While the Philadelphia Phillies may need the next few weeks to decide just how serious of contenders they are, they’re currently 43-36, putting them very much in the National League East and National League Wild Card races. So Matt Klentak’s front-office appears to be operating as though the Phillies will be buying at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
Per Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News, the Phillies had a scout present during the Rangers series with the Minnesota Twins last weekend:
The Rangers, according to a major league source, are making Adrian Beltre available to contending teams interested in a third baseman. Also: The Rangers are making lefty Jake Diekman and closer Keone Kela available on the trade market, the source said.
Philadelphia, which is reportedly “interested,” in Beltre, had a scout in Minneapolis watching the Rangers the last two days. As the Rangers ran their win streak to seven with a 9-6 win Saturday, Beltre had three hits, including a home run, to push past 3,100 for his career.
Beltre, 39, is currently slashing .313/.376/.451 with four home runs and 26 RBIs for the lowly Rangers. The future Hall of Famer has been on the disabled list twice this season with a hamstring strain, but his 4.9 offensive WAR shows that he has remained productive offensively when he’s been on the field.
A byproduct of acquiring Beltre would be that the Phillies would then be free to trade Maikel Franco. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported last weekend that the San Diego Padres have interest in the 25-year-old third baseman. Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports reported Friday that the Phillies and Padres have had some trade discussions, presumably centered around the Padres excess of talented relief pitchers. Though Franco would be unlikely to be more than a throw-in if he was part of a trade for Brad Hand, he could help facilitate a trade for Craig Stammen or Kirby Yates.
While the Phillies may have had a scout watching the Rangers with Beltre in mind, there are other pieces on the Rangers that could potentially be of interest to the Phillies.
Keone Kela, the Rangers 25-year-old closer, could be an interesting fit. In 31 games, Kela has a 3.41 ERA, a 2.65 FIP and has converted on all 20 of his save opportunities. The pricetag on Kela would likely be pretty high – given that he’s 25 and can’t be a free-agent until after 2020 – but he would give the Phillies a relief option that’s had success both as a closer and a set-up man.
An option that Phillies fans would be familiar with is Jake Diekman. The 31-year-old lefty broke into the league with the Phillies in 2012 and pitched for the club until July of 2015, when he was sent to the Rangers as part of the Cole Hamels trade. After ulcerative colitis forced Diekman to have his colon removed, he pitched in just 11 games in 2017. In 2018, Diekman has a 3.86 ERA and 3.45 FIP in 34 games. Diekman can become a free-agent after the season.
Then, of course, there’s Hamels. The 2008 World Series MVP didn’t pitch while the Phillies scout was in Minnesota, but that doesn’t mean the Phillies don’t have any level of interest in the 34-year-old. Given how well Zach Eflin and Nick Pivetta (until recently) have pitched in 2018, it is fair to wonder if starting pitching is the biggest need for the Phillies. Teams should always pursue upgrades, but Hamels’ 5.22 FIP suggests that he’s been much worse in 2018 than his 3.61 ERA would lead you to think.