With trade season upon us, most fans are looking at the Phillies’ roster and wondering how they can trade current players elsewhere in order to open up playing time for the kids in the minors. One of the issues with this is that a lot of the trade chips Matt Klentak is playing with aren’t the best fits for most buyers on the market. It’s pretty bare for second basemen/left fielders (Howie Kendrick) as a lot of contenders already have those positions sewn up. The same can be said for first basemen (Tommy Joseph). Relief pitchers and starting pitchers are always in demand, so the Phillies are pretty safe there. Otherwise, it’s pretty hard to find a trade partner that’ll be willing to dance with the Phillies.
However, there is a team that had a lot needs that match up marvelously with what the Phillies might have to offer. Take a look at this table (stats through June 27):
Los Angeles Angels
As you can see from the title, these are the numbers for the first basemen, second basemen, and starting pitchers of the Los Angeles Angels. The hitters’ numbers are hideous, as they’ve been stuck trotting out the likes of Jefry Marte, C.J. Cron, and Luis Valbuena to amass the worst line for those at the cold corner in all of baseball. Shift to the left of the infield, and their players at the keystone have been better, 29th in baseball! The starting pitching has actually been pretty solid, with their ERA good for 9th in baseball, but as you can see from their FIP and DRA, there is quite of bit of deceitfulness in that ERA total, meaning a regression could be coming.
In spite of having two black hole positions, the team sits just one game back in the wild card race. They’ve also been doing this without the services of the best player in the game. While getting Mike Trout will instantly make them better, consider the fact that while he has been out, the team has actually been playing quite well, going 15-12 since May 29. That’s mostly due to Eric Young, Jr. hitting .286/.368/.440 in his stead, not Trout-ian numbers, but more than acceptable in his place. It could lead to the conclusion that the status quo plus Trout would mean vaulting in the playoff standings.
And yet, even when Trout comes back, they’ll still have those two bad positions to contend with. If they do not want to waste another year of his prime, they might be interested in some upgrades that could help them in their hunt for a playoff berth.
Peddling names like Tommy Joseph, Kendrick and Hellickson to the Angels would help Los Angeles in a number of ways. It can clear some space and playing time for those in the minors that the organization may want to get a look at. If they truly believe that Rhys Hoskins has earned a promotion to the big leagues this season, they will need a spot for him to play every day. Trading Joseph can open up that spot. With it looking more and more like Hoskins is the better option to start in 2018 anyway, the time could be right for the team to trade Joseph. The wild card chase creates more of a desire to acquire assets to help now with trying to get Trout into the postseason rather than waiting for a market to occur in the offseason that may never formulate. Joseph also has the added benefit of infusing the Angels with some youth that they currently do not possess, while giving them a controllable asset for the future. Even though they do have their own first base prospect in Matt Thaiss who will soon be ready, Joseph can help them win now.
Kendrick and Hellickson can also be used to entice the Angels to loosen their grip on prospects that could come back to help the Phillies. They have a different advantage to the Angels as they would only really be rentals for that postseason push. Los Angeles is undergoing a soft rebuild, where they are acquiring veterans to help them win now while simultaneously building their farm system through the draft. They’ve been put in this position solely because of Trout, whom they would rather build a winner around than waste prime years of. They might also be feeling the pressure of wanting to win with him now before he has a chance to engage other teams in his free agency years. With the American League as up in the air as it is now, they might be able to steal a wild card spot with a few shrewd acquisitions at the deadline. Acquiring short term contracts like Kendrick and Hellickson would allow them to compete now without sacrificing later.
Of course, we also have to look at it from the Phillies’ point of view. Does it make sense to engage with Los Angeles as a partner? From the looks of their farm system, the answer might be “eh”.
Joseph, while blocking a (probably) better prospect in Hoskins, still has some value to the team. He’s not expensive, won’t be for a few years, and still has that juicy team control on his side. He’s not a stiff out there, though he’s not exactly what one looks for in a first baseman. There is also no real need to trade him, as letting Hoskins have a full season in Lehigh Valley this year is not the worst thing in the world. These reasons alone mean that they are not simply going to give him away to the highest bidder, no matter what the return is.
While trading Kendrick and Hellickson is mandatory this deadline, the team, as they shouldn’t be in any deal, can not just give these guys away. If Angels general manager Billy Eppler comes calling, Klentak should be able to net something nice in return. Will that “nice” return be a top 10 prospect? No. But, as Liz Roscher and John Stolnis discussed on the Felske Files podcast, aiming for something like what they got in return for Jonathan Papelbon (which was Nick Pivetta) is surely a goal the team should have in mind.
I can’t sit here and match up names from the Angels’ farm system that I might target in a trade were I in charge of things. I simply do not know that system particularly well. What I do know is that if the Phillies were to begin engaging teams in trade chatter based on the perceived needs of those teams, one of the first calls I would make would be to the offices on 2000 Gene Autry Way.