At this point two months ago, the Philadelphia Phillies sat with a 25-19 record, and there was talk of them being a legitimate threat for one of the National League Wild Card spots. My, how much can change in a couple of months. Fast forward two months, and the Phillies have significantly fallen off, going 19-33 in their last 52 games. They’ve fallen from 0.5 games back of the lead in the N.L. East, to exactly 13.5 games back. They also sit nine games back of the Miami Marlins for the final Wild Card spot.
The offense, to this point, has been putrid. For most of the season, they have ranked in the bottom three of runs scored per game. Currently, they have the second-worst offense in baseball, averaging 3.59 runs per game. Only the Atlanta Braves are worse, averaging 3.40 runs per game.To put the offensive struggles in perspective, back on May 22, the Phillies only had four batters that were hitting above .260, and one of them was a pitcher! Vincent Velasquez ranked second on the team in batting average, with a solid .263 average. Mind-blowing, isn’t it? At the time, Odubel Herrera was the only one to be hitting above .280.
Since then, Herrera has been joined by Cesar Hernandez, who leads the team with a .282 average, Peter Bourjos, who’s hitting a solid .265, and Cameron Rupp, who’s batting a cool .273. Unfortunately, Velasquez’s average dropped, as he saw more at-bats. He’s currently sporting an anemic .222 average.
Let’s switch our focus to pitching, the part of this team that has kept them afloat in the standings. Flashing back to May 22, the Phillies pitching staff owned the tenth-best team ERA in baseball at 3.75 As of July 22, that number has blown up to 4.29, giving them the 15th-best team ERA in baseball. The Phils have been the benefit of surprising pitching performances this season, namely from the aforementioned Velasquez, as well as offseason pickup Jeremy Hellickson. Velasquez leads all Phillies pitchers with an 8-2 record. He’s compiled a 3.15 ERA and 98 strikeouts over 85.2 innings pitched. Hellickson has been a pleasant surprise, going 7-7 on the year with a 3.84 ERA and 106 strikeouts in 119.2 innings pitched.
Jerad Eickhoff has also be a solid source of production, despite his 6-11 record. In 20 starts, Eickhoff has recorded 12 quality starts. He’s also compiled a 3.98 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 120 innings pitched. Perhaps their biggest surprise, though, has come from the bullpen. Closer Jeanmar Gomez burst on the scene out of nowhere, and currently sits tied for the sixth-most saves in baseball with 26.
Given the team’s current direction, it’s very difficult to see them moving Eickhoff, Velasquez, or Herrera. However, rumors have long linked teams to the likes of Hellickson and Gomez, in addition to veterans such as Bourjos, Freddy Galvis, and Carlos Ruiz. Even reliever David Hernandez has been said to be garnering interest from contending teams in need of bullpen help. It’s clear to see that the Phillies don’t have a lot of assets, and none of them are top of the line. However, they do have a handful of veterans that could add to contending teams, in some way. With that said, let’s take a look at what the team could get in return for these assets.
Jeremy Hellickson – Hellickson, 29, is arguably the team’s biggest trade chip — and has been for quite some time. The 2011 American League Rookie of the Year hit a rough patch after winning the award, recording an ERA above 4.00 in all but one season since 2012. The Phillies took a low-risk, high-reward flier on Hellickson in a trade this past winter, and it’s paid off nicely. Hellickson’s gone 7-7 in 20 starts this season. He’s the owner of a 3.84 ERA in 119.2 innings of work, and has a cool K:BB ratio of 106:27. Hellickson has been linked to a number of teams since late-May, but most recently he’s been linked to the Baltimore Orioles and the Miami Marlins, who Hellickson not-so-coincidentally tossed an eight-inning gem against this past Tuesday. Hellickson will add an experienced arm to the back-end of a contending rotation, and should be able to secure the Phillies a mid-level prospect in return.
