The 2019 Major League Baseball trade deadline is now less than two weeks away. As always, rumor and speculation are running rampant around the game, especially on social media.
Our Philadelphia Phillies are certainly not immune to any of this, and in fact are one of the most fascinating teams to watch as the July 31 deadline draws closer.
Will the Phillies be buyers, trying to push themselves back to the postseason for the first time in eight years? Will general manager Matt Klentak stand pat, either believing that no move will be enough, or just finding none palatable? Will he sell away players and punt the season?
Well, in looking out over the current baseball landscape and the team roster, there is a very real possibility that the Phillies could wind up as both buyers and sellers this time around.
Though owner John Middleton authorized the spending of a half-billion dollars in contracts to improve the everyday lineup, there was almost no attention paid to upgrading the pitching staff, especially the starting rotation. That is proving fatal flaw. There are also a few players who have been around over the last handful of losing campaigns who have nearly worn out their welcome among many fans.
One player who has been the subject of much social media speculation has been second baseman Cesar Hernandez. Now 29-years-old, the native of Venezuela has been the Phillies starter at the keystone position for much of the last five years. Those have been mostly long, bottom-dwelling seasons for an increasingly frustrated fan base, many of whom feel it is time to turn the page from one of the last vestiges of that losing near-past.
THE HEIR APPARENT
I have been publicly and vocally leading that call to deal Hernandez and to turn the position over to 25-year-old Scott Kingery. In fact, I have been pushing that since early in the 2018 season, when the Phillies first called Kingery up to the big-leagues and began playing him out of position.
Kingery won a minor league Gold Glove Award at second base during an outstanding 2017 campaign, one that put him on the prospect map. But since promoting him, the Phillies have used him at seven of the nine positions on the field. They have used Kingery as a Swiss army knife, pushing him around the diamond to fill in whatever injury opens a position on a given day.
With just nine of those games, five starts, at his natural position of second base, the Phillies have failed to truly maximize him as an asset in order to cover for their organizational failure to build big-league quality depth and to keep running Hernandez out despite the incumbent’s inconsistencies.
Hernandez will turn 30 next year, and will be arbitration-eligible for a final time before becoming a free agent at the end of the 2020 season. Both his on-base percentage and OPS+ are now down for a second straight season. Still, Fangraphs defensive statistics reveal that he has something to offer with his glove. And both is batting average and slugging percentage are up from poor 2018 levels.
Now would appear to be an ideal time to deal Hernandez. I simply cannot imagine the club investing in him with a contract extension for 2021 and beyond for his ages 32+ seasons when they have Kingery ready to play every day, a natural at the position, and five years younger.
FOR WHO? FOR WHAT?
So, that leaves the question of where might the Phillies find a fit as a trade partner? What team, if any, could use Hernandez, and what might any team have that might interest Klentak as a return?
Let’s begin by taking a look around the rosters of MLB teams to see if we can find any clubs who might be in the market for a second baseman.
Among contenders there are the Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels. Each of these teams would appear to fit the category of a contender with whom Hernandez would arguably be an upgrade at second base.
Now, what might the Phillies expect in return? Let’s face it, Hernandez is not likely to yield a top prospect as a payoff. At least not by himself. And every MLB organization protects its young pitching, which is the Phillies area of biggest need.
You might get the A’s to come off someone like 23-year-old righty Grant Holmes. Coming off a 2018 season derailed by rotator cuff troubles, the 2014 first rounder could become a solid bullpen piece. Ditto the Indians with lefty Sam Hentges, a big 22-year-old southpaw who was a fourth rounder in that same 2014 MLB Draft.
I recently speculated that an interesting fit for the Phillies to take over as the everyday center fielder would be Jackie Bradley Jr.of the Bosox. The spectacular defender is the same age and in the same contract situation as Hernandez. The Red Sox could slide Andrew Benintendi over to center field as their starter for years to come.
Perhaps a deal sending Hernandez, a lefty reliever in either Adam Morgan or Jose Alvarez, and prospect arm Adonis Medina would entice Red Sox GM Dave Dombrowski to solidify his second base position with Hernandez for the rest of this season and next. The lefty bullpen piece is something that Boston needs as well as they try to repeat as world champions.
There are other pieces the Phillies could deal away as the deadline approaches, and still be considered as both buying and selling, keeping themselves in position to contend for an NL Wildcard now while possibly obtaining pieces to help for a better 2020 run.
Among the names who could be dealt in addition to Hernandez in such a deal are third baseman Maikel Franco, relievers Hector Neris and Juan Nicasio, and outfielder Roman Quinn. Of the current starting rotation members, and from among Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta and Zach Eflin could find themselves used as trade bait in a package.
The Phillies have a number of prospects who could be of interest to another ball club in addition to Medina. Those likely to be available include pitchers Enyel De Los Santos, Ranger Suarez, Jo Jo Romero and Cole Irvin. Slugging outfield prospect Jhaily Ortiz could be available and used as part of a package deal as well.
It would be extremely surprising to see the Phillies simply sit out this trade deadline. Someone, likely a few someones, are going to be leaving. The important question that remains to be answered: Who will that be, what will be the return, and how will management’s moves effect the ability of the 2019 team to make a legitimate run at a playoff spot through the dog days of August and stretch run of September?
MORE 2019 MLB TRADE DEADLINE PIECES FROM PHILLIES NATION:
- Phillies have reportedly checked-in on Dbacks lefty Robbie Ray
- Might the Phillies find a center field fit in Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr?
- Blue Jays right-hander Marcus Stroman scouted by Phillies in Sunday start
- 10 starting pitchers who make realistic Phillies trade targets
- Phillies have scouted true aces Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke