It is Thursday, June 16 and the Phillies are getting a much needed day of rest before a crucial stretch of games against NL East opponents. It all begins tomorrow night as the Phillies make their first visit to Atlanta. The Braves are of course one of the hottest teams in the National League and just recently took first place. The series will begin with the Phillies a game out of first.
It’s been a relatively tough stretch for the Phillies recently, made even tougher given Atlanta’s surge. Injuries have mounted, especially to the back-end of the bullpen and Andrew McCutchen’s loss has been monumental. Between Cutch’s injury and Odubel on the restricted list, the Phillies lost two lead-off and center-field options at the same time. Cesar Hernandez – who was raking from the six spot – is now just 5 for his last 50 and has hardly been drawing any walks from the lead-off position.
Injury bug aside, the main issue with the Phillies is that their overall team numbers simply aren’t there. After a torrid start to the season, the club has faded both pitching and hitting wise. The club currently sits in the middle of the pack in most major stat categories including, ERA, batting average and overall offensive output. The rotation – which was a preseason concern – is incredibly shaky. Nola does not look like 2018 Nola, Pivetta has pitched well recently but had to be sent down, Arrieta pitches like a four and Eickhoff has become a batting practice machine. Eick has allowed so many home-runs in such a short stretch that the team recently announced that he will no longer be in the rotation.
As for Zach Eflin, the right-hander has arguably been the most reliable arm in the rotation. Though still inconsistent, Eflin has gone deep into multiple ball-games and currently has an ERA of 2.81. His FIP, however, is a much higher 4.11.
So without diving into every single detail, the bottom-line is that the Phillies have several holes. It initially seemed as though a rotation piece was all that would be needed but it turns out this team has more than one issue. Injuries have only made this situation worse.
As a result, the Phillies won’t be able to bolster their playoff chances with one player alone. This club could use a starter or two, a steady third baseman, another center-fielder or a late inning bullpen arm if Hunter and/or Robertson don’t contribute when healthy.
This means that Klentak and company could pursue multi-player trades as opposed to one big one. There are multiple likely selling teams with pieces that would go a long way for this Phillies squad. Think the Cliff Lee/Ben Francisco trade that was (theoretically) filling multiple holes.
Here are four multi-player trades that could juice the Phillies for a stretch run.
Trevor Bauer And Leonys Martin
While the Indians still could choose to buy at the deadline, they currently sit 10.5 games back in the AL Central. Minnesota has been clubbing the ball this season and seem to have a lock on things there for the time being. However, Cleveland sits just two games out of the second wild card spot. With over 40 days to go between now and the deadline, the Indians could find themselves in a radically different spot one way or the other.
Ultimately though, I do think that the Indians will end up selling. The wild card race is the usual jumbled mess where 5-6 teams are in the hunt while 2-3 have it on lock. The Indians are one of these bubble teams and quite frankly have one of the less talented rosters. The loss of Corey Kluber – who was struggling before he went down – is a huge blow and the Indians lack depth behind him.
Even if they do sell, there is no guarantee that Trevor Bauer will be made available. The 28 year-old Bauer was one of the AL’s best pitchers last season. With a year of control left, Cleveland may opt to hold onto Bauer. However, if they do drop off, trading Bauer now makes the most sense. The haul they get with a year of control remaining could be substantial and drastically alter their likely rebuild.
While Bauer hasn’t pitched as well in 2019, he still has his stretches of dominance and is a pitcher who I believe has yet to peak. Trevor Bauer would be expensive, but he would be an enormous upgrade to a Phillies team that lacks a true ace. If Nola can return to #2 form, a 1-2 punch of Bauer and Nola in the playoffs would be dangerous.
Of course this hypothetical move would really be made for Bauer, but Leonys Martin could serve as a nice throw in. Martin has been brutal at the plate this season but could provide depth at center-field and serve as a nice bench piece. Now 31, Martin enjoyed a nice bounce-back 2018 before missing the rest of the season due to a nasty infection.
If this move were to happen, it would be almost identical to the Lee/Francisco deal (though Lee was better than Bauer).
Felipe Vazquez And Jordan Lyles
The Pirates once again find themselves as a bubble team and fading fast. After stellar pitching held them up early in the season, Pittsburgh has since collapsed and appear to be in free fall. It isn’t too late to turn it around but personally, I think the Pirates would be wise to sell. A bit more re-tooling (maybe a re-do of that awful Archer trade) could make Pittsburgh a legitimate NL Central contender rather quickly.
If they do decide to sell, the most prized piece the Phillies could go after would be closer Felipe Vazquez. Vazquez could certainly be classified as a “front-line” closer but isn’t a household name due to lack of opportunities. He would certainly get more of those on the Phillies. Vazquez would significantly bolster a Phillies bullpen that has lacked a front-line arm all year.
The sticking point with Vazquez is the contract extension he signed pre-season. The Pirates have him under control for a number of years and while rebuilding teams don’t need closers, the Pirates don’t see themselves in a rebuilding situation.
If Vasquez is made available and the Phillies bite, they could also look to acquire a starter. Jordan Lyles has been enjoying a resurgent campaign and is only on a one year deal. He has built on a decent 2018 and appears to be yet another Pirates reclamation project. Lyles currently holds an ERA of 3.64 with an identical FIP and currently sits on the IL. He will return soon, however.
If the Pirates continue to fade, expect these two names to be talked about in trade discussions. Vazquez is more of a long-shot than Lyles, who will almost certainly be moved. It’s a long shot that this gets done, but it’s a multi-player trade possibility nonetheless.
Madison Bumgarner, Kevin Pillar and/or Tony Watson
Bumgarner is a name long linked to the Phillies and his reputation speaks for itself. Though not as stellar this season and past his peak, I think it’s safe to say that Phillies fans would rather have him on the bump in October than Jerad Eickhoff. Bumgarner is one of the most likely names to be moved this deadline and the Phillies have long been rumored to be in the mix.
If Klentak did make a move, the last place Giants have a couple more intriguing pieces besides Bumgarner. Tony Watson is enjoying a solid campaign and could bolster a bullpen that could use another lefty (barring a productive Tommy Hunter). Kevin Pillar could also be an option in center-field.
Nick Castellanos And Shane Greene
Both Castellanos and Greene have one more year of control in addition to the remainder of this season. That said, they find themselves on a Detroit team that is going nowhere and will certainly be sellers.
The added year of control would make this deal expensive, but it would greatly bolster the Phillies for not just the rest of this season, but next year. If put at third, Castellanos would be an enormous offensive upgrade over Maikel Franco, who has been horrific following a great start. As for Greene, he would provide stability at the back end of the bullpen and is a reliable closer. Greene currently has 20 saves on the year and would be getting even more opportunities in Philly.
This deal would require some paying up, but again, the added year of control is an enormous factor. While starting pitching is the ultimate need in my opinion, Klentak could opt to go this route.