Phillies

Phillies 'really excited' about prospect haul in Pat Neshek trade to Rockies

Phillies 'really excited' about prospect haul in Pat Neshek trade to Rockies

Pat Neshek became a Phillies trade candidate the moment the team acquired him from the Houston Astros in a cash deal in November. The only question was: How good of a trade chip would the right-handed reliever become? Ultimately, Neshek's performance would dictate that.

Neshek spent four months with the Phillies and pitched brilliantly. On Wednesday night, five days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies cashed him in for three young prospects in a deal with the Colorado Rockies.

"There was a lot of interest in Neshek," general manager Matt Klentak said. "Just about every team in contention lobbed a phone call to touch base about Neshek, some more seriously than others. The Rockies were interested from Day 1."

The Phillies picked up Alejandro Requena, a 20-year-old right-handed starting pitcher, J.D. Hammer, a 23-year-old right-handed reliever, and Jose Gomez, a 20-year-old shortstop. All were playing at the Single A level.

Requena, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Venezuelan, was 8-3 this season with a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts for Low A Asheville. He had 97 strikeouts and 25 walks in 117 innings and had held opposing hitters to a .239 batting average.

Hammer, a 24th-round draft pick in 2016, started the season at Asheville before being promoted to High A Lancaster in late June. Overall in 2017, he is 4-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 13 saves in 36 games. He has an impressive 65 strikeouts and .182 opponents' batting average in 42 innings.

Gomez had a slash line of .324/.374/.437 with four homers, 33 RBIs, 54 runs and 18 stolen bases in 81 games at Low A. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Venezuela was the 21st-ranked prospect in the Rockies' farm system by MLB.com. In addition to shortstop, he plays third and second base. 

Time will tell if this quantity of minor-league prospects turns into big-league quality. On the surface, the Phillies appeared to make out pretty good, especially considering that Neshek, a middle reliever/setup man, is just a two-month rental for the Rockies. He can be a free agent at the end of the season,

"We’re excited about all three of the kids that we got," Klentak said. "Our scouting group really did a good job running all over the country, trying to get extra looks at these players. We’re really excited to pull this off."

Neshek, 36, was the Phillies' lone All-Star selection and worked a scoreless inning for the National League two weeks ago in Miami. With the Phillies this season, he pitched 40 1/3 innings over 43 games. He allowed just five runs and 41 of his appearances were scoreless. He did not allow a run in 21 2/3 innings at Citizens Bank Park.

"I'm actually relieved," Neshek said shortly after learning of the trade after the Phillies' 9-0 win over Houston (see game recap). "People have been talking about it since April, so it's done. I thought it was going to go until the last day. It's kind of nerve-racking.

"It's also bittersweet. I enjoyed my time here. These guys are some of the better guys I've played with."

Neshek joins a Rockies club that currently has a four-game lead for the second National League wild-card spot. The Phillies, of course, have the worst record in baseball.

"It's exciting," Neshek said. "You jump right into a playoff race. That's a great team, great offense."

The Phillies will add a reliever to replace Neshek in time for Friday's game against the Braves. It's possible that Edubray Ramos or Mark Leiter Jr. could return, but it also might be time to look at Jesen Therrien, the hard-throwing righty with the Brad Lidge slider. Either way, all three of these pitchers will be in the majors over the final two months of the season as the team makes changes and roster spots open.

Klentak said Neshek was the Phillies' most targeted player. Jeremy Hellickson will make his final start before the deadline on Friday night. He is expected to be dealt. There are enough teams looking for pitching and the Phillies are willing to pay down much of the approximately $6 million that remains on his deal.

The Phillies have two veteran bats available in Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava, but both have health issues. Nava is on the disabled list with a sore hamstring. If he goes, it could be in an August waiver deal. Kendrick, who has been on the disabled list twice this season, took a pitch off the left wrist on Wednesday night. There was no fracture. He could still be dealt before the deadline, but the return does not figure to be significant. First baseman Tommy Joseph is another trade possibility as the Phils look to open a spot for Rhys Hoskins. Reliever Joaquin Benoit is yet another trade possibility but he won't fetch much of a return.

"I don’t want to handicap it," Klentak said of the chance of making more deals. "We’ve received calls on some of our other players, some more serious than others. Health will be a factor. As you know, Nava hit the DL today and Howie was just hit in the hand. We’ll have to see how he comes back from that. We’ll have to see. We’ll certainly be here, we’ll be on the phones, and we’ll be working as hard as we can to see what’s out there. But [the Neshek trade] is definitely the one we thought was most likely."

Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

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Nick Williams talks up Phillies to a free-agent Cy Young winner

It's not clear whether the Phillies will add a starting pitcher before opening day, but surely they would like to.

General manager Matt Klentak “is busting his ass every single day looking for every possible opportunity to upgrade our team from every perspective,” manager Gabe Kapler said on Tuesday. “That includes looking at every option possible for the rotation.”

Klentak has kept a close eye on the trade market, but has found the prices (i.e., the young talent that must be surrendered) for top, controllable starters to be prohibitive.

He has kept a close eye on the free-agent market, but the length of contracts that top pitchers are looking for has given him pause.

For months, the Phillies have distanced themselves from speculation that has connected them to elite level free-agent pitchers Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.

But with spring training less than a month away and both pitchers still unsigned, the Phillies would at least have to consider both pitchers if their asking prices experience a January thaw.

