The 2018 season has been an oddity for the Philadelphia Phillies:
A winning record, no less than 7 heartbreak losses, emerging young stars, a struggling bullpen, injuries galore, a young team starting to contend.
The obvious course of action would be for the team to seek improvements at or before the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline. Front office personnel have been doing just that since late May with different reports coming out connection of the Phillies to different teams. Will they go all in after perennial all-star Manny Machado? Is the veteran presence of future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre what they seek (Insert Rocky joke here)? That is all remain to be seen.
But another possibility is lurking. What about trading away players?
Adding by subtracting, If you will.
Two main factors could support this method.
San Diego has interest in Franco
Back on June 23rd, Ken Rosenthal reported that the San Diego Padres were interested in acquiring Phillies current 3rd baseman Maikel Franco.
Rosenthal noted that the Phillies would have to acquire another shortstop or 3rd baseman in order for this to happen with JP Crawford on the DL with a broken hand which will leave him out of commision for 4-6 weeks.
An Adrian Beltre or Manny Machado would make this trade possible.
Franco lit the Phillies on fire as a 22 year old rookie back in 2015, slashing .280/.343/.407. Since then, Franco has dropped off a bit. Between 2016 and 2017, hitting .242/.294/.418. but with that 49 home runs.
He has seen a slight improvement this year, hitting .256/.300/.434. This could explain why the Padres has interest in the 25 year old. It seems that Carlos Santana has been a positive influence for the young Franco. While still grounding out to 3rd a lot of the time, when Franco’s going good you can see the difference.
I can recall one specific instance of this. In early May during the Giants series, I fortunately found myself in the Phillies press box. Maikel Franco opposed Giants pitcher Chris Stratton. He took a fastball for a strike to go 0-1. On the 2nd pitch, Franco layed off an 83 mph slider that was just off the plate that he would usually pound to the 3rd baseman for a weak out. That patience paid off as he drove a fastball 435 feet into the night.
The Padres could be looking to trade a couple of their relievers including all-star Brad Hand, Craig Stammen, Kirby Yates, and Matt Strahm. Of that list, Brad Hand has the highest ERA with a 2.82. Yates has the lowest with a 0.84 ERA in 32 IP. The Phillies could possibly have to throw in a lower tiep prospect to get the deal they want.
On to the second factor.
The Phillies have a glut of starting pitching
It may not feel like it, but the Phillies have had a sturdy rotation for the entire season with small hiccups here and there. Aaron Nola has established himself as one of the best starters in the National League. He has routinely been listed in the top 4 of Cy Young candidates by national baseball writers. He is currently 9-2 with a 2.58 ERA and a 1.016 WHIP.
Philadelphia’s biggest offseason acquisition, Jake Arrieta, is 5-5 with a 3.42 ERA with a 1.228 WHIP. He has struggled in his last 4 starts, posting a 6.97 with opposing playings slugging .494 in that time.
Zach Eflin has been solid especially since he started to use his changup more frequently. In his first two seasons in 2016 and 2017, he posted a 5.54 and a 6.16 ERA respectfully. This season he’s gone 5-2 with a 3.44 ERA.
Nick Pivetta has also improved greatly this year, lowering his ERA nearly 2 full runs going from 6.02 to 4.06.
And then there’s Vinny Velo.
Vince Velasquez is 5-8 with a 4.69 ERA, which is similar to his career. The difference is that he is posting the best WHIP of his career with a 1.274 and he’s on pace for over 200 strike outs.
Adding to the logjam, Jerad Eickhoff is about a month away from coming back from injury. In part of 2015 and 2016, Eickhoff was one of Philly’s most reliable starters, posting a 3.87 ERA for his career. He dragged through a 4.71 ERA in 2017, leading to his eventual DL stint.
You thought that was crowded? Well let me tell you about the 2 young arms tearing up AAA Lehigh Valley.
The first was acquired for Freddy Galvis this offseason. Enyel De Los Santos has gone 7-3 with a 1.73 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. He has 85 K’s in 83.1 IP. His fastball sits at 94-95 and can top out at 97-98. De Los Santos also features a better that average changeup.
Right behind him is homegrown prospect Cole Irvin. He’s gone 8-3 with a 2.61 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. His repertoire features 4 offerings all of which he controls well.
That’s a total of 8 starters for 5 rotation spots. This doesn’t even figure in the around of starting pitching talent at other levels (a la Sixto Sanchez). The Phillies could use this to fill their current holes on the major league roster or even bring in new prospects to help fill the depleted farm in terms of position players, specifically infielders.
Another option that hasn’t been discussed much is a possible 3 team trade. A third team could help facilitate a trade with the Orioles for Machado or with the Rangers for a combination between Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, or Keone Kela. Rumors have been limited so far. By the time July is into swing, there’ll be a better idea of what the Phillies are trying to do.
Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports