Phillies Mailbag: Hellickson, Venditte and Altherr
We are back with another Phillies mailbag. We take your questions throughout the week on Twitter at @FrankKlose and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Then, we answer them on Tuesdays on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill at 2:30 p.m.
Jeremy Hellickson: Extend or trade and why?
When Jeremy Hellickson accepted the $17.2 million qualifying offer this offseason, many were surprised that the Phillies would be willing to pay Hellickson that much money. But the old adage is simple: there is no such thing as a bad one-year deal. I think that a one-year deal is all that the Phillies desire this to be.
The Phillies have many young pitchers coming through their system. Right now the young pitchers that are on the 40-man roster include Aaron Nola, Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, Nick Pivetta, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, and Ben Lively. Maybe Mark Appel will come around, too, and Tom Eschelman just hit Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
I think that Hellickson is a very nice pitcher. He is serving the Phillies a great purpose in 2017, to allow just enough time to let some of the aforementioned young pitchers move up into the Phillies rotation. I do not think that it's a stretch to say that they have internal candidates that can pitch as well as Hellickson, therefore making a long-term commitment unnecessary.
The Phillies will undoubtedly try to trade Hellickson again this summer. The team cannot extended another qualifying offer to Hellickson, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. I think that 2017 is it for Hellickson as a Phillie, whether he be traded or walks as a free agent. Either way, that's OK. Hellickson has done a nice job for the Phillies.
Pat Venditte still has a 0.00 ERA at Triple-A. When will he be called up?
The Phillies are dealing with their 40-man roster crunch, still. In fact, when the Phillies sent infielder Ty Kelly to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to add an extra arm to the fold, they had to go for starter Jake Thompson. The reason was that he was already on the 40-man roster. Luis Garcia had not been in the minors for 10 days yet, so he was ineligible for a recall.
I think the Phillies will give Venditte a chance at some point. However, a roster spot will have to open one way or another. Whenever Howie Kendrick returns from the disabled list, the Phillies might end up cutting Kelly from their 40-man roster, attempting to outright him to Triple-A. But, the suspended Elniery Garcia will need to come back at some point, too. The roster situation is indeed complicated.
Unless something major happens, such as the Phillies releasing a Jeanmar Gomez-type or making a trade, there simply is not room. The expected trades of veterans come July probably open a spot for Venditte one way or another. With no second left-handed reliever beyond Joely Rodriguez, I think the Phillies would like to give him a shot, but not at the expense of another player.
Is Aaron Altherr the real deal? What is his future with the Phillies?
I have always been really high on Aaron Altherr. Last Spring Training when Altherr went down with a wrist injury after awkwardly diving for an Ender Inciarte ball to right field really complicated the picture for Altherr. 2016 was supposed to be the year that the Phillies got to see what Altherr could do in the Major Leagues. A year later, the Phillies are finally seeing what he can do.
A lot of the credit this season has gone to Phillies hitting coach Matt Stairs. Stairs encouraged Altherr to cut down on his swing, very much like he suggested that former Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth do while with the Phillies in 2008, as has been widely reported. Werth and Altherr are drawing comparisons: for their height, their swing, their tools, and even for the fact that both suffered wrist injuries that are difficult to come back from.
In some respects, Altherr still has much to prove for his long-term status on the team. Batting .338 with four home runs and an OPS of 1.057, Altherr most definitively has earned more playing time. He should see plenty in left field while Howie Kendrick recovers from an oblique injury, and could even bump Kendrick to first base. A tremendously talented fielder, Altherr could play some of all three outfield positions.
The Phillies are committed to seeing who will be a permanent part of the Phillies lineup. I think they will continue to expose Altherr to more pressure and higher-leverage situations as the season goes on as they look to find the permanent solution. But Altherr is going to have one more major test.
As we have frequently said on 97.3 ESPN, the league is going to adjust to Altherr. Still new on the scene and with a new swing, the scouting reports are just not there yet. Maybe next time Matt Albers faces Altherr, he knows exactly what Altherr's weakness is and takes a new approach. If Altherr can adjust the adjustments, he could be a permanent member of the Phillies outfield. There is still a ways to go, but his performance is very encouraging.