Baseball

Phillies Mailbag Monday: Edition 1

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The baseball season is officially in full swing. As we approach the dog days of summer the Phillies currently hold a one game advantage over the Braves for first place in the NL East. Despite their current placement in the standings, the Phillies have had their ups and downs this season. They’ve seen some strong first impressions from guys like JD Hammer and Jay Bruce. The team has also had to face their (un)fair share of injuries, most notably losing Andrew McCutchen to an ACL tear. With more than a third of the season in the books, let’s take a look at some of the burning questions on the minds of Phillies fans.

How do you think the injury to Andrew McCutchen will affect the overall performance of the team? – Luke A.

The Phillies will definitely feel the impact of not having McCutchen for the rest of this season. McCutchen’s impact existed both on and off the field. On the field McCutchen was just starting to get hot and was continually finding ways to get on base in the leadoff spot. Off the field McCutchen was just as valuable as he served as a leader and mentor for the team.

Despite the major impact McCutchen has had early on with this team, I don’t think the loss will affect the team’s overall performance as much as it may initially seem. Although McCutchen had been playing significantly better recently, according to Fangraphs, he only had a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.7. While his 1.7 WAR was not awful, it is definitely replaceable. The Phillies will look to their newly acquired outfielder, Jay Bruce, to fill much of this role. At this point in the season, Bruce has a WAR of 1.2.  In addition to Bruce, expect players such as Adam Haseley to help fill the remaining void left by McCutchen. All in all, while the loss of McCutchen is devastating, it shouldn’t affect the overall performance of the team very much.

With so many teams in the National League still in contention, would it be worth it for the Phillies to strike early on the trade front? Should they go get a premium guy now rather than wait until the trade deadline? – John B.

The Phillies would love to get a head start on improving their team. One of the issues seems to be that not many teams seem willing to sell at this point in the season. According to FiveThirtyEight, only 9 teams currently have less than a 5% chance at making the playoffs this season: Orioles, Marlins, Giants, Royals, Tigers, Blue Jays, Mariners, White Sox, and Angels. These 9 teams would be the only true sellers to this point as it seems extremely unlikely that they would be able to make the postseason this year.

Although many of these 9 teams lack premium talent, such as the Marlins and Orioles, a few of them do have some prominent players that could interest the Phillies. Among these players are names such as Madison Bumgarner of the Giants, Whit Merrifield and Alex Gordon of the Royals, and Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays. These premium players are all guys that would be worth going after right now. However, these teams aren’t going to want to get rid of these assets so soon. Let’s think of things in an everyday scenario. Let’s say you have something of value that you’re looking to sell. If there are several other people that are interested in what you are selling, wouldn’t you hold on to that item as long as you could in order to get the most value in return? This is the exact situation these teams currently find themselves in. They have premium players that they know potential playoff teams would be interested in. As a result, they will wait until the last possible moment, the trade deadline, to get rid of these players in order to get the most in return. If the Phillies want to make some moves now, they would be better off focusing on under the radar players, much like Jay Bruce was prior to joining the team.

As the trade deadline approaches, who are some players that could be in a Phillies uniform in the second half of the season? – Russ H.

For the first time in a while it seems as though the Phillies will indeed be all in at the trade deadline. The 3 major areas the team will look to improve at is their bullpen, their rotation, and their bench.

In terms of the bullpen, there should be plenty of names for the Phillies to choose from. Many of the likely sellers have quality relief pitchers. Many of these relief pitchers are also considered rentals as they will be free agents this winter. A couple names to keep an eye on are Will Smith of the Giants, Shane Greene of the Tigers, and Greg Holland of the Diamondbacks. Although the thought of Will Smith coming in to pitch with the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song playing in the background is just incredible, the best option for the Phillies seems to be Greg Holland. Holland has had a solid season this year with an ERA of 1.31 along with 9 saves. Holland would be able to be a quality closer or setup man for the Phils, something they have seemed to lack in recent memory. He also would provide some much needed playoff experience for the bullpen. Holland has previously pitched in the postseason with the Rockies and Royals and has had quality numbers in those outings. Greg Holland would be a rental for the Phillies meaning he would most likely cost them less to acquire, allowing them to save their better prospects for other trades.

The Phillies will also most likely look to add a starter to their rotation, which has had its ups and downs to this point. Madison Bumgarner’s name has been thrown out constantly. However, I don’t believe the Phillies will end up pulling the trigger on a deal for him. If the Phillies choose to add to their rotation expect to hear names such as Mike Minor of the Rangers, Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays, and Robbie Ray of the Diamondbacks. Minor and Ray seem like the more likely targets here as they are both left-handed pitchers, something the Phillies have lacked in their starting rotation in recent years. Unlike the relievers mentioned above, it would most likely cost the Phils a little more to acquire these guys since they are under contract passed this season. However, they both would definitely be beneficial additions to this ball club.

The Phillies could look to improve their bench in several different ways. They could choose to go out and acquire guys that would be strictly bench players, or they may choose to go out and land a guy to place in their lineup on an everyday basis, making one of the current starters a key bench player. Some potential targets the Phillies may choose to go after include Alex Gordon of the Royals, Nicholas Castellanos of the Tigers, and Matt Adams of the Nationals. Due to Gordon’s no-trade clause, the most intriguing option here is Castellanos. Castellanos has proven to be a capable hitter in the past, with over 20 home runs in the previous two seasons. Castellanos is currently an outfielder for the Tigers. However, his defensive numbers have been atrocious, worse than Rhys Hoskins was last season in left field. These poor numbers are attributed to the fact that Castellanos is a natural third baseman. The Phillies could ultimately strengthen their lineup by placing Castellanos at third base full time, moving Scott Kingery to center field, and putting a dangerous Maikel Franco on the bench as a primary pinch hitter.

Overall, there’s a ton of options for the Phillies at the trade deadline. I’m sure they’ll make a few splashes to help push this team to the postseason this year!

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