jeremy hellickson

Phillies Notes: Pete Mackanin on trade dynamics, open rotation spot and more

Phillies Notes: Pete Mackanin on trade dynamics, open rotation spot and more

Like general manager Matt Klentak, manager Pete Mackanin admittedly was forced to perform some verbal gymnastics Friday night, with the Phillies in the process of finalizing the trades of utilityman Howie Kendrick and pitcher Jeremy Hellickson.

Kendrick was simply held out of the lineup for a game against Atlanta, but Hellickson was a late scratch from his scheduled start.

Mackanin explained after the 10-3 victory that because of the rainy forecast, he didn’t want “to have to send (Hellickson) out there to pitch an inning or two and then have to yank him.” Klentak essentially said the same thing but did mention Monday’s trade deadline as well.

It is the kind of thing officials are forced to say, in case a deal falls through. Timing is everything, when it comes to revealing such news to the public.

Or, for that matter, the player involved.

Mackanin, a long-time minor-league manager, recalled before Saturday’s game against the Braves that in 1991 he had a shortstop at Nashville, Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, named Freddie Benavides.

One night the club was playing at Columbus, and Mackanin received a call from the Reds’ farm director informing him that Benavides was going to be called up to the majors. Mackanin was instructed to pull him out of the game immediately, but there was a catch: He couldn’t tell Benavides why he was being yanked.

“You talk about somebody being (ticked) off at me,” Mackanin said. “He made an out his first at-bat, and I said, ‘Freddie, you’re done.’ He was mad the whole game at me. It’s a little unsettling.”

Mackanin said he received a phone call in the fifth inning of Friday’s game, informing him that the deal sending Kendrick to Washington for minor league pitcher McKenzie Mills had gone through.

With Hellickson, it was a bit trickier. His trade to Baltimore for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim and minor league pitcher Garret Cleavinger wasn’t finalized until well after the game.

“I felt bad for him, because he was in a fog,” Mackanin said. “He didn’t know what to expect. If the trade didn’t go through last night, he was most likely going to pitch (Saturday). But you never know (when the call will come). It could be in the second inning.”

Turns out it was much later than that.

“It’s tougher for him,” Mackanin said. “It’s not as tough for me, obviously. I know Hellickson liked it here. He would like to stay here, I know that, but you accept whatever happens – bought, sold, traded, released, fired, waived.”

Comings and goings
Kim is not expected to report until Sunday. To fill Hellickson’s roster spot the Phillies selected the contract of RHP Pedro Beato from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The 30-year-old Beato was leading the International League with 27 saves. He last pitched in the majors for Atlanta, on June 18, 2014, in a game against the Phillies.

Mackanin also said that Jake Thompson will fill Hellickson’s spot in the rotation, at least for the time being. Thompson, a last-minute fill-in on Friday, worked five scoreless innings to pick up the victory.

“He pitched so well, he earned the chance to go back out there,” Mackanin said.

The most obvious options beyond that are RHP Zach Eflin and RHP Ben Lively, currently at Lehigh Valley. Lively took a line drive off his left knee in Friday’s outing against Durham, but according to Mackanin should be fine.

Lively, 1-4 with a 3.80 ERA in seven starts for the Phillies this season, is 7-2 with a 2.50 ERA in 13 starts for the IronPigs. Eflin is 1-3 with a 4.60 ERA in six Triple-A starts after going 0-3 with a 6.13 ERA for the parent club.

“I don’t know what we have in store for the future,” Mackanin said of Hellickson’s spot in the rotation, “but