As we approach August 1, we will preview what each team is projected to do in advance of the non-waiver trade deadline. For a complete listing of our previews, click here.
Philadelphia Phillies: 41-47, 4th in the NL East
A few days ago, Phillies radio broadcaster Larry Andersen referred to the team starting to hit effectively as the Phillies “getting back to normal.” But after a startling first half in which they were as high as seven games over .500 and as low as ten games under, what exactly is normal for this Phillies team?
It’s that they’re bad. Or to put it more charitably, they’re not good yet. Those 22-15 darlings were a little excited out of the gate, but given their combination of recently transplanted developing youngsters, space-filling bench warmers, and Ryan Howard, they were due to come crashing back to earth. And they have; it is here on earth that they have gone 15-31 since.
Sooooo... what does a team relying on Peter Bourjos to make the offense work look for during a season in which they had no plans to contend? The answer, most likely, is nothing major. This is simply the game they’re playing right now; fill space, kill time, and always be developing. The future holds a core of Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, Aaron Nola (though he’s currently struggling), and Jerad Eickhoff, with names like Zach Eflin, Tommy Joseph, Jake Thompson, Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Aaron Altherr, and of course J.P. Crawford all possibly in the mix. They’ve brought in the youth. Now they’ve got to rack up the experience.
What moves have they made so far?
The Phillies are probably open to improvements just about anywhere, but aren’t being particularly dramatic in their attempts to improve immediately at this phase of their longer term plan. Their solution to a generally poor offensive showing was to acquire Jimmy Paredes, a player no one else was really after but as an IF/OF can technically be considered an answer to their depth issues. In his first 50 AB, Paredes has hit .240 with a .635 OPS, which is pretty much what you get when you acquire Jimmy Paredes.
They didn’t have to give up even a bad prospect to get Paredes from the Blue Jays; they just sent over some cash considerations. It was about as low-key a move as you can make.
Are they buyers or sellers?
The Phillies will not be buyers nor seller, existing solely in limbo as other teams scramble to put together ballclubs. They have a great farm system, but that’s because it was recently restocked with the prospects following the Cole Hamels and Ken Giles trades (along with, to a lesser extent, trades involving Jonathan Papelbon, Chase Utley, and Ben Revere). Now’s not really the time for adding mediocre role players with a couple months until free agency, either. And also, a big, oft-forgotten part of trades is that both teams need to have players the other would actually want.
So the Phillies, if they’re anything, are always on the look for new assets at reasonable costs, but will do so conservatively enough that they are not a part of the deadline’s sexier moves. In turn, the players whose roles in the future are ambiguous at best (Jeremy Hellickson, Cody Asche, Cameron Rupp, Peter Bourjos, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis) haven’t been performing noticeably well enough to be converted into further prospects. In his first trade deadline with the Phillies, GM Matt Klentak would have to have over-invested in the premature bursts of success the Phillies in their 2016 version have sparked or be way, way too aggressive for this point of he and president Andy MacPhail’s long term vision.
Who will they target, or who could they trade?
Let’s have The Good Phight rattle off the Phillies’ top assets.
There is no Hamels, Papelbon, Revere or Utley to sell at this year’s deadline. Instead, the top pieces are starter Jeremy Hellickson, utility infielders Andres Blanco and Freddy Galvis, outfielders Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche, and relief pitchers Jeanmar Gomez, David Hernandez, Andrew Bailey (if he comes off the DL soon enough) and potentially Hector Neris.
So whatever their plans are for July, they probably don’t involve too many ringing phones. Hellickson, whose job upon signing was pretty much to be a trade chip, can give you 5-7 quiet-ish innings, but is just as vulnerable to giving up four, five, six runs for a couple of starts in a row. Nothing he’s done hasn’t counterbalanced by the kind of pitching that makes him look nothing like the difference-makers teams are searching for this time of year.
Despite this, Hellickson is drawing interest from multiple clubs around the league, like the Red Sox and Royals. With the class of available starters so weak, he will likely be dealt for a couple of prospects.
For a while, most Phillies hurlers and hitters were not at the top of many lists. And... they still probably aren’t. But Neris, after some stunning early prowess, crashed through late May to mid-June, and has now allowed only one earned run in hist last 9.2 IP. Cody Asche and Peter Bourjos have also picked a great time to return from injury and being the worst hitter in the league, respectively.
Peter Bourjos on June 11: .192/.223/.278— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) June 29, 2016
Peter Bourjos right now: .263/.298/.394
Cody Asche has two two-out, run-scoring hits in this game. Up to .280/.330/.476. He is locked in.— Matt Gelb (@MattGelb) June 29, 2016
Someone like Andres Blanco pops up as well, as the career back-up has had a chance for greater exposure in the wake of injuries and loosely defined starting roles. His bat has come alive, he won’t stop hitting doubles, and he can play almost anywhere in the infield. He’s the kind of guy a contender could drop into the background and then watch him pop a series-clinching extra base hit in October. In fact, I can so easily see the Giants doing this it is making me visibly upset.
The overall theme of these possible trade targets is that they started hot, leveled out through some cringe-worthy early summer downfalls, and are now pitching/hitting closer to the middle, where they typically live. If that’s what a contending team is looking to add right now, hey; here’s where they’ll find it.
One of these guys gets dealt somewhere in a trade that barely gets a headline in the national media. Maybe you catch the news on the bottom line when Klentak sends Blanco or Asche to San Francisco or, what feels most likely, Hellickson to somewhere that likes to stay small with their investments, like Baltimore.