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July 21, 2019

MLB trade rumors: Will Zach Eflin injury concern change Phillies' approach at deadline?

The Phillies pitching staff already needs help, but an injury to Eflin could spell real trouble.

On Sunday, the Phillies will debut one of their recent acquisitions as Drew Smyly takes the hill in Pittsburgh for the series finale against the Pirates. In addition to signing Smyly as a free agent after the 30-year-old lefty opted out of his deal with the Brewers, the Phillies also traded for reliever Mike Morin from the Twins.

But if the Phillies, who currently sit a half game out of the second National League wild card spot and 7.5 games behind the Braves in the NL East, want to make a run at the postseason, they'll need to add a bit more than that — especially if there's anything to the latest injury news involving Zach Eflin.

Eflin, who was the Phillies best pitcher in the early part of the season, has struggled of late, posting a 9.00 ERA over his last five starts, including Saturday's loss to the Pirates. Following that loss, Eflin admitted that he hasn't quite been feeling himself lately. According to Eflin, he's been feeling "heavy." 

“There’s really no explanation for it,” Eflin told reporters, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “You know sometimes you feel like you hit a brick wall, sometimes you wake up, you don’t feel great. Right now it’s one of those things where I’m kind of searching for what’s best for me, what’s going to work for me. It’s nothing that prevents me from throwing a baseball or anything, it’s just making adjustments to my routine or the way I prep, but in no way, shape or form does it affect me throwing the baseball.”

Even though Eflin says the heavy feeling hasn't been impacting the way he throws, there's also evidence (his slumping ERA) that there may be more going on. But is it enough to possibly send yet another Phillies pitcher to the injured list?

According to Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia, it just might be. And given the already fragile state of the Phillies pitching staff, this sounds like its could be a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency sort of situation. 

“It could be a number of things,” Kapler said. “It could be mechanics, sometimes. It could be some fatigue, sometimes. But that’s something I want to dig into with Zach and our training staff and give him the best chance to have success by having that conversation.”

It would not be surprising if that conversation included discussing the possibility of going on the injured list. Something seems to be going on with Eflin and you have to wonder if it would be wise, from a team in a playoff race to a personal-health standpoint, to send him back to the mound for his next turn.  []

That's not great news for a pitching staff that is already a patchwork mess, with Jake Arrieta pitching through bone spurs, Vince Velasquez struggling and Smyly just making his Phillies debut on Sunday. Could this latest health concern cause the Phillies to be even more aggressive at the upcoming MLB trade deadline? 

The Phillies have already been rumored to be looking at several starting pitchers, including Mike Minor, Matthew Boyd, Madison Bumgarner, Zack Greinke, and Marcus Stroman — and perhaps Eflin's health concerns cause Matt Klentak and Andy MacPhail to go out and make sure they get a starter to reinforce the rotation in case there's something more serious going on with his right arm. 

Either way, it's looking more and more like the Phillies might not be done. Follow along for all the latest trade news and rumors as we get closer to the July 31 trade deadline in today's live tracker.

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