Raise your hand if you’re not thrilled with the Phillies performance in 2019...
Yeah, I’d say about 99.999999% of you are raising your hands right about now.
Sure, we’ve had a rough go of it; catastrophic injuries, underperforming All-Stars, a lack of depth — you name it.
Yet, through all of that, we still stand at a .500+ record — which means there’s still a shot at the playoffs... right?
We can’t exactly push all of our chips to the middle — the Braves have a pretty commanding lead in the National League East, and the Nationals are giving us a run for our money, too.
That said, we can’t count ourselves out — we’re still very much a competitive club, and are currently in control of a Wild Card spot.
So, with the July trade deadline steadily encroaching, what in the world do we do?
The answer: we hybridize.
The Phillies can be both buyers AND sellers at the deadline this year — and they might just be better off for it. The Front Office can ship off a few premium pieces at peak value, while also adding some buy-low and/or controllable talent, all the while priming themselves perfectly for another ‘big spender’ offseason to fill in the apparent holes that this season has presented.
Let’s go shopping, shall we?
Who’s on the Block?
The Phillies have a number of pieces with which they can leverage a few deals, all of whom could fetch a relatively decent price on the market.
(Prior to his injury and horrific start a few days ago, Jake Arrieta was on this list, as there are multiple teams looking for a wide range of rotation help. Now, however, it is VERY unlikely a deal gets done, thus forcing me to omit him from consideration.)
Hector Neris, RHP
Every single competing team looks for bullpen help at the deadline, and Hector Neris might just be one of the best available arms out there.
Since the second half of 2018, Neris has been one of the most shut-down relievers in the game, striking out 84 batters over 54.2 frames, and allowing just 17 earned runs over that same stretch, resulting in a 2.83 ERA.
Regardless of your opinion in terms of his reliability, it is undeniable that Neris slings some filthy stuff — his splitter is arguably one of the most deceiving pitches in the entirety of baseball. Having that kind of an arm in your bullpen is extremely useful — even if he’s not your designated closer.
The Phillies would undoubtably be able to score quite the price for Neris, especially given his three remaining years of control, and the amount of teams that are in dire need of bullpen aid.
Sell high while you can. Hector is an outstanding pitcher, but he’s getting older, and has been a Cinderella Story as is.
Tommy Hunter, RHP
Sporting one of the best cutters in the game, Hunter finally made his 2019 debut a couple of weeks ago, and has been absolutely lights out in his return from the Injured list.
While he’s only pitched 4.1 frames of relief this year, Hunter is showing no signs of slowing in his progress from the second half of the 2018 season, averaging 94.2 mph on his fastball, and a spin rate of 2,559 rpm.
In other words, he looks pretty darn good.
This being the case, I’m sure the righty will draw interest from many clubs, and could net the Phillies an above-standard rental return, should they decide to ship him.
Maikel Franco, 3B
While Maikel Franco has picked his bat up over the last few weeks, it’s hard to say that his future with this team looks bright. The arrival of top prospect Alec Bohm is rapidly approaching, and Franco, who has had a tough go of things in 2019, is on his way out.
While it’s relatively unlikely that the Phillies want to sell low on their 8-hole hitter, it is certainly possible that the team’s ‘win-now’ attitude, could force the Front Office’s hand.
Franco has a wealth of potential about him, and will therefore lead the charge of buy-low candidates as the deadline looms closer. Should the Phillies decide to sell him, they’ll surely receive a package of marginal value in return, but nothing closely resembling a haul — or even a mini-haul for that matter.
Cesar Hernandez, 2B
Trading Cesar Hernandez has remained a popular narrative since 2017, but the 2019 deadline might just be the best possible time to let him go.
While Hernandez carries a fine bat on his shoulders, it’s no secret that he is a bit of a louse on the defensive side of things.
The Phillies also have a brilliant insurance plan at second base by way of Scott Kingery, who would undoubtably benefit from playing his natural position consistently. Kingery has shown a brilliant bat in 2019, and aims to be the second baseman of the future going forward — thus presenting a bit of a jam for Hernandez.
Cesar is another name that wouldn’t exactly warrant a hefty price — but the deadline is surely the best time to deal him, as Free Agency looks to be crowded with passable options in the middle infield.
Brad Miller, UTIL
The acquisition of Brad Miller was an under-the-radar acquisition by Matt Klentak that has paid dividends, especially seeing as he was able to snag Miller for mere cash considerations.