Six or seven years? No way.

Three years? Hmmm. Let's talk.

The Phillies are hosting a number of their young players this week. Rhys Hoskins, Jerad Eickhoff, Mark Leiter and Nick Williams were all in town on Tuesday.

Williams has set his sights on making the National League All-Star team in 2018.

“That's what I'm shooting for,” he said at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday. “I think I had a pretty good year last year. I'm shooting for more now. I don't think being an All-Star is shooting too high.”

Williams, 24, hit .288 with 12 homers, 55 RBIs and an .811 OPS in 83 games, mostly in right field, with the big club as a rookie last season.

To give himself the best chance of surpassing those numbers — and achieving his goal of making the All-Star team — Williams has spent the offseason in Austin, Texas, working with personal trainer Jeremy Hills, a former University of Texas football player.

Williams is working hard on agility, which will help him in the outfield and on the base paths.

And guess who one of his daily workout partners is?

Free-agent pitcher Jake Arrieta.

Back in Austin, between reps and protein shakes, Williams has occasionally talked up Philadelphia as a potential landing spot to Arrieta, the 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner who will turn 32 in March.

“He loves it here,” Williams said of Arrieta, who, as a free agent and a Scott Boras client, is astute enough not to rule out any team, particularly one as deep-pocketed as the Phillies. “He has told me he likes working with young guys. I'm like, ‘All right, come on up.’ But I'm not writing the check. I don’t know what he wants. I don’t really dig into that because I'm not really in his position.”

Williams smiled.

“I hope to be one day,” he said.

Williams marveled at Arrieta's work ethic in the gym.

And he expressed gratitude for the kindness and generosity Arrieta has showed him.

“He's bought a lot of my protein shakes,” Williams said.

Time will tell if the Phillies add a starting pitcher to the group that already consists of Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Zach Eflin and other youngsters. The hunch is they will, though it's unclear what the magnitude of that talent will be. Klentak's search for an arm likely won't stop with the addition of one pitcher and it will likely continue through July. And beyond. The quest to build a championship-caliber staff never stops.

“The pursuit is very real,” Kapler said of Klentak's search for pitching. “I have a lot of trust that we'll either go in [to spring training] with a new toy or we will pass on the opportunity because we're better off giving this collection of pitchers a really healthy look because we thought that we could go acquire that piece a little bit later on this season or in the offseason next year.”

Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

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USA Today Images

Rhys Hoskins on 'surreal' rookie year, position switch, expectations

For a couple of weeks in August, Rhys Hoskins might have been Philadelphia's most popular athlete. Fans marveled at the nightly power display that the young slugger put on in the middle of the Phillies' batting order. Carson Wentz and the Eagles had not yet begun their magnificent season. Hoskins was the man in town.

It hit him one night after a game. He stopped in Center City for some late-night eats. A man and his young son approached. They offered their congratulations and asked for an autograph.

"That's when I was like, 'OK, this might be something that's about to be part of my life,' " Hoskins said. "But it was cool because I used to be that kid."

Hoskins was back in the area Monday night for the 114th Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner. He was honored with a special achievement award for a torrid major league debut in which he clubbed 18 homers and drove in 48 runs in just 50 games last season.

Hoskins was raised in Sacramento, California but moved to San Diego this offseason. His 18 homers in 2017 were the most ever hit by a player who did not make his season debut until after Aug. 1. Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who hit 13 homers after returning from the Korean War in 1953, was the previous record holder.

Williams was a San Diego native.

"Surreal," Hoskins said of that 50-game stretch last season and the buzz that has followed him into the offseason. "Indescribable."

He is now a recognizable face, a signature talent, in a sports-crazy town.

And he's ready for it.

"Enjoy it," he said. "Take it by storm and enjoy it. It's supposed to be fun and that's probably the best approach to take. I think my thought is what happened may never happen again. Tomorrow something might happen. Tomorrow I might never be able to step on a baseball field again. So I think you have to take it by storm and enjoy it.

"If you had asked me a year ago if I would be walking down the streets of Philadelphia and would people recognize me I'd probably laugh at you. But that’s where we are now.

"It's just a testament to how passionate the people of Philadelphia are and how much they love their sports."

Hoskins will report to Clearwater for spring training at the end of this month. He wants to get a head start so he can ramp up his workouts in left field. A first baseman by trade, he began playing the position occasionally last season. He will move there full-time in 2018 as newly signed Carlos Santana takes over at first base.

Hoskins got a 30-game taste of left field last year. He is OK with the move.

"Having Carlos is exciting for the city and exciting for the team," Hoskins said. "We add a guy who has proven himself in this league for five or six years at a very high level so to kind of insert that into the lineup and into the clubhouse, especially with such a young team — I think we're going to feel that exponentially throughout the year.

"Left field is a challenge. It's a challenge that I'm definitely excited about. I started to feel more comfortable out there toward the end of the year.

"I think I can be just fine out there. I'm not necessarily going to be a Gold Glover. I just don’t have the speed that some guys out there do, especially in today's game. But I think I'll be just fine and contribute to the team defensively as much as I can and make the plays that I'm supposed to."

Hoskins will turn 25 on March 17. He projects to bat cleanup in new manager Gabe Kapler's lineup.

"He's energized, intense and thorough," Hoskins said of the new skipper. "He can captivate a room. I'm curious to see how that dynamic works in the clubhouse. I think he's going to be a pretty exciting guy to work with."