July 18, 2016
For the fifth straight summer, the Phillies will be sellers and not buyers with the arrival of the non-waiver trade deadline in two weeks.
But they could still be adding an interesting piece to their regular lineup at some point in the next few weeks. Aaron Altherr had his minor league rehab assignment transferred from the Gulf Coast League to Class A Clearwater on Monday.
Altherr, who had left wrist surgery in early March, should see regular time patrolling the Phillies outfield in the final two months of the season. He entered spring training as a favorite, along with Odubel Herrera and Peter Bourjos, to start regularly in a defensively strong outfield for the 2016 season.
Altherr began his rehab assignment 10 days ago. He hit .375 with a double and a home run in six games with the GCL Phillies.
“I’m anxious to see where he’s at in another week or two,” manager Pete Mackanin said before the Phillies game against the Miami Marlins on Monday.
It’s likely that Altherr will still need another two weeks of games since his wrist injury cost him the entirety of spring training, and thus, the ability to get in a bunch of regular at-bats before the start of the 2016 season like any other player, regardless of rehab assignments.
When Altherr does return, it shouldn’t be difficult for Mackanin to get the toolsy, right-handed hitter in his lineup regularly. After an impressive six-week run, Bourjos and fellow corner outfielder Cody Asche entered Monday hitting a combined .160 in the Phillies last seven games.
Bourjos, who can become a free agent after the season, could be a candidate to be moved prior to the August 1 trade deadline as a strong defensive outfielder with speed that could at worst bolster a contending team’s bench. Either Bourjos or Asche could also be in line to lose playing time whenever the Phillies deem outfield prospect Nick Williams (.311/.341/.487 in his last 28 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley) ready for a major league promotion.
But it would appear that Altherr’s return will precede Williams’ arrival. Altherr, 25, hit .241 with an .827 OPS, and 20 extra-base hits (five home runs) in 39 games after joining the Phillies in mid-August last season.
“He kind of held his own for the most part and this was an important year to see how good he could be,” Mackanin said of Altherr’s lost year of big league development. “Let’s see how he finishes the last two months of the season, that could give us a better indication. But it’s a shame we couldn’t find out watching him play the whole year.”
Last season, the Phillies basically had a mass exodus shortly after the All-Star break, with Cole Hamels (Texas Rangers), Jonathan Papelbon (Washington Nationals), Ben Revere (Toronto Blue Jays), and Chase Utley (Los Angeles Dodgers) all finding new homes via trade.
The Phillies obviously do not have the same kind of star power player to move. But they have more than a couple intriguing pieces, led by Jeremy Hellickson (which should bode well for the front office in a seller’s market for pitching) and reliever Jeanmar Gomez. Right-hander David Hernandez, utility man Andres Blanco, Bourjos, and one of the team’s two catchers, Cameron Rupp and Carlos Ruiz, are others that could be shopped.
“I don’t know what to expected because like I said I don’t have a constant dialogue with the front office about that type of thing and I really don’t care right now,” Mackanin said of his deadline expectations. “I’ve read where there’s interest in Hellickson and there might be interest in some other players but it’s so much out of my hands that I don’t even worry about it. We’ll make adjustments when we have to and I’m sure depending on if, and when, they make moves then immediately we’ll discuss who takes their place and it’ll happen overnight whether it’s a call-up or whatever, or part of a trade.”
Ichiro Suzuki arrived at Citizens Bank Park with 2,994 major league hits (and 4,272 professional hits overall if you include nine seasons in Japan).
Ichiro, who turns 43 in October, has a decent chance at becoming baseball’s 30th member of the 3,000-hit club against the Phillies. The Marlins play four games in South Philly this week and then host the Phillies for three games at the beginning of next week (following a home weekend series against the Mets).
“He’s a special guy,” Mackanin said of the former MVP and 10-time All-Star. “I think it’s cool that he’s going to get 3,000 hits. He’s just a fun player to watch. But I hope I don’t have to watch him while he’s here.”
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