Phillies president of baseball ops Dave Dombrowski took some time away from trade deadline matters to help introduce pitcher Andrew Painter, the team's top draft pick, at a news conference on Saturday.
Painter represents the future. After the news conference, Dombrowski took questions about the present, specifically the team's approach to the trade deadline, which arrives in six days.
Q: Where do things stand?
A: "We've been talking to everybody, all clubs, and gotten a pulse for what's going on. Some clubs don't know themselves (if they're buying or selling.) I think a lot more is to be felt after this weekend with some organizations, and even some after Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
"One thing I can safely say is we're not in a position where we're looking to move players. We're looking to add players if we can."
The Phillies entered Saturday in second place in the NL East, at the .500 mark, four games behind the Mets.
Q: Could you move players -- i.e., sell -- if the team stumbles badly over the next week?
A: "I guess anything (is possible). All of a sudden, if you lost seven games, and we got crushed seven games in a row, and the Mets won seven games in a row, but that's not what we're looking for."
Q: What's the likelihood that you'll have some new personnel in the coming days?
A: "That's a tough one. I can say the likelihood is I know we'll be aggressive in making it happen. We have ownership support in trying to make things happen. They've been very supportive. But you never know if you can get a deal done or not. We'll find out. There's a lot of competition for players out there. But we're going to try."
The Phillies have needs at the back end of the bullpen and at the back end of the rotation. They have been connected in rumors to position players, but pitching is a more glaring need. Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel would be very attractive because he'd bring a lock-down presence to the end of games and he's under contract for next season and closer has been an annual problem for the Phillies. Adding someone like Kimbrel could allow the Phils to address two issues in one move as Ranger Suarez, who was groomed as a starter, could move into the rotation. Kimbrel is a high-profile reliever who would come with a significant prospect cost. Other targets are likely of lower profile.
Q: Are you looking for high-profile talent or looking to nibble around the edges of the roster?
A: "I'd rather not answer that question. But it's a great question, really. The way I'd answer it is we're kind of open to anything. I think it's incumbent upon us to try to get better. One of the things that's becoming difficult is -- you can say, 'OK, you need this.' And let's just say somebody says an established closer. OK, sounds great, right? Our guys, I think Suarez has done a nice job, (Archie) Bradley's thrown the ball better. So, I wouldn't dispute that statement. However, you'd also have to realize that there's very few of those types that are out there. And, so, then the other thing is, let's say that would not take place. And I'm not even saying we're pursuing that. But then, OK, what's Plan B? So, I think you have to be nimble on your feet at this time. You have to have a lot of alternatives, you have to have a lot of choices, because if you can't get this, what makes you better next? And we're trying to get better."
Q: Does it make sense to go after a high-profile guy when you consider the team's flaws and the prospect cost?
A: "The way I would describe it is that for a two-month rental player, I would not anticipate that we would give up premium prospects. I don't think we're there. It's an unusual year. We're fortunate we're where we are in one sense. We're .500 and we're four games out of first place. And there's clubs I'm talking to that have a slightly better record, but they're a lot further back. So, they're willing to talk about guys. We want to try to win our division if we can. We're within reach. A lot of the answers come from ... we have a lot of good players on the team and them playing well. I mean, if they play well, we're really in probably a pretty good spot no matter what we do. But we're also in a position where we can complement them. But I don't think it's going out there and trading all your top prospects at this point for two months."
The Phillies are about $4 million shy of the $210 million luxury tax threshold. Industry sources have said Dombrowski can go over the tax for the right move. It's the perfect year to do that because the tax will likely be reset -- meaning no onerous rollover penalty -- in the new collective bargaining agreement this winter.
Q: What about the tax? How much of a concern is it in relation to the deadline?
A: "I really wouldn't get into that publicly. But I would tell you that ownership here is very supportive of trying to win."
The Phillies scouted free agent Cole Hamels' recent workout. Since then, things have been quiet. Hamels will pitch for somebody, but he needs time to get ready. The Phillies might not be able to wait that long. And Hamels might opt to sign with a surefire contender like the Dodgers or Padres.
Q: Where do things stand with Hamels and the Phillies?
A: "We saw him. We liked him. He threw the ball well. I think what we have to factor in is, what can we do now knowing that Cole, as much as we like him, might not be ready for 30 to 40 days. Because if you sign him, you're basically telling him you're giving him a spot in the rotation. I don't know right now if we're in the spot where I can 100 percent say that. In five days, six days, will I be able to say that? Perhaps."
The Phillies have the second-longest postseason drought in the majors. They haven't been there since 2011.
Q: Do you feel pressure from ownership, or from other parts of the organization, to end the playoff drought this season?
A: "The way I would say it is, I can feel how badly they would like it to end. And I get it. Not just them but other people in the organization. But I have not felt any pressure at all. They've been fantastic. Very supportive. 'Do things that are smart, do things that are right. But we also don't want to do things that are foolish.' So I have not felt pressure like that at all."