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Phillies reportedly ‘keeping close tabs’ on Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray

Zack Greinke continues to be connected to the Phillies. (Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Phillies have gone 5-5 in their first 10 games since the All-Star Break and find themselves at 52-48, a half back of the second National League Wild Card race. Since the midsummer classic, Gabe Kapler’s squad has done little to alleviate any concerns that the organization may have had about the team’s ability to seriously remain in contention for the rest of the 2019 season. But it increasingly appears that it may only take 84 or 85 wins to secure the second National League Wild Card spot, and with a playoff drought at seven years, that may be enough of an opening to convince the Phillies to buy at the July 31 trade deadline.

At the very least, general manager Matt Klentak and the Phillies are operating like a team that may make a major trade in the next 10 days.

If the Phillies do ultimately make a splash in the coming days, it appears that the Arizona Diamondbacks could be a potential trade partner. Bob Nightengale of USA Today says that the Phillies “have been scouting and keeping close tabs on Diamondbacks starters Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray.”

This is hardly the first time that the Phillies have been connected to either Arizona hurler, but their continued connection to both is noteworthy nonetheless.

The Phillies, per Nightengale, have scouted Greinke as far back as May of this season. Heck, Robert Murray of The Athletic noted in December of 2017 that the Phillies had inquired on the availability of Greinke. It turns out when you have a career that’s going to draw Hall of Fame consideration, that catches the attention of teams hoping to contend.

Now 35, Greinke made his sixth All-Star team earlier this month and is still pitching at a front-line level. 10 years after winning the American League Cy Young Award, Greinke is 10-4 with a 2.93 ERA, 3.19 FIP and 3.4 fWAR. There’s a strong case to be made that he’s the best arm that could be traded before July 31.

Of course, it isn’t that simple with Greinke. He’ll turn 36 in October and is owed $32 million in each of the next two seasons. Additionally, the six-year/$206.5 million deal that the Diamondbacks signed Greinke to ahead of the 2016 season also has $62.5 million deferred between 2022 and 2026. And he has a 15-team no-trade clause that reportedly includes the Phillies. There would be quite a few moving parts to facilitating a trade to acquire Greinke, ones that it’s fair to question whether a team that’s probably not ready to compete for a World Series should try to navigate through.

Additionally, there was some thought that perhaps Greinke could be had for a lesser return if a team like the Phillies took on his remaining money. However, Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted late last week that the Diamondbacks may be willing to eat up to $10 million per year if it increased the return a trade of Greinke yielded. The Phillies have limited prospect capital to move in such a deal.

Meanwhile, Ray has been connected to the Phillies for some time now. Jon Morosi of reported last week that the Phillies, along with the Houston Astros, had shown “recent interest” in the 27-year-old southpaw. At the outset of last offseason, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia said that the Phillies have had interest in Ray dating back to the winter of 2017.

An All-Star in 2017, Ray is 8-6 with a 3.92 ERA, 4.25 FIP and 1.6 fWAR across 117 innings in 2019. The aforementioned 2017 season, where he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 3.72 FIP and 3.2 fWAR, remains the highlight of his career thus far.

Ray wouldn’t provide the boost to the starting rotation that Greinke would – he’s probably a No. 3 or No. 4 starter on a World Series contender – but he’s eight years younger and isn’t owed $126.5 million after this season. Ray – unlike Madison Bumgarner, another lefty that’s been heavily speculated upon as a possible fit – remains under team control for the 2020 season, so he wouldn’t be a rental. It’s unclear exactly what a trade return would look like for Ray, who isn’t pitching at the level that allowed him to be worth 6.4 fWAR between 2016 and 2017.

Even with their contending status uncertain for 2019, the Phillies appear to be casting a wide net as they attempt to improve a rotation that has turned into a disaster behind ace Aaron Nola. Salisbury noted last week that the Phillies have shown interest in the aforementioned Bumgarner, Detroit Tigers LHP Matthew Boyd and Texas Rangers LHP Mike Minor. Bob Elliott of The Canadian Baseball Network reported earlier this month that the Phillies had scouted Toronto Blue Jays All-Star RHP Marcus Stroman.


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