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Raising Questions

What’s the market for a Tommy Joseph trade?

There’s no doubt Matt Klentak will have some decisions to make come the trade deadline, especially if the Phillies continue to struggle. Some will be easy. If Jeremy Hellickson rebounds and Pat Neshek continues to be a reliable guy out of the bullpen, Klentak can easily send them on their way.

Others will be a bit tougher. The longer the Phillies continue to struggle, the more pressure Klentak is under to turn the page over to the players in Lehigh Valley.

One of them is first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who is dominating the International League with a line of .307/.401/.619 and 14 home runs and 48 RBI in 59 games. Meanwhile, Tommy Joseph has been one of the lone bright spots for the Phillies over the last five weeks. After a forgetful April, Joseph hit .300/.373/.600 with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in May. Since his debut, he’s averaging around 30 homers and 75 RBI over a 162-game season.

So, what’s Klentak to do?

If there are takers, he needs to try and get whatever he can for Joseph. Sure, Hoskins has yet to play an inning in the big leagues and is still an unknown quantity, but the Phillies badly need fresh blood and they will be remiss if they let the 24-year-old sit in triple-A all season if he continues to rake. Even if Hoskins stays in Lehigh Valley this season, he’s the first baseman of the future. Hanging onto Joseph just for him to lose the job next spring would be foolish.

It’s not going to easy, though.

First basemen aren’t the highest in demand, as you don’t have to be the most athletic person to play the position, so the market really isn’t there for a slightly above-average Joseph.

However, Joseph could be just the right answer for a team in contention that needs another piece or two to get them over the hump. Joseph makes under $600,000 and is under team control until 2023. Not to mention he isn’t arbitration eligible until 2020. Even a team with little wiggle room could afford to take a chance on him.

So, who are those teams?

Potential suitors

The likely candidate is certainly an American League team since the designated hitter allows more flexibility. If the Los Angeles Angels are still in reach of the wild card and Mike Trout is only out the planned six to eight weeks, they would certainly benefit from adding Joseph. Albert Pujols and his insane contract is slated as the DH and the team seems to be plugging misfits in at first. C.J. Cron was sent back to triple-A a few weeks ago only to be recalled over the weekend after Jefry Marte hit just .175. Their offseason addition in Luis Valbuena is hitting below the Mendoza Line at .163. The Angels farm system is depleted so the return would be marginal at best, but it’s worth exploring.

Another possibility is the Cleveland Indians. They’re currently neck-and-neck with Minnesota for first place in the AL Central and could use a boost at first base. Also, Joseph could be more than a late-season fill-in as Carlos Santana is hitting just .224/.322/.399 and is in the last year of his contract. Likewise, if the Twins are still close to the Indians by the deadline, they could also be a match for Klentak, mainly because Joe Mauer has just one year left on what seems like his never-ending contract.

The options are few and there won’t be a huge return, but Klentak should start working the phones. The Phillies certainly won’t be buyers and there aren’t many options to sell. If a player isn’t in the long-term plans for the team, he should be on the block.

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