Sunday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies completed a trade for outfielder Jay Bruce, who is expected to, at the very least, give them an upgrade in terms of left-handed power coming off of their bench. It’s likely just the start of what’s going to be a busy summer for general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies, who enter Sunday in first place in the National League East.
The most glaring need for the Phillies appears to be a legitimate No. 2 starter behind Aaron Nola, who went 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA in six starts in May after a disastrous month of April.
Four-time All-Star Madison Bumgarner has consistently been connected to the Phillies, and in theory, he’s an excellent fit. The San Francisco Giants ace would give the Phillies the first legitimate left-handed starter they’ve employed since trading Cole Hamels in July of 2015. He also has extended postseason experience on a Phillies team that has stars such as Nola, J.T. Realmuto and Rhys Hoskins that have never played in the postseason. At the same time, Bumgarner has a 4.01 ERA and 3.58 FIP in 2019, which comes after two seasons where injuries limited him. Given that he can become a free-agent after the end of the 2019 season, Bumgarner wouldn’t be a bad addition, but he may not be as perfect of a fit as perceived by some.
In addition to Bumgarner, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Phillies did have a scout at Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Zack Greinke’s start at San Diego on May 21. Greinke, now 35, continues to build on what’s going to be an interesting Hall of Fame case, as he’s 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA, 3.50 FIP and 1.7 fWAR in 2019. The problem in Greinke’s case is that he’s owed $32 million in each of the next two seasons and there’s $62.5 million deferred in his deal between the 2022 and 2026 seasons. That would be a tough pill to swallow for Greinke – without even mentioning player compensation – given that he’ll turn 36 before the World Series is played.
The Phillies have been known to be keen on Greinke’s teammate Robbie Ray – who is left-handed – so perhaps he will turn into their most realistic target this summer. They’ve also been connected to Texas Rangers LHP Mike Minor, who has a 2.74 ERA in 12 starts in 2019. But despite not fitting the bill of being left-handed, Toronto Blue Jays RHP Marcus Stroman has been connected to the Phillies in the past, and apparently could be had this summer.
According to Jayson Stark of The Athletic, “the Blue Jays have signaled they could be aggressive in trying to trade Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez.” Sanchez, 26, will enter Sunday’s start against the Colorado Rockies with a 3.75 ERA. He could be a good fallback option for the Phillies, but probably wouldn’t be in the first tier of their trade targets. Stroman, on the other hand, has rebounded from a disappointing 2018 season, making him an interesting potential arm to pair with Nola at the top of the Phillies rotation.
While Stroman has just a 3-7 record in 2019, the 28-year-old has a 2.84 ERA, 3.48 FIP and 1.7 fWAR in 13 starts in 2019. This comes after he he posted a fWAR north of three and topped the 200 innings mark in both 2016 and 2017. Stroman is nearly two years from his 30th birthday, so we may not have seen the best of him yet. He also can’t become a free-agent until after the 2020 season, so trading for him would give the Phillies a year and a half of control over Stroman, just as they got when trading for Roy Oswalt in July of 2010.
From here, it actually may not be in the Blue Jays best interests to trade Stroman. While legitimate concerns could be had about how a pitcher with Stroman’s build – 5’8, 180 pounds – will hold up as he gets into his 30s, that may be a risk worth taking. It’s often difficult to get comparable value for an accomplished starting pitcher, even one like Stroman that has been closer to very good than great in his career. And while a path to winning the American League East next season – and beyond, if they elected to extend Stroman – may not be clear right now, the Blue Jays organization is deep in young talent. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has six home runs at the major league level already, and shortstop Bo Bichette, currently at Triple-A, is considered a blue chip prospect as well. At least being competitive into the late months of the season probably isn’t that far off in Toronto.
But if the Blue Jays are indeed “aggressive” in courting offers for their star right-hander, it would behoove Klentak’s front-office to see if they could put together an offer that would pry Stroman from Toronto. Third baseman Alec Bohm – last year’s first-round pick – is almost certainly not going to be involved in any trades this summer. The guess here is that’s probably true for RHP Spencer Howard, who was a second-round pick in 2017 and is currently injured for Single-A Clearwater. Anyone else in the Phillies farm system – RHP Adonis Medina, outfielder Adam Haseley, shortstop Luis Garcia – would seemingly have to at least be in play. Assuming RHP Zach Eflin bounces back from what’s believed to be a minor back injury that currently has him on the 10-day injured list, he could become an interesting candidate in a non-rental trade, like J.A. Happ was in 2010.
The Phillies, as far back as December of 2017, were known to have inquired on Stroman. If they haven’t already, it seems reasonable to expect them to again in the coming weeks. If a trade could be facilitated, Stroman could be an impact addition to the starting rotation as the Phillies look to return to the postseason for the first time since 2011.
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