It’s the time of year when rumors are swirling, teams are being dubbed “buyers or sellers,” or management look towards that final piece to push them over the competition: the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline.
With the MLB All Star Game in the rearview mirror and 75 games remaining before the postseason, there’s still a lot of baseball season remaining before turning the page to football. Rapidly approaching, this day could change the look of teams headed into the final months, for better or for worse, and decide the future of clubs.
Finishing the first half with the worst record in baseball at 29-58, the Phillies will be selling off veteran pieces at the deadline; many of the one-year deals they set in place this winter was in hopes of building trade value for this day. However, General Manager Matt Klentak and president Andy McPhail agree that no one player is “untouchable” on the Phillies if a team comes calling. This could mean the youth movement starts anew with Tommy Joseph, Odubel Herrera, or even Maikel Franco available for trade, but they would come at a cost.
Without knowing the truth of what the club is thinking, it’s all merely speculation who gets moved, however, it’s almost a guarantee that 37-year old right-handed relief pitcher Pat Neshek leaves Philadelphia for a contender in the coming weeks. He’s already stated that he expects to finish the season elsewhere.
“It would be really cool to stay around here…I feel very comfortable here,” Neshek said. “But, if that happens…- I’m sure [a trade] will happen.”
Neshek has consistently been the late-inning glue in an otherwise patchwork bullpen since arriving via a trade with Houston. To date, he’s thrown 35.1 innings in 38 appearances, pitching to a 2-2 record with a mere 1.27 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. He may have been the best piece, but Neshek is all but gone from Philly, having openly drawn interest from the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals. Expect the righty to bring back a low Singe-A or Double-A prospect likely to contribute as a role player. Whatever team comes for Neshek should be one expected to make a far run into the playoffs.
He’s not all that’s been discussed as a trade chip from the Phillies. There are a few names, some expected, others a surprise, that may make their way to new destinations before the end of this month.
Jeremy Hellickson, a 30-year old righty, got the ball on opening day and tallied his first 2017 win.
That could be his final opening day start if he gets traded to a contending team with a deep starting staff looking for the final end-of-the-rotation piece. The to-be free agent signed a $17 million qualifying offer after a year which he proved he could stay healthyand get back to his Rookie of the Year form.
Hellickson tossed the identical amount of innings, 189, as his rookie season in three more starts. J-Hell had a career high 154 strikeouts on the year and the healthiest he’s ever been, adding to his value on top of the 3.71 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. Hellickson was good enough that Klentak demanded an organizational top five prospect in return. Fast forward one year later, he could be dealt for far less than any offer last season due to regressing numbers.
The Phillies gambled that he could improve or match the numbers from 2016 for a better return at the deadline. It looked like he was on par for another career year, starting out 4-0 with a 1.80 ERA in April. Since then, it’s been all downhill. May was a month we would all like to forget, including Jeremy. The trade candidate blew his ERA to 4.45 by the month’s end, and allowed 24 runs in just 30.2 innings.
Expect Klentak to pull the trigger on the best offer for Hellickson he gets this time around. His 5-5, 4.49 ERA can be an asset to a team like Milwaukee or Cleveland who could use the experience of Hellickson to stave off their competitors and win their respective divisions. The return could be a mid-rotation arm, or a middling bat that has no clear path to the majors. If the Phillies ate up some of the salary hit, then we’ll see a prospect with a higher ceiling.
Howie Kendrick came to the city by way of trade with the Phillies of the west, Los
Angeles Dodgers for Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney. He was set to be a mainstay in the lineup to showcase his skills to potential buyers late July until injuries began limiting Kendrick’s playing time. The best part of Kendrick is his positional versatility, allowing teams to use him best fit.
The injury bug hit Kendrick early, and often, limiting him to just 33 games and 126 at-bats through the first 87 games. When he is healthy and in the lineup, Kendrick still possesses the ability to get on base. In those 33 games, Kendrick is hitting .349/.403/.476 with two homers and eight stolen bases, no different than his career numbers. Teams interested will be intrigued in his long history of getting on base and team-first mentality. The only blip on their radar is the recent injury concerns for Kendrick as he reaches his mid-30s.
Kendrick missed almost two months on the disabled list with a right abdominal strain that has lingered all year long. When he returned in June, it was like his old self again when he was with Los Angeles. He finished the month hitting .360 with nine multi-hit games. That would be the biggest sample size to date for Kendrick because he currently sits on the 10-day DL, this time with a left hamstring strain. He is soon able to be activated, but it seems his health is an ongoing concern for the Phillies at the deadline.
Klentak brought Kendrick over as another one-year roster hold to play the outfield and second base until a team came calling for his services. Ideally, Kendrick brings back a middling prospect for what he can do, like Hellickson. Teams will look at his history with the LA Angels and see nothing but a reliable bat which could work in his favor. If Klentak gets an offer that he feels returns a prospect that can contribute sooner than later, I feel he gets the deal done. With his current injury situation, it’s hard to see a contending team risk a roster spot for Kendrick. A more likely outcome is he stays with the Phils through the deadline, then gets moved at the waiver deadline right before the final playoff push if he proves to be healthy.
Tommy Joseph is a key piece in the rebuild that they received in the Hunter Pence to San Francisco trade four years ago. His professional career as a catcher got derailed after suffering multiple concussions, sparking his move to first base. A “Big Piece” named Ryan Howard once blocked is path to the majors until last season when the Phillies had enough of the 36-year old’s all or nothing power. Joseph has been one player this year to produce like a major league player in a time when the roster was lacking.
At 25, Joseph is not a burden with his contract or with his production at the plate. He started the year cold, with a sub-.200 average. Once he started to heat up, he got hot. In 82 games, Joseph is at 15 home runs, 25 walks, and 43 RBI’s, all of which surpass or come close to his rookie year in 107 games. He enters the second half with a .255/.310/.486 line, mostly from the cleanup spot.
Joseph’s name has been tossed around because there is a need around the league for first baseman, but also due to Rhys Hoskins’ imminent call up. The Yankees have been loosely linked to Joseph to fill their gaping hole at the corner; he also has flexibility to be designated hitter. Hoskins is tearing it up at Triple-A since his promotion, knocking in 66 with 20 bombs after a year of 38 home runs and 116 RBI’s at the Double-A level. Hoskins and Joseph both can only play first base, both are young and controllable, and have similar skill sets. If Klentak decides to move on from Joseph, it’s almost certain it’ll be Hoskins getting the call to take over first. I can’t see the Phillies moving on from Joseph this quick, unless the return is a guaranteed major leaguer and doesn’t make the Pence trade a wasted return.
With the deadline knocking on our doors, it’ll be an interesting few weeks until rosters are set for the rest of the season. Neshek is all but gone due to his all star year out of the bullpen, but the other moves- if any- are yet to be seen. We may soon see Hoskins in the majors, or he may be blocked by Joseph. Hellickson has had eyes on him since last season and with his comparative struggles, Klentak may have just had enough.
Photo by Ian D’Andrea via Flickr