Thursday is the last day of the 2019 All-Star Break and when the Phillies return to action on Friday against the Washington Nationals, all eyes will be on how the Phillies approach the July 31 trade deadline.  At 47-43, the Phillies currently hold one of the two Wild Card spots in the National League.  But with many teams nearby them in the standings, to what extent will the Phillies be active at the July 31 trade deadline?

The Phillies should be buyers at the trade deadline.  Over at MLB.com, Mark Feinsand lists as many as 11 teams that could be on the bubble between buyers and sellers. The Phillies are not one of them.  The reason the Phillies seek to win in 2019 is not because they feel that they are in an ideal position to win.  It is because they made some big investments in 2019 to back up now.

No, that big investment was not necessarily outfielder Bryce Harper, whose signing is a long-term piece for the Phillies.  It was not the $500 million the Phillies spent total this offseason.  Instead, it was the high price in terms of prospects paid for catcher J.T. Realmuto that made the Phillies expect to contend.  Realmuto is currently signed just this year and next.

The world saw former Phillies prospect Sixto Sanchez dazzle at the Futures Game on Sunday.  The main piece in the Realmuto deal was a reminder that the Phillies paid big to win now.  They will do what they can to win in 2019.

But the question is, how far in would the Phillies go to win in 2019?

The Phillies must add starting pitching before all else.  There is a sense of urgency there, since Vince Velasquez is already back to starting and Jake Arrieta is pitching with a bone spur in his pitching arm.  I think that if the Phillies will trade some of their system depth, they will likely look at trading for starting pitching that will be signed beyond this season.

Matthew Boyd comes to mind.  Boyd is signed for two more seasons beyond this one.  The two years of Boyd might make the Phillies willing to trade six of either Adam Haseley or Mickey Moniak, especially since both do not figure to fit on the roster at the same time right away.

In Arizona, both Zach Greinke and Robbie Ray might be had.  Greinke is signed to big money for the next two seasons.  The Phillies might be able to add Greinke by taking his salary instead of giving big prospects.  Ray could cost the Phillies prospects, but he is signed for next season, too.

Should the Phillies land one long-term arm, I can see the Phillies adding a stop-gap arm whose contract expires.  Corey Seidman of NBC Sports Philadelphia mentions the likes of Tanner Roark as an option that will not cost too much and who will be a free agent at season's end.  An arm like Roark, paired with someone like Boyd, might give the Phillies their best chance.

But of course, it takes another team to make a deal, too.  With so many teams currently "in it" - MLB Commissioner Rob Manfried mentioned at the All-Star game that as many as 25 teams are still in contention - trade partners will be scarce.  The Phillies will have to compete with the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox for starting pitching.

That means it's not easy task.  With one lone trade deadline of July 31 this year, there is no Jamie Moyer available for an August trade.   The Phillies will need to make an impact this month.  A starting pitcher - preferably two - makes the Phillies advance their status as contenders.

A bullpen arm or bat would be nice, but they are not the pressing need right now.  The Phillies should get some of their injured bullpen arms back and Velasquez or Nick Pivetta could move to the bullpen and solidify it.  Starting pitching is key for the 2019 Phillies.