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Philadelphia baseball from the majors to the minors.

Still plenty of trade targets for Phillies to pursue

Manny Machado is coming to Philadelphia; as a visiting player with the Los Angeles Dodgers next week. The Phillies came up short in their pursuit of Machado who was shipped to L.A. for five prospects. But with plenty of time until the trade deadline, there are plenty of other targets that the Phillies could pursue as they push to not just make the playoffs but win the division and potentially advance through the playoffs.

Break out the bats…

The Phillies are 12th in the National League in hitting and 11th in runs scored. There’s no denying that they could use a nice, solid bat to plunk into their lineup. Short of an everyday player, they could put a big off-the-bench bat to use in key situations.

One spot the Phillies could look to is Toronto and infielder Yangervis Solarte. The 31-year old has the defensive versatility that the Phillies like – he can play all four infield positions – and he’s destined for a career-high in home runs, having hit 16 in 92 games and his career-high coming last season when he hit 18 home runs. His average (.241) and on-base percentage (.297) aren’t great though and he leads the American League in grounding into double-plays. Solarte is signed beyond this season at a reasonable $5.5-million for 2019 and $8-million for 2020.

Solarte has two teammates who might be of interest in the Phillies pursuit of bats. If Josh Donaldson could ever stay healthy he would be a prized possession. The former MVP still puts up big offensive numbers and even with all of his injuries, he’s still averaged a .282 average and 33 home runs over the past five seasons. Donaldson, 32, has played in just 36 games this season with a slash line of 5-16-.234/.333/.423 and is a free agent at the end of the season. He’s been playing primarily at third base but has some experience at first base and in a real emergency, could potentially cover a couple games at short.

For that bat to come off the bench, Toronto could offer Curtis Granderson. The 37-year old is in his 15th season in the majors with a line of 9-28-.233/.342/.426 with the Jays. He can play all three outfield positions and has pretty well accepted that he’s not a guy who is going to be in the lineup every day. A potential arrival of Granderson would allow the Phillies to send Aaron Altherr to Lehigh Valley where he could play every day and return in September as another option off the bench. Like Donaldson, Granderson is a free agent at the end of the season.

A guy who has been on the Phillies radar for some time is Royals infielder Whit Merrifield. Unlike most trade candidates, Merrifield is under team control for the foreseeable future; Merrifield doesn’t even reach arbitration until after next season. With that control comes a higher price tag that could require at least one top prospect and possibly two, to head to Kansas City in a trade.

One thing that Merrifield would bring is speed. He led the American League with 34 steals last season and has 17 this season. He can play first, second, third and all three spots in the outfield which gives the Phillies that defensive flexibility that they love. He would be ideal if he was able to play shortstop, one position that the Phillies have seen struggles from. With the Phillies, he would probably share time at third with Maikel Franco and spend some time spelling outfielders who need a day off. Merrifield is batting 5-30-.307/.378/.434 in 91 games with the Royals this season.

The Phillies have scouted Merrifield’s teammate Mike Moustakas, 29, but his numbers aren’t impressive enough to figure on him being a guy that would provide much of an upgrade over Franco at third base. The veteran is hitting 19-58-.249/.306/.466 in 91 games this season, compared to Franco’s 13-47-.269/.317/.459 in 85 games. Moustakas doesn’t bring any defensive flexibility with him considering that he’s made just four starts at a position other than third base in his major league career; all four of those games have been at first base and all four of them have been this season. Moustakas comes with a $15-million mutual option for next season that includes a $1-million buyout.

J.T. Realmuto
J.T. Realmuto walks to the dugout before a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 8, 2018. The Marlins won 10-2. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Infielder Eduardo Escobar, 29, is having a great season (14-57-.271/.327/.507) with Minnesota but could be one of those guys who puts up big numbers in his walk-season to impress potential suitors when he becomes a free agent at the end of the year. Escobar has matched his career-high in doubled (35) to lead the majors in that category. Coming into the season, Escobar averaged a line of 7-32-.253/.301/.397 with the White Sox and Twins, although it’s worth noting that he set his career-high in home runs (21) and RBI (73) just last season. Escobar has played primarily on the left side of the infield but has played 59 MLB games at second and 43 games in left field over the eight seasons that he’s played in the majors.