Back in 2016, Miller flashed some huge potential, slugging 30 bombs over the course of 152 games. He’s been pretty impressive for Philadelphia in 2019, slashing a ridiculous .304/.407/.652 with 2 dingers over 17 games with the Phils.
Miller will net them nothing more than a fringe prospect, and isn’t exactly likely to be dealt — but, as he continues to succeed, his price tag becomes that much higher.
What’s on the Shopping List?
The 2019 Phillies are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to their rotation. Barring the recent resurgence of Aaron Nola, the Phillies have a relatively bare starting staff, and will surely look to add at the deadline.
The question then becomes, to what degree will they upgrade? It is extremely unlikely that they will be players for the top-tier candidates like Matthew Boyd of Detroit, Mike Minor of Texas, and Marcus Stroman of Toronto — and even less likely that they pursue high-priced rentals like Madison Bumgarner and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Tanner Roark.
However, there are a few extremely interesting arms to take note of in the lower tiers, especially in the case of Robbie Ray of Arizona. Ray checks all of the boxes. He’s a high-K guy that pitches from the left side, and has one more year of control after the 2019 season. While he is having a fine season, he shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to obtain — a package headlined by reputable pitching prospect, Adonis Medina, should get the job done.
Another tier down, there are some relatively impressive buy-low candidates on bottom-dwelling teams that boast bulky contracts. These include the likes of Kansas City’s Homer Bailey and Danny Duffy, San Francisco’s Jeff Samardzija, and Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner. Each of these pitchers would need some sort of pay-down in order to be dealt, with the possible exception of Duffy and Cashner, whose deals aren’t quite as albatross-y as Samardzija and Bailey.
Regardless of who the Front Office decides to pursue, it is well known that the Phillies aim to be quite active on the starting pitching market. They’ll look to add AT LEAST one, if not two arms prior to the deadline, of that we can be sure.
The Phillies’ bullpen has been hit with numerous injuries over the course of the 2019 season, and is now a mere shell of what it once was. Thus, the Phillies will be spurred to make some upgrades, but, yet again, it then becomes a question as to what degree they will look to quell the issue.
Should they decide to go a more expensive route, Will Smith will surely lead the charge — especially if they do in fact deal Hector Neris at peak value. Smith has had an insane season out of the back end of the Giants’ bullpen, and is easily the priciest rental piece in the category. However, should they choose to let Smith pass, he will enter Free Agency in the coming offseason, and would be a fantastic name to acquire. Will Smith in Philadelphia? Come on.
Should they choose to go by way of control, Alex Colome, to whom the Phillies have already been linked, could be a nice addition. He’s had an excellent year in Chicago, and has functioned as the White Sox primary closer.
As for bargain pieces, there are many. A reunion with lefty Jake Diekman, who is on an unbelievably cheap deal, is certainly likely, and the Marlins’ closer, Sergio Romo, has been remarkably effective in his role. Other veterans, like newfound reliever Ian Kennedy (with a MAJOR albatross contract) and experienced lefty Francisco Liriano, could also prove cheap and effective acquisitions.
The Phillies don’t exactly have a ‘hole’ at any of their primary positions, as Scott Kingery has been able to hold down the fort at any spots in need. However, should the team choose to sell either of Maikel Franco or Cesar Hernandez (or just flat out replace them,) the bulk of Kingery’s time would be spent at either Second or Third base.
Currently, the Phillies’ bench consists of Bamboo Brad, Roman Quinn, Sean Rodriguez, and Andrew Knapp... Yeah, not the greatest.
This team’s greatest need lies in Center Field. Jarrod Dyson of Arizona would be the perfect choice to replace Scott Kingery, who has been manning the position of late. Dyson swings a lefty bat with some surprising pop, and has wheels like you wouldn’t believe — he’s already stolen 20 bags in 2019. As a rental, he wouldn’t be all that expensive, and would provide the Phils with some speed at the bottom, or even the top of the lineup.
As far as a replacement Third Baseman goes, Kyle Seager of Seattle could be an interesting pick. He has quite the contract, and, after significant pay down, could be acquired for very little. His lefty bat would add variance to the lineup, and, surprisingly, he’s quite the underrated defender.
As far as bench bats go, Neil Walker of Miami, Adam Jones of Arizona, and Corey Dickerson of Pittsburgh all fit the mold. Walker is a switch hitter with pop, Jones has been excellent for the Dbacks, and Dickerson provides solid contact and power from the left side.
It’s hard to be sure as to what Matt Klentak has planned — but one thing I can say for certain;
It’s going to be a busy three weeks.