2020 has been a rollercoaster of emotion if you‘re a Phillies fan. From being shut down for the first week due to outbreaks within the Marlins’ locker room, to JT and Bryce carrying the team offensively, this year has definitely had a lot of up and down moments. The trade deadline is coming up quickly on August 31st (Monday), and while the Phillies have made a few trades to sure up the bullpen, they could still benefit from acquiring more help.
With expanded playoffs, the amount of teams that see themselves as sellers could dwindle from previous years. With the demand being greater than the supply in some cases, prices with undoubtedly be higher than usual. The Phillies got ahead of the rest of the MLB by making the two trades last Friday for relievers David Hale, Heath Hembree, and Brandon Workman. However, there’s still some lifting to be done if they want to be able to compete for a World Series.
Here are a few of the names I have circled as targets for the Fightin’ Phils, as they begin their descent into the second half of the season.
RHPs Miguel Castro and Mychal Givens, Baltimore Orioles
When canvassing the league for potentially available bullpen help, it’s hard to look past the quality arms that Baltimore has. Castro, on the surface, has definitely had an interesting start to the season. His ERA is 4.61 in 13.2 innings and has been hit hard when on the mound, good for 54.3% hard hit rate. However, this season he’s been striking out more players. Already, Castro has 21 Ks and has flashed his above average out pitches more frequently. Castro comes with two more years of control through salary arbitration, and while he’s been average for the last couple years, is still only 25. A 25 year old with an average fastball velocity of 97.6 MPH is definitely an intriguing option for this Phillies bullpen.
On the flip side, it seems that Mychal Givens has been on the trade block since he entered the league. A former second rounder of Baltimore in 2009, Givens has been a capable reliever for the O’s since 2015. He attacks the hitters with his mid-90’s fastball, as he throws it almost 70% of the time. He will, however, pair that with a changeup and slider. The increased usage of the changeup, in particular, has led to an uptick in K%, as he set a career high last year with 33.1% and is off to an even better start this year with a strikeout rate of 34.8%. Like Castro, Givens comes with extra control, as he’s under contract for 2021 as well. Of the two, I would imagine that Givens would demand the bigger return, but with the history that GM Matt Klentak and President Andy McPhail have in Baltimore, it’s very likely that a call has already been made to inquire about both of them.
2B/RF/LF Whit Merrifield
Merrifield holds the title for my favorite non-Phillies in the Majors. All he is done since debuting in 2016 is hit and hit and hit. Holding a career average of .296, Merrifield has started off the season in similar fashion, slashing .297/.349/.475 with 5 HRs and 18 RBIs entering play on Wednesday. Not only does he know how to handle the bat, Merrifield also has the defensive versatility that teams in Major League Baseball drool over. Playing every defensive position on the field outside of shortstop and catcher, Merrifield would be the perfect type of player to add to the current Phillies roster. He’s under control until 2023, as he just signed a 4 yr/$16 million contract this winter. Merrifield would definitely be more expensive than other pieces on this list and could be redundant with the presence of Scott Kingery, but with the performance of Kingery to start this season, it might be time to consider an upgrade. And Merrifield would definitely be an upgrade.
Outside of the super-utility role, the Phillies offense has been producing as of late. The one position they could look to fortify is centerfield, though the tandem of Roman Quinn and Adam Haseley has produced this season. MLB Network’s John Paul Morosi had mentioned the Phillies had been in contact with D’Backs about Marte, and it’s not a stretch to make the connection. On the year, Marte has hit .311, while showing why he has won a Gold Glove twice (2015 and 2016) in his career. While I am of the belief that Quinn and Haseley have done a good enough job carrying the load in CF, a deal for Marte could be worth exploring. Marte is under control for next year as well, so this wouldn’t be a rental, like all the other deals I have or will mention. I personally think the likelihood of a deal for Marte is slim, though, the compensation for him would not be draining. Also, he would bring another top of the order bat while playing above average defense at a premium position. It’s also worth noting that since last week, the Phillies have been horrid on the defensive side. Getting someone like Marte to help stabilize the middle of the field could be exactly what this team needs.
After breaking MLB’s Covid protocols with fellow Indians’ SP Zach Plesac, Clevinger was sent down to the alternate training site as members of the team were furious with the two pitchers. Clevinger was just called up to make tonight’s start against the Twins, after reports surfaced that Cleveland would be open to trading the righthander. Teams throughout the Majors will being calling Cleveland to inquire about him, so the price will definitely be high. Clevinger has be one of the more productive pitchers since 2017 and has a career 10.16 K/9. He was off to a really good start this year before his demotion, with his fastball still averaging the typical mid-90’s we have seen from him (94.4). He started throwing a cutter this season, giving him a feel for five pitches when on the mound. Add on top of that the fact that he’ll be arbitration eligible for the next two years and you have a pitcher who’s best days seem ahead of him. Jake Arrieta will be gone after this year, so adding Clevinger to the mix will be a welcome addition not just this season, but for at least two years to come. Plus, with his behavior and punishment, the Indians might have to build a stupidity discount when taking offers (one could hope). I expect the Phillies to do their due diligence on not only Clevinger, but Plesac.
August 31st is only five days away, and the Phillies have already made two trades to bring in three new faces. In this weird 2020 season, I expect them to continue to work at finding more help to bring in.
With a win tonight and a Braves’ loss, the Phillies are only two games out of first place. With expectations sky high coming into the season, being that close may force the Phillies’ hand.
We shall wait and see what happens.