Phillies Mailbag: Starting Pitching, Center Field, July Trade Deadline
We are back once again with a 97.3 ESPN Phillies mailbag. Each week we take your questions and talk about them on the Sports Bash with Mike Gill every Tuesday. Send your questions anytime on Twitter to @FrankKlose or send a text to the text board at 609-403-0973.
On a 1-10 scale, how dire is our need to sign a starting pitcher? A solid guy who can be counted on for consistent quality starts an innings?
I think this is a good question. Right now I would only put that about a 5 for right now. I think the situation bears watching, but they might be okay for a while.
The Phillies look like they are getting ace Aaron Nola back on track, who picked up a victory against the Colorado Rockies. Jake Arrieta is not the ace-quality starter he once was for the Cubs, but has regularly pitched into at least the sixth inning in all of his starts this season.
Of course Zach Eflin has been brilliant at times, and the Phillies have been getting solid efforts from Jerad Eickhoff since he returned and Cole Irvin looks very poised and in position to get some victories. Down at Triple-A, Nick Pivetta was named the International League Pitcher of the Week.
However, I think at the trade deadline the Phillies should look for a big upgrade, if one is possible. This season with a healthy Eickhoff and Irvin in the mix, they have depth they did not lave last season. But things change quickly and the Phillies are looking to make a playoff run. It is unclear who will be available at the deadline, but I think the Phillies would look to acquire a bigger name if the opportunity presents itself.
Is it time for a center field platoon of Scott Kingery and Odubel Herrera?
This past offseason it seemed all but certain that the Phillies would need to upgrade two frustrating positions: center field and third base. What was new this Spring was extended looks at Scott Kingery in center field. Upon his return from the disabled list, Kingery got the start in center.
After batting .302 in April, Herrera is batting just .167 in May. The Phillies have no traditional fourth outfielder right now with Nick Williams demoted and Aaron Altherr cut loose to a Giants waiver claim, which means Kingery will be the next man up to fill in at an outfield position. As we saw on Sunday, the Phillies will not hesitate to put Kingery in against a left-handed pitcher.
Interestingly, Herrera is batting .273 against left-handed pitching as opposed to .213 against right-handed pitching. Over the last three years, Herrera is about even against lefties and righties (.270 vs. .276). So I think it will mostly be a matter of when Herrera is struggling and a way to get Kingery at bats.
The Phillies moved Cesar Hernandez ahead of Herrera in the batting order, which paid dividends last night in the form of an RBI triple. That also shows the Phillies are willing to move things around in the face of a lack of production.
So expect to see Kingery in center some, but also at third base. Maikel Franco has cooled from his torrid start, so there could be some opportunities at third base, too.
If the Nationals become sellers, do the Phillies try to get Anthony Rendon at the July trade deadline?
Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon long lived under the shadow of outfielder Bryce Harper on the Nationals. Today we see he has been one of the more underrated players out there. I think that Rendon would draw interest from the Phillies - and many other teams - if he will be out there.
Last season the Nationals had a trade worked out for Harper with the Houston Astros. This word came from Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, so it is likely true. The story was that Nationals ownership ultimately rejected the trade worked out by general manager Mike Rizzo.
So the question might be whether or not Nationals ownership is going to mess this up, too.
Trading Rendon for some assets would be a smart baseball move for the Nationals, who have some young talent in Juan Soto and Victor Robles who could use some younger players to complement their talent. But would ownership let Rizzo do his job and make some baseball trades?
This is the same Nationals ownership who insisted manager Dusty Baker be fired after two seasons of 95 or more wins. New manager Dave Martinez has not worked out, and it's unclear if ownership will let Rizzo make a change now, as some are calling for Martinez to be fired after a poor start.
So while the Phillies and other teams will probably have interest in Rendon, who will cost a high price in prospects, it is unclear if the Nationals will even make such a move.