More Sports:

May 28, 2021

Kevin Cooney: Gauging the market as trade season nears for Phillies

Phillies MLB
Phillies-Cardinals-Rhys-Hoskins-Kate-Frese_041721-10.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins.

Any baseball season that arrives at Memorial Day means two things: the heat of summer is coming and the time to re-evaluate your roster has arrived.

The good news for the Phillies is that they began the weekend in second place with a record just one game below .500. The bad news is the amount of holes that are up and down the roster have been exposed. And with injuries piling up, the idea that the core of this unit may need a shakeup is becoming more and more obvious.

Dave Dombrowski is not particularly married to any of these guys at this point. That’s what could make this trade deadline very interesting because if the Phillies are still floundering, he could decide to retool on the fly. And with a minor league system that’s weak and a big club needing to get an overhaul, slotting where player fits overall is so critical.

So how would that slotting go? Well, this is the way that this reporter would go about it if the team falls out of the race. Again, you may say this is very premature and it very well could be. But one thing that should be obvious is that you have to prepare for that potential possibility.

We’re not going to slot everyone for space and brevity reasons. (If you have to ask about where Matt Moore or Chase Anderson fit, we can’t help you.) But these are the main guys we would find interesting.

Tier I: Not even a discussion guys

Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Zack Wheeler, Zach Eflin

The first two names on the list are the main reasons the Phillies will have anyone in the ballpark this summer and potentially next. They are franchise cornerstones. They also have long-term contracts that would be too expensive for just about any team in the sport – and yes, that includes the Yankees and Dodgers. You can ring your hands about injuries – it doesn’t matter. They aren’t going anywhere.

Wheeler and Eflin are here for different reasons. Wheeler has established himself as the ace of the Phillies staff and you have him until 2024 – a timeframe that could allow for him to be the Game 1 starter when the Phillies are possibly able to make the playoffs again. Eflin has his final arbitration year coming up and he’s relatively cheap at $4.4 million. He’s also shown a lot of promise and could easily be a No. 3 on a playoff rotation. Unless there’s a mindblowing trade, there’s no way Eflin gets moved.

Tier II: You should be open minded, but only for the right price

Alec Bohm, Aaron Nola

The thing with Bohm is simple: he is their best young hitter and he’s only in his second year, which means no arbitration and plenty of years of club control. Yes, defensively, he’s not a third baseman and the woes he has in the field have carried over to the plate this year. (There’s been some hard luck with BABIP as well.) But his upside is still ridiculously strong. And these are the guys teams want to have on the roster- controllable and everyday talent.

That feeling has to apply to Nola as well. He has incredible upside and he’s a product of the farm system — arguably the best guy they’ve produced in a decade. His flaws are there, but he is still solid for the most part. Nola is signed through 2023 at a relatively affordable rate of $15.5 over the next two years. (The contract in 2023 is a club option.)

So why be open minded? Because both of their contract situations plus their potential could allow for maximum return in a trade. To maximize the core above, the Phillies have to fill multiple holes in different levels and don’t have the necessary resources at the minor leagues. Both Bohm and Nola could help do that – in fact, they may be the most realistic pathway to achieve that goal.

When you are in the Phillies spot, you better get creative. Moving Bohm and Nola could absolutely backfire. But it also could bring back the biggest return to change the face of the franchise.

Tier III: Not sure what you would get guys

Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura, Spencer Howard, Didi Gregorius

Let’s start with Segura, whose on-field tools should be sought after and who has controllable years on his contract that starts in 2023. But the idea that he has bounced around from team to team without a single playoff appearance and who frustrates people throughout the game certainly could make him a tough move.

Hoskins is weird because he’s got another year before free agency and can still produce some really effective numbers in the right situation. But the lack of a defensive position for him is an absolute killer. And even with the designated hitter seemingly coming to the National League in 2022 after the collective bargaining agreement, teams are not exactly in the mode of making one guy a steady DH anymore, preferring to use those swings for guys as potential ways to get players off their feet for the most part while keeping them in the lineup.

In theory, Howard should be in Tier I or II. But his injury history likely will drive down any potential return in a trade. And the fact that his role is so undefined at this point could cause a lot of uncertainty. The Phillies wouldn’t trade him at this point. Part of it could be the return is so murky that it wouldn’t make much sense to even think about it.

Gregorius’ contract and his elbow injury makes you think that he couldn’t draw much even if you could trade him.

Tier IV: Rental Guys

There’s a number of free agents on this roster who would fit here and likely not bring a ton of return back. Some of those names include Andrew McCutchen, Vince Velasquez, Archie Bradley, Odubel Herrera and Hector Neris. Of those names, Neris is the most interesting because he could fit into a lot of different roles and his salary makes him affordable for a contender seeking a last piece. (Velasquez has also improved his value of late.) Herrera’s situation is obviously more complicated because of the domestic violence situation that had him out for almost two full years. (There’s a buyout at the end of the year in Herrera’s contract.) But there could be a team looking for a bench bat who could be interested. 

Tier V: Reclamation Projects

You know what’s sad? Two former Top 10 draft picks (Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley) and the one-time organization’s best position player prospect (Scott Kingery) would fit under this umbrella. An organization may take a flier on any of them with the hope of finding some value. But you won’t get anything  significant.

Kevin hosts the “Working The Beat” podcast with Mike Kern, available on iTunes, Google Play and everywhere podcasts are heard. A regular on WIP, Kevin loves to interact with readers on Twitter. Follow him there at @KevinCooney.

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports