As the Phillies approach the July 31 MLB trade deadline, the dials on the baseball rumor mill are beginning to fully crank up. New reports and rumors have begun to break on a daily basis.
According to NBC Sports Philadelphia‘s Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have expressed interest in a bevy of starting pitchers. The list includes San Francisco’s Madison Bumgarner, Detroit’s Matthew Boyd, and Arizona’s Zack Greinke.
The Phillies also seem to have their eyes on Drew Smyly. The 30-year-old left-hander opted out of his minor-league deal with the Milwaukee Brewers and is now a free agent.
It’s no secret that the starting pitching rotation is in desperate need of an upgrade. Currently, Aaron Nola is the only starter sporting an ERA below the 4.00 mark.
Jerad Eickhoff (who was recently put on the injured list) and Nick Pivetta each have unsightly 5.00+ ERAs, while Zach Eflin and Jake Arrieta have ERAs of 4.16 and 4.54, respectively. If the Phillies don’t make a move or two to upgrade, they are likely to miss the postseason for an eighth straight year.
The Madison Bumgarner connection to the Phillies is nothing new, with a potential trade going all the way back to the off-season. Bumgarner has not been his typical All-Star self this season, but he still has been serviceable. In 20 starts, Bumgarner possesses a 3.86 ERA with 121 strikeouts and a FIP of 3.81. His ERA is down from 2018, when he had a 3.26 ERA in 21 starts.
The catch is that Bumgarner will be a free agent following the conclusion of the season. The four-time NL All-Star has shown some decline over the past few years (the last season in which he posted a sub-3.00 ERA was 2016), and has struggled with injuries. The veteran lefty made just 38 starts in 2017 and 2018 combined. However, Bumgarner will have age on his side, as he will be just 30-years-old come August.
Matthew Boyd, 28, has a 3.95 ERA in 19 starts, with 152 strikeouts and a 3.48 FIP. Boyd has shown steady improvement over the past few seasons, going from a 5.27 ERA in 2017 to a 4.39 ERA in 2018. In addition, Boyd isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2020 and is controllable until 2023.
Grienke is having the best season of the trio discussed by far. In 20 starts, Grienke has an outstanding 2.95 ERA with a 3.20 FIP, 114 strikeouts, and a 3.4 bWAR. This is the third straight year Grienke had been chosen for the All-Star game, the sixth one of his career.
Of course, there are downsides to acquiring the former Cy Young winner. Grienke is 35-years-old, turns 36 in October, and is in the fourth year of a six-year, $206 million dollar contract signed with Arizona back in 2015. Grienke is set to make $35 million in both 2020 and 2021 before becoming a free agent again.
Because each one of these players have performed to different levels and have different contract situations, the potential trade packages that would be going back would obviously vary. The Phillies will certainly not be dealing top prospect Alec Bohm, and even top pitching prospect Spencer Howard is likely off-limits.
As for Smyly, he struggled mightily this season, going 1-5 with a 8.42 ERA in 13 games (nine starts) with the Texas Rangers. Smyly registered one save, and had 52 strikeouts and a 8.05 FIP in 51.1 innings.
At Triple-A in the Milwaukee Brewers system, Smyly pitched to a 4.97 ERA in 12.2 innings over three starts. Given those results, Smyly likely wouldn’t be counted on for much more than depth, unless Phillies scouts have seen something in him to make the club believe he could deliver more than the pitchers already present.
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