Longshot alert: J.T. Realmuto from the Marlins. Miami held most of their fire sale over the winter and they’re not really interested in further gutting of the team. With that said, if they were to be overwhelmed, you have to figure they would part with Realmuto – 12-45-.310/.365/.536 in 69 games – in the right deal. Both Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp have shown some signs of promise but neither has been overly impressive. What if the Phillies were to give Miami their choice of either catcher and combine that with a couple of quality prospects? Would the Marlins take the bait? (pun intended.) Realmuto, 27, is eligible for arbitration following the season and free agency following the 2020 season.

Break out the arms…

If you can’t beat them 9-7, beat them 3-1. The Phillies could also look to counter their offensive inconsistency with a beefed up pitching staff.

Former Phillies starter J.A. Happ is available from Toronto. Now 35, Happ is a free agent at the end of the season and could provide an upgrade over Nick Pivetta or possibly over Vince Velasquez. Either pitcher could then be moved to the bullpen or sent to Lehigh Valley for some more work. While he’s not the pitcher that he was a few seasons ago, Happ has made 19 starts this season with a 10-6 record and a 4.29 ERA. He’s struck out 10 batters per nine innings in 2018, while walking just 2.9 per nine. He’s got an impressive 1.193 WHIP and is coming off his first-ever All-Star bid.

Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels pitches during a game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on July 7, 2018. The Tigers defeated the Rangers 7-2. (Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

Another former Phillie is on the trade market as well; Cole Hamels. The left-hander is on a bad Texas team and the Rangers are trying to get all they can for him prior to him heading into free agency at the end of the year. Now 34, Hamels, like Happ, isn’t the pitcher that he used to be. Last year and this year, Hamels has gone 16-14 with a 4.27 ERA. Hamels had a career ERA of 3.31 coming into last season, meaning that he’s giving up a run more per nine innings than he did prior to 2017. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and a return to a city that he admits loving and would enjoy returning to might be the elixir to get him back a little nearer to the pitcher he used to be. It’s also likely that if the Phillies so choose, whether or not they trade for Hamels now, he would be interested in signing with the team as a free agent following the season.

The Phillies are known to have an interest in Tampa Bay’s Nathan Eovaldi. While Eovaldi (3-4, 4.59) has some upside the Phillies should really be following teammate Chris Archer. The Rays are open to dealing the 29-year old right-hander who has seen his ERA go up each of the past three seasons from 3.23 in 2015 to his current 4.29 mark. Archer lost a major league high 19 games in 2016 but he has also made a major league high 34 starts in both 2015 and 2017 and has 15 starts this season.

Here’s the thing about Archer; he admits that he is really wants to pitch on a winning team. Tampa won 90 games but missed the playoffs in Archer’s rookie season in 2012 and then lost in the AL Division Series the following season. Since then, they’ve had two 80-win seasons but have finished no higher than third in the division. Archer recently told the Tampa Bay Times, “I’m not saying I’m not happy, but I know that we are still transitioning.”

You have to believe that the 29-year old might be rejuvenated by the magical power of pitching on a contending team. Archer is due to make $7.5-million next season and has a club option ($9-million) for 2020 and a second club option ($11-million) for 2021.

R-E-L-I-E-F…

During their pursuit of Machado, the Phillies were asking about Zach Britton. The left-hander is turning the corner following an Achilles injury that led to surgery. His velocity has come back and he’s looking a little more like the pre-injury Britton. Upon returning from his rehab assignment, Britton posted a 6.23 ERA in nine relief appearances last month with Baltimore. This month, he’s got a 3.68 ERA and has locked down all three save opportunities that he’s been given. You have to figure that’s something that would intrigue the Phillies. The 30-year old is a free agent following the season.

Trading within the division is always difficult but not impossible. Jeurys Familia could potentially be had from the Mets. He’s another rental guy who is eligible for free agency following the season. He would bring with him a 2.88 ERA and has converted 17 of 21 save opportunities this season and has whiffed 9.5 batters per nine innings while walking just 3.1 per nine. The pro-rated price tag of $7.9-million goes away following the season with him impending free agency.

 

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