Jeanmar Gomez – Gomez is a true wild-card entering the trade season. He’s burst on the season this year, to the tune of 26 saves and 2.76 ERA in 45.2 innings of work. With the reliever market so fluid, there’s no telling what can happen with him. He’s been linked to the San Francisco Giants, while the Chicago Cubs also come to mind when thinking of teams in need of bullpen help. In fact, the Cubs just moved prospect Dan Vogelbach to the Seattle Mariners yesterday for southpaw Mike Montgomery. If Montgomery can fetch a return of someone like Vogelbach, I’m hard-pressed to believe that the Phillies can’t acquire a prospect that could one day have an impact at the major league level.
David Hernandez – Hernandez falls in line with Gomez, as a wild-card. In a market so fluid, like the reliever market is, a player’s value can change at the snap of a finger. At the current moment, Hernandez should be able to bring in a return similar to that of Jonathan Papelbon — a low-end prospect with potential, that needs some work.
Peter Bourjos – The days of Bourjos being a starting outfielder are in the past, although he’d make for a good fourth outfielder. He’s got a decent bat, solid speed, and good defense. Bourjos doesn’t figure to net a major return, but he should bring back a decent prospect that could be a mainstay with Triple A-Lehigh Valley.
Freddy Galvis – Galvis is a difficult one to peg, as he’s been such a streaky hitter this year. He hit .233 in the month of April, but recorded a .267 average in May. June was his worst month by far, as he hit .178, but he’s currently hitting .262 in July. He’s not the type of hitter that will have a high average, but he does have some pop in his bat. This season, Freddy’s got nine homers and 37 RBIs, well on his way to career-highs in both categories. He strikes out at a much higher clip than he draws walks, but his solid defense could offset that in some way. Galvis is most likely suited for a utility-player type of role, and could fetch a return similar to the one Tampa Bay got for Sean Rodriguez back in 2014.
Carlos Ruiz – In the case of Carlos Ruiz, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some will view him as a 37-year-old catcher, that is upon the twilight of his career. Others will see the defensive stud, one-time All-Star, and the man who caught six no-hitters in his Phillies tenure. He would definitely add a boatload of veteran experience to any clubhouse, but his offense is a cause for concern. Ruiz has been known to hit when he needs to, but this year he’s hitting .248/.352/.352 with three home runs and 11 RBIs. Since hitting .325 in 2012, Ruiz has failed to reach the .270 mark in his last three seasons, and he’s on his way to making it a fourth-straight. If a team can stomach the lack of offense, Ruiz can certainly provide rock-solid defense behind the plate. Like Hernandez, the return for Ruiz would likely be a low-end prospect with potential.
General Manager Matt Klentak spoke with the media earlier this week, and stated that the club was “very open-minded to ways to improve our club.” The Allentown Morning Call quoted Klentak as saying,
“There’s been quite a lot of action on a number of players,” Klentak said. “…Some of them are one phone call and then there’s no follow-up. I take it as a very positive sign that other clubs have interest in a lot of our players. And it’s not just the pending free agents. This time of year there are plenty of teams fishing on our younger more controllable players, too — who I don’t have any great desire to trade.”
The first-year General Manager went on to add that the Phillies won’t feel pressured to make a deal, saying,
“Sometimes when you feel compelled to make a trade, that’s when you make a bad trade,” Klentak said. “We don’t feel the pressure to make one just to make one. But I will say that it helps when we have players in the minor leagues, or in Altherr’s case, coming off the DL, when you have players who are putting themselves in position to be able to contribute and potentially back-fill an opening, that gives me more confidence as I enter the trade market.”
Klentak also left open the possibility of eating money in a deal, if the right one presented itself. He said that they have the support of ownership to make the best possible deal for the franchise.
With only nine days until the August 1 non-waiver trade deadline, it’ll be interesting to see what the Phillies do. If I had to guess, I’d say that the Phillies make a move or two. If you were to ask me who goes, I wouldn’t even be able to give you a guess. For the first time in years though, they’re not compelled to make a move, making it all the more interesting of a situation to monitor in the coming days.