Phillies exchange ideas with injured Bryce Harper

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Phillies exchange ideas with injured Bryce Harper

Blake Snell became part of the ill-fated Phillies trivia lore when his up-and-coming fastball broke Bryce Harper’s left thumb in San Diego Saturday night.

Give yourself a star if you remember that it was Washington Nationals rookie left-hander John Lannan who broke Chase Utley’s right hand with a throw on his big league debut in July 2007.

Give yourself five stars if you remember that the Chicago Cubs’ Steve Trachsel was the guy who broke Scott Rolen’s right forearm with a throw in September 1996.

In the last two instances, the Phillies recovered well from a tough hiatus. Pat Gillick acquired Tad Iguchi from the guilt-ridden Kenny Williams and the White Sox — Williams, the Sox’s GM at the time, felt guilty because his club sent the well-regarded Gillick a busted pitcher (Freddy Garcia) last winter — and Iguchi held down the fort well at second base before Utley could make it back and help the Phillies win the NL East.

Rolen was named NL Rookie of the Year in 1997 with a fantastic season, but his eligibility for the award would have been gone had he not been hit by Trachsel’s bad luck that season, which would have dropped him with 130 at-bats.

The Phillies — from the clubhouse to the front office — must handle the loss of Harper with similar aplomb if they are to salvage their season and break a 10-year postseason drought, the longest in the NL.

There is still some fluidity in this situation. Harper is scheduled to undergo another medical evaluation earlier this week. A simple break could bring him back for the stretch ride. A more complicated break, one that would require surgery and fixing the break, would keep him out longer. Second baseman Jean Segura recently suffered a broken right index finger. The injury could sideline him for up to 12 weeks as the fracture was “postponed” and needed fixing.

Regardless of how long Harper is out, his loss puts the Phillies in survival mode. Her starting rotation was somewhere between solid and very good. The Bullpen has been very good lately, although it’s fair to wonder how sustainable that will be. Kyle Schwarber was a June savior and Rhys Hoskins also carried a heavy burden throughout the month. But if the Phils are to survive the loss of Harper, the lineup’s alpha dog, they’ll need more from Nick Castellanos and JT Realmuto, both of whom have shown some signs of warming, and others.

Like Gillick in 2007, the front office here needs to get to work and keep this team from dying on the vine. That’s not to say that hard work hasn’t already been done to improve the squad. Dave Dombrowski has signed a four-year contract here. He might be staying longer now — he’s a sophomore and the Nashville project he’s associated with isn’t moving fast — but the fact of the matter is he didn’t come here to mess around and have a long, slow climb monitor . He came to get into the postseason – now – and his desire matches that of ownership. Certainly Dombrowski, Sam Fuld, Jorge Velandia and the rest of the front office already have a trade deadline strategy in place. Bullpen and initial pitching depth might have topped this list a week ago. A midfielder or outfield defense was likely there. Those needs haven’t gone away, but they have company now.

With Harper out, the Phils will need a slugger at either DH or outfield. A left bat would be nice, but production from both sides is key.

You can bet Dombrowski and his cabinet have already made contact with the Washington Nationals who could move Josh Bell or Nelson Cruz. Jesus Aguilar, who remains in NL East, could be attractive if the Miami Marlins sell. Baltimore could move Trey Mancini or Anthony Santander. The Royals could trade Whit Merrifield or Andrew Benintendi. The Cubs could dish out an interesting package of outfielder Ian Happ and reliever David Robertson. Ditto for Arizona, which could move outfielder David Peralta and reliever Mark Melancon, who has struggled this season but led the majors in 2021 with 39 saves. Pittsburgh continues to have excellent trade-chip in center fielder Brian Reynolds, although it would likely cost significant young talent.

There are top spots with Oakland’s Frankie Montas and Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo, but those prizes will be high, too. As much as the Phils need to improve to keep this $230 million investment from golfing in October, they need to protect Mick Abel and Andrew Painter, who could become the core of a Philadelphia starting rotation in a few years. Griff McGarry, Ben Brown and potential closer Francisco Morales are also top prospects. Would the Phillies part ways with one in the right deal? The Phils have a deep catch with Rafael Marchan and Logan O’Hoppe. They would postpone Marchan but the rivals would likely favor O’Hoppe, who continues to break through. Can the Phils afford to use O’Hoppe as a trading chip while Realmuto shows signs of decline? Difficult choice. Likely for a safe World Series team. For a team squeaking into the playoffs… tough call.

It’s popular, bordering on the cliché, to mention that the Atlanta Braves took a big hit with the loss of Ronald Acuña Jr. (and others) last year, and that the rest of their roster, players like Freddie Freeman and Austin Riley, as well as GM Alex Anthopoulos, who redesigned the outfield at this close of trade, stepped in to salvage the season and help the club to a World Series title. The Phillies know all about how the Braves handled adversity in 2021. They will need similar contributions from their existing core and similar help from the front office to survive the loss of Harper. A quick healing left thumb would also help.

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