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It’s mailbag time! It’s mailbag time!

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MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Hello.

It has been quite a while since we did a mailbag, so why not go with one now? The Phillies are good again, interest is peaking and there are lots of things to discuss. Let’s get into the nitty gritty.

By “returning arm”, I’m going to assume my friend Lawrence here is talking about the injured relief corps that is beginning to make their way through rehab assignments. These names include:

  • Sam Coonrod
  • Kent Emmanuel
  • Jojo Romero
  • Ryan Sherriff

Of these, the most obvious one who could make an impact would be Coonrod. Whatever one thinks of him personally, his on field performance last season was one of the surprises of the year and would be a welcome addition should he be able to repeat it. Having a pitcher in the back who could replace Jeurys Familia with numbers like ~26% strikeout rate and a walk rate under 9% would be the boost this bullpen needs.

Probably the under the radar addition would be having someone like Romero come back from Tommy John surgery and be an effective left handed reliever. Right now, the only left hander the team has any trust in is Brad Hand and Rob Thomson looks like he is saving him for closing situations. That means that Jose Alvarado is left as the one who would be facing the tough lefty on lefty matchups late in games, something no one on the team wants to have happen. While his major league numbers, sparse as they may be, don’t scream “major leaguer!”, it would be easy to run Romero out there a few times to see what he has rather than knowing that Alvarado is going to frustrate you with what he has.

Even I, the staunchest of Realmuto defenders, am willing to admit he has been disappointing this season. He’s been pretty bad at the plate, yet his defense has been among the tops in the game behind the plate. Once he starts slipping defensively, then I think the organization has something to really worry about. He’s still contributing something to the team.

Nick Castellanos has been pretty dreadful all the way around, making him the easier choice as “more disappointing”. He’s not hitting for average, he’s not getting on base, he’s not hitting for power and the less said about his defense, the better. His drop in BABIP (.304 this season compared to .340 last) might have something to do with it, but there are other things he’s struggling with as well. His O-Swing% is up, his Z-Swing% is down, his barrel and hard hit rates are both down, and teams are getting ahead of him more often than in the past. These are indicators that it’s not just a cold streak with him this season; these are slips in areas that indicate something else is wrong. Can they be corrected? Sure. I have a hard time thinking this is a sunk cost just yet, but if these are the starts of new trends in his career, the team has a big problem on their hands.

Well, let’s start with who we don’t want.

Jeurys Familia and Brad Hand are on one-year deals and will be shown the door once the season is over. Au revoir, gentlemen (except you, Familia. Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out).

There is a better than decent chances Jose Alvarado is nontendered once the season is over. If they have already made the decision once to demote him due to ineffectiveness, one has to believe the team isn’t going to give him a raise in arbitration to frustrate them even more in 2023.

At the rate Corey Knebel is throwing, it’s hard to think the team is going to give him an extension, but I’d be willing to bet he’ll even out as the season continues and he’ll end up coming up large in big games late in the season. Does that mean he’ll be back in 2023? That’ll all depend on his demands which might be too exorbitant for the Phillies.

That leaves one guy, really. Of all the pitchers in the bullpen right now, the one the team needs to keep is Seranthony Dominguez. Last week, I wrote about how the team needs to keep him in the current role he is in (that of the “fireman”) since they don’t really have anyone else trustworthy enough to take on that same role. Pitchers who can succeed in that role are very much in demand when free agency hits and if Dominguez were to hit the market this offseason (he isn’t), he’d command a pretty penny to keep. Luckily for them, he’s still under team control for two more seasons, so there is no immediate risk in his leaving, but at some point, maybe an extension should be discussed to get those arbitration seasons under more cost control.

I am no Rhys Hoskins fan. His white hot beginning to his major league career has set lofty expectations from observers that feel he has fallen short as the years have gone on. But this idea of “selling high” on Hoskins is lunacy.

First, what exactly are they selling high on? Hoskins currently is hitting .251/.339/.467 as a 30 year old right handed first baseman who isn’t very good at fielding his position. What value does he have? He’s not going to bring back anything good as far as prospect are concerned, and if they were to trade him for something of equal value on a major league roster, they’d be looking at a 4th/5th starter or a mid-inning reliever. That isn’t much when you then take into consideration that they’d have a 124 wRC+ sized hole in the middle of their lineup that they would then have to fill some other way. Sure they could move someone like Alec Bohm to first base full-time, or put J.T. Realmuto there on a more regular basis, but then those other positions need to be filled. Such is the domino effect that trading Hoskins would create.

As frustrating as he can be to watch at times with his streakiness, the team isn’t sending Hoskins anywhere. After the season, when his arbitration number is going to increase, might they nontender him? That’s a different story.

Ryan Howard was so clearly ready to take over for Jim Thome when the team traded the latter that a move had to be made. Thome was hurt in 2005, paving the path for Howard to come in, dominate in his shortened season and win the Rookie of the Year that season. The team knew they had to move on and, luckily, found a team in the White Sox that had a hole that trading for Thome could fill. He would go on to produce almost 10 fWAR for the White Sox in the next three seasons and generally give them exactly what they needed. He wasn’t done being a productive player.

Howard, meanwhile, was very ready for the major leagues and bashed his way onto the roster, setting himself up as a franchise icon over the next several seasons, winning an MVP award and a World Series along the way. It was one of those trades that just happened to set up both teams to be successful.

For Realmuto and Logan O’Hoppe, that isn’t the case.

O’Hoppe is the flavor of the week with this team right now, forcing his way onto the prospect map by putting up a .920 OPS in Double A Reading this season and entering top 100 lists across the country. Realmuto has struggled at the plate this season, giving the Phillies only an 89 wRC+ thus far while also, subjectively, playing a worse defense this year than in the past. Once the year is over, if these two players continue on these trajectories, there will be calls to trade Realmuto and put O’Hoppe in the majors right away.

This would be a mistake.

First of all, unless the player is a consensus top ten prospect in the game, it makes no sense for a catcher to skip levels in the minor leagues. The demands offensively as well as defensively mean teams will continue to be conservative with promoting catching prospects in comparison to other positions. Even Adley Rutschman had to at least see Triple A baseball before being promoted. O’Hoppe isn’t in that same class as Rutschman, so we’d have to assume he will still need some work before he arrives in Philadelphia. So much of what the team values in Realmuto has to do with his work defensively and it’s pretty clear that O’Hoppe isn’t on that level just yet. The scouting reports are all unanimous that while he’s not a bad catching prospect, O’Hoppe does still need some work.

Second, moving Realmuto is easier said than done. There isn’t going to be a team out there that will want to trade for his entire contract coming off of an offensive season like this, much less give the Phillies anything close to equal value in return (remember, the Phillies got Aaron Rowand plus prospects in return for Thome). Then you have to factor in how much the pitching staff enjoys throwing to him. That would change once they as a group go used to whoever was behind the backstop, but with so many of them in the prime of their career right now, it would behoove the team to put the catcher behind the plate that can get the most out of them.

Trading Realmuto is going to dominate the conversation around this team all offseason if he does not turn his game around right now, but doing so for a not-quite-ready prospect just doesn’t make sense for the roster.