No one is more "all-in" on this Phillies rebuild than I.
What the Phillies have done over the last year and a half has been nothing short of remarkable. Trading away veteran pieces (and some younger ones in the case of Ken Giles) for top-tier prospects has completely revitalized their farm system and is already paying dividends at the Major League level.
And now, there aren't many veteran players left on this team. Ryan Howard is still around, but it still seems unlikely he's going anywhere this year. Carlos Ruiz is playing pretty well, too.
But there is one other veteran who has been making significant contributions over the last two years, super utility man Andres Blanco. Since coming to the Phils as a free agent before the 2014 season, Blanco has hit .293/.356/.505 in 355 plate appearances. Among players with at least 350 PAs since 2014, Blanco's .505 slugging percentage is 20th in Major League Baseball, ahead of players like Manny Machado, Carlos Gonzalez, A.J. Pollock, Ryan Braun and Chris Davis (albeit in a part-time role).
Last year he hit .292/.360/.502 in 261 PAs and has been even better this year, slashing .324/.390/.595 in 41 PAs. He hit 22 doubles and 3 triples in limited action last season, and so far this year has 5 doubles and a triple. He also slugged 7 home runs in 2015, and has 1 so far this season.
He has been one of the Phils' three best hitters over the last two years, along with Odubel Herrera and Maikel Franco, and is capable of playing every infield position.
This weekend showed you the kind of impact he's had during his brief tenure with the Phils. In the second game of their series against the Marlins on Saturday, Blanco helped ignite an 8th-inning rally by working an incredible 12-pitch at bat against Kyle Barraclough, finishing things off with a double.
And then in the series finale on Sunday, Blanco put the Phillies on top with another clutch, 8th-inning double, scoring Tyler Goeddel.
Even as the Phillies continue to win series and play over .500 ball, it is more likely than not that the winning will slow down to the point where the team looks to sell some pieces at the trade deadline. And one of the players who teams will undoubtedly come calling about is Blanco.
Phillies beat writer Kevin Cooney of Calkins Media, a good friend of The Felske Files podcast, said in a video piece on Monday that Blanco could fetch the Phils a nice haul at the deadline, should they become sellers.
But here's why it makes more sense to hold onto Blanco.
First, as mentioned above, the team is short on veteran players, and Blanco is known for being a guy who is looked up to by the younger players. And given that so many of the team's young stars are Latin players, there is worry that subtracting Blanco from the clubhouse could hurt the development of guys like Herrera, Franco, Freddy Galvis and Cesar Hernandez.
And while I scoffed at national writers who insisted the Phillies needed to add a veteran presence to the outfield, like a Jeff Francoeur, I do understand that there are some players whose experience and leadership qualities make them more valuable than the numbers or playing time might indicate.
Second, trading Blanco away could send the wrong message to the team. Yes, the Phils are still in a rebuild mode and should not be trading away important young prospects for veteran help, even if they are in the wild card mix later this summer. But dealing Blanco away for more prospects could create a little dissension among the players. It would take away a valuable tool from their arsenal this season, which isn't nothing.
Third, the Phillies already have a ton of prospects at the minor league level. Certainly, you can never have too many elite prospects. Even if you don't have the space for all of them, you can spin those prospects into veteran players later on. But I'm not sure the type of prospects you'd get back for Blanco would be the kind that would move the needle a whole lot anyway.
Finally, while the 2016 win total is not the most important thing right now, you can see how winning games can go a long way to establishing a culture where young players come to the park expecting to win. The Phils are 11-3 in one-run games, and while that pace is not sustainable, it has been a valuable learning experience. Learning how to win close ballgames in the later innings is not something that just happens. And Blanco has been a key to a lot of those late-inning comebacks.
Now, if someone is willing to knock the Phils' socks off with a real top prospect or two for Blanco, then they have to seriously consider it. But barring that, I don't see how trading Blanco makes any sense.
No, he's not going to be a part of the next Phillies contender. But he is an important figure to many of the young stars on the team who will one day be.
Sometimes having a guy like Blanco to teach and mentor your younger stars can be more valuable to the rebuilding process than adding new prospects.
In this case, that is what we have with Andres Blanco.