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.  Ask them anytime on X to @FrankKlose.

What, if any pieces do the Phillies need to add by the trade deadline? And who might be traded to accomplish that goal?

Once healthy, the Phillies are still pretty deep.  However, good health cannot be presumed.  Once the trade deadline hits, there is no other opportunity to add players other than waiver claims; the waiver trades do not happen anymore. Right now I would suggest that the Phillies add in two areas.

The first area would be in the outfield.   There are two ways the Phillies could approach this.  The first way would be to find a starting center fielder, leaving left field to the remainder of the Phillies outfielders.   The other area would be to add a right-handed bat in left field who could start.

I think that the latter is more realistic.

Just this week, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that the Phillies were “keeping a close eye” on Oakland Athletics outfielder Brent Rooker.  Rooker is a right-handed bat, who is a designated hitter and left fielder.  He would play left field if the Phillies acquired him.

Rooker is batting .278 with 18 home runs.  He is on his fourth major league team, having played for the Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, and Kansas City Royals before joining the Athletics prior to last season.   An All-Star in 2023, Rooker hit 30 home runs for the Athletics, posting an OPS of .817 in 523 plate appearances.

This seems to me to be the type of player that Dave Dombrowski targets.  He finds lower-lost options that can make an impact.  And it’s almost not surprising that there is some smoke here.

A center fielder would cost the Phillies more.  Long-time Marlins reporter Craig Mish has suggested that there is “growing belief” that the Marlins will trade Jazz Chisholm.  That would be the premium-type player in center field.

A trade for a Chisholm-type player would cost the Phillies greatly in prospects.  I think they can accomplish their goals without trading an Aiden Miller-type prospect.  They could move lower down the prospect list for a Rooker-type player.  I think they’d be able to avoid trading their top five prospects.

I also think it would be prudent to acquire some starting pitching depth.  There has not been any smoke in that regard just yet.  Buth with Taijuan Walker and Spencer Turnbull on the shelf, the Phillies have turned to Michael Mercado.  Two starts down, one was good and one was not.  Kudos to South Jersey’s Tyler Phillips for pitching four fine innings to save the bullpen.  I am not sure that Phillips is the starting pitching answer.

Do the Phillies have enough starting pitching to bring up from the minors to navigate injuries the rest of the way or do we need another innings eater at the deadline – a Joe Blanton type?

The Phillies do not have a ton of starting pitching depth in the minor leagues to count on, unfortunately.  That is why I think the Phillies will look to add some sort of starting pitching depth.  But for right now, I think the Phillies might be okay to get by, even though the back end of the rotation might not be that exciting.

It’s true: Mick Abel has not shown that he’s approaching the major leagues.  Kolby Allard was signed to be starting pitching depth.  That has not worked at Triple-A, either, nor has Max CastilloRicardo Pinto and David Buchanan have not shown themselves to be depth.  Nick Nelson was stretched to be a starter last season but he has not pitched out of the rotation there, and has struggled in the bullpen.

Triple-A starting pitching was highlighted by Michael Mercado and Tyler Phillips.  Both, of course, are on the major league roster.

I realize that Taijuan Walker may have been the bane of some Phillies fans’ existence this season.  But at the end of the day he can take the ball every fifth day and give the Phillies some innings.  Walker should return in the next couple week and I believe that he will be able to give the Phillies just as he did.   In a rotation of All-Stars and players of the month, Walker will not be an exciting return.

Walker’s “hot spot” on this finger kept him from throwing his splitter.  The Phillies are working on letting that heal while also trying to build up his velocity that was down this season.  I think the Phillies do hope that he will return to the rotation sooner than later, though there is no real timetable on his return at the moment.

I think the Phillies will go with a combo of Mercado and Phillips to get through Friday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.

Then will come the All-Star Break and the Phillies will not need a fifth starter for several more days.  Zack Wheeler will pitch the day before the All-Star break but will not pitch during the All-Star game.  The break itself could push back a fifth starter.  So the Phillies conceivably do not need a fifth starter again until July 24.

That could give them two extra opportunities to see Mercado and/or Phillips to see if either can help them at the major league level, while giving more time to assess Walker’s progress.

If neither end looks good, the Phillies could add a starter.  I think that even a Joe Blanton-like player might be a bigger piece than they need.  Come the playoffs, the Phillies won’t need a fifth starter, and there’s been no indication that they are relying on a fifth starter to make the playoffs.  So it might be depth that they can stash away at Triple-A, even.  But come playoffs, they are in a good place.

Who will stay as backup catcher once J.T. Realmuto comes off of the injured list?

The Phillies certainly have gotten a lot out of catcher Rafael Marchan since he came back to the major league club upon J.T. Realmuto’s injury in London.  Garrett Stubbs, meanwhile, has also performed admirably since Realmuto departed.  Despite the choice being a tough one, I think the Phillies will stick with Stubbs as the backup.

Stubbs was once regularly derided for his bat.  Early in the season, it was not uncommon to see Stubbs with a batting average below the Mendoza mark.    Stubbs is now hitting .206 on the season, which in itself does not look great.

However, in the last seven games, Stubbs is batting a respectable .278.  He has also homered in that stretch.  It seems the extra playing time has helped him to get his bat together.

And let's not forget he has called some of the nicest games behind the plate this season.

Long-term, I think that Marchan will find himself on the Phillies roster come next year when he is out of minor league options.  Realmuto is not getting younger, and Marchan could play more next year than Realmuto’s backups have in the past.  Who knows: maybe Marchan can be Realmuto’s eventual successor.

But that’s a ways away. For now, the Phillies have kept their strong division lead without Realmuto and by using both catchers.  It probably means a September call-up for Marchan.  But in the six weeks in between, I think it will be Stubbs.

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