a trade. But to answer the question: yes, it is "realistic" they could agree on a trade, but will they?

Robert was a premium prospect for the White Sox.  Like the Phillies did with Scott Kingery a couple years prior, the White Sox gave Robert a major league contract and six-year guarantee plus two option years before he played a day in the major leagues.

But for what could be $50 million guaranteed - Robert has had one really productive season.  In 2023, he was an American League All-Star.  Robert injured his hand during the Home Run Derby.

It's worth noting that Robert has an extensive injury history.

So whether a deal is "realistic?"  Yes, the Phillies are interested in an outfielder.  Yes, the Phillies have the prospects to make a deal.   And yes, the White Sox trade shop is open.

But there could be better options out there.  One thing that Dave Dombrowski does well is finding names we have not really thought of who help his teams find success.  I believe he will find someone, though I might not have thought of who just yet.

Why was Johan Rojas sent down now? Did he really do much different than what they thought?

When shortstop Trea Turner returned from the injured list the Phillies found themselves with a roster church.  With Weston Wilson returned to Triple-A to make room for Brandon Marsh, the Phillies did not remove one of the players summoned in response to an injury.  Instead, Johan Rojas was the one to get the demotion.

I think there are a few reasons that Rojas was ultimately the one to head to Triple-A.

One reason - and it's not the primary one - is that fellow outfielders Cristian Pache and David Dahl would be subject to waivers before they could be sent to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.  It's very possible Pache especially would be claimed.  In the short-term, it keeps everyone in the system.

But there is more to it than that.

The Phillies found themselves in Boston without Marsh, without Turner, and without catcher J.T. Realmuto.  If the Phillies could handle dealing with a low-batting average bat at the bottom of the lineup, they suddenly were fielding a lineup with three replacement players plus Rojas.   That was a problem.

After the Boston series, the Phillies had Marsh prepping to play center field, and the Phillies started Pache in center field on Friday in Baltimore. Rojas entered the game late as a pinch runner.  I think that helped seal his fate.

Rojas should have scored what would have been the winning run.  Instead, after a bad jump, he was thrown out a the plate.  With a speed tool many Major Leaguers would love to have, Rojas seems to have some work to do on it.  As Scott Lauber noted in the Inquirer, he's not bunting, either.

None of this to say that Pache or Dahl, or even Whit Merrifield are safe headed down the stretch.  The Phillies reportedly are indeed interested in outfielders, and if they land one, they will not have a problem sacrificing one of these players on their roster.

But simultaneously - Rojas can work on his bat and work on his baserunning at Triple-A.

Do the Phillies needed to get another catcher ahead of the trade deadline?

Well, I think that this is one that is too soon tell.  The Phillies are certainly going to miss catcher J.T. Realmuto and what he can bring to the team.  There is no replacing that level of productivity.  But if the Phillies add someone from the outside, it would not be right away.

First, we've spoken almost ad nauseum about backup Garrett Stubbs.  Stubbs has excelled behind the plate as a backstop; he has struggled at the plate at times.  A little extra use has cooled his bat some this past week.  What you want from your backup is to work well with the pitchers; he does.

But I am really interested in seeing what Rafael Marchan can do for the Phillies in 2024.  He is somewhat of a wild card.   He came up to the major leagues almost prematurely back in 2020, and had some time on the roster in 2021.  With injuries to Marchan (and a lack of injuries to the other backstops), Marchan did not play in 2022 or 2023 at the big league level.

And then 2024 came, and Marchan had a back injury that kept him from even working with anyone during Spring Training.

To me the biggest challenge will be to see how he can work with pitchers he has not caught, or at least not caught in a while.  He knows Cristopher Sanchez from working with him in the minor leagues the best.  That is why he caught both of Sanchez's starts since re-joining the Phillies.

We saw him get four hits last night (though some luck was involved, of course) and throw out runner Ha-Seong Kim convincingly at second base trying to steal. Kim is successful more often than not.

So this could mean the Phillies have enough to weather the temporary injury to Realmuto, and give the team confidence that they will have someone at Triple-A ready when in need.

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