Dave Dombrowski isn’t going to trade Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Zack Wheeler or Aaron Nola before the July 30 trade deadline. But even if a full-scale teardown isn’t in order for the Philadelphia Phillies, it’s not difficult to make the case that the 34-37 team is trending towards selling in some form.
In the summer of 2012, the Phillies traded Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino – both of whom were set to become free agents after the season – before attempting to retool their roster and compete in 2013. Never mind how those specific trades panned out or how misguided trying to win in 2013 may have been because this is a different scenario. But that type of sale could make sense for the Phillies this summer.
Unless the Phillies win nine out of their next 10 games – as Harper suggested they could stand to do right now – selling will have to be a consideration for the team this summer.
Héctor Neris has struggled of late, but certainly makes sense for a contending team looking to add a set-up man. Neris, the longest-tenured Phillie, can become a free agent after the 2021 season.
Andrew McCutchen is in the final guaranteed year of his three-year/$50 million contract, and while he’s been streaky this season, he does have 13 home runs, 39 RBIs and a .344 on-base percentage. He’d probably be best suited to DH at this stage of his career, but there would no doubt be be interest in one of the most respected players in the sport from contending teams. McCutchen has a $15 million club option for 2022 that will almost certainly be declined, which would trigger a $3 million buyout. If the Phillies can kick the onus of part or all of that $3 million to another team, making a trade probably makes sense.
Archie Bradley has struggled to this point in his first season with the Phillies, posting a -0.2 fWAR in 18 games. Still, there will be interest in the 28-year-old from contenders who hope he can deliver the type of impact that he did after being traded to the Cincinnati Reds last summer.
Because of injuries, Brad Miller has been forced to play more than the Phillies initially anticipated this season. But a contending team in need of a DH or batter off the bench that can change their season with one swing would be wise to trade for the 31-year-old.
The reality is that those four names absolutely can help contending teams, but they probably wouldn’t bring back much in the way of prospects. That doesn’t mean the Phillies shouldn’t trade them – if they’re enamored with any of them they may very well have the chance to re-sign them in the offseason – but none of them will bring a franchise-altering return.
Perhaps Wheeler is the only player on the team currently that could really return a giant haul in a trade, given that the $74 million he’s due over the next three seasons looks pretty team friendly. But if your plan isn’t to completely tear things down, why would you trade someone that’s been one of the five or 10 best pitchers in baseball this season? Even if you acquire one or two future impact players in return for Wheeler, it’s relatively unlikely it tops the impact you’ll get from having the likely All-Star on your team the next few seasons.
That said, there are probably a few pieces on the Phillies that fall somewhere in between the impending free agents and Wheeler in terms of value.
Though he’s currently on the injured list for the second time this season, Jean Segura has been excellent when he’s played, slashing .332/.379/.465 with five defensive runs saved. The two-time All-Star can play both second and third base, and probably shortstop still in a pinch.
In some senses, trading Segura seems counterproductive if you hope to contend in 2022. But he’s 31, so you don’t know how much longer he’ll remain at this level. You’d also probably like to have second base open for Didi Gregorius, who has -7 defensive runs saved in limited time at shortstop in 2021. Segura is owed $14.25 million in 2022, and has a $17 million option for 2023 that comes with a $1 million buyout. If you can unload a portion of the money owed to Segura and move Gregorius to a defensive position he’s better equipped to play at this stage of his career, you might be making your team better.
It would be interesting to know what teams would be willing to part with for Rhys Hoskins, who has 16 home runs and 43 RBIs in 2021. The guess here is that Hoskins would be more valuable on the Phillies than anything he’d return in a trade, especially when you consider he’s probably the leader of the clubhouse and can’t become a free agent until after 2023.
But if there’s an offer for Hoskins that piques your interest, you’d have to listen on the 28-year-old. As much as you like when he’s locked in at the plate, he is part of a team with too many players who have a tendency to go ice-cold when they aren’t in a hot streak.
Hoskins also has -7 defensive runs saved at first base in 2021, and the Phillies desperately need to place more of an emphasis on defense in future roster building. That may mean Hoskins moves to DH (assuming it becomes universal as part of the new collective bargaining agreement) and Alec Bohm to first base in 2022. But if the Phillies envision someone else as a DH or using it on a rotating basis like they did in 2020, then they may be more inclined to considering trading Hoskins should the right offer present itself.
Perhaps the most interesting name to consider would be Zach Eflin. The Phillies have spent years developing Eflin with the hopes of him being a legitimate No. 3 starter (or even better), which he’s shown signs of becoming in the last two years. If the Phillies believe that Eflin’s recent struggles are likely to subside, then they’d not only want to hold onto Eflin for his final year of arbitration in 2022, but potentially consider signing him to a long-term deal.
Then again, if the Phillies have concerns about how Eflin’s knees will hold up in the long-term or simply believe they’d get more value out of a trade return, the 27-year-old probably shouldn’t be entirely off the table.
Just based on his play, Odúbel Herrera should fit into this category, considering he plays a position with so few needle movers. Of course, his prior domestic violence arrest and suspension alter the equation. Clearly teams weren’t interest in the former All-Star outfielder the last few years, or he would have been traded. Does the fact that the Phillies gave Herrera a second chance and he’s played well open some contenders up to the idea or trading for the 29-year-old? It’s tough to tell.
There’s also the possibility that given how poor the play in center field was before Herrera returned to the team that the Phillies might consider retaining Herrera. He has club options for $11.5 million and $12.5 million in each of the next two seasons. Even if the Phillies declined those and paid the $3.5 million total buyout, they could return to arbitration with Herrera, who doesn’t have enough service time to become a free agent.
In the end, the next couple weeks will tell us quite a bit about the Phillies should proceed. Exactly what any sale looks like will be one of the first major tests for the Dombrowski-Sam Fuld regime, assuming a hot streak isn’t around the corner.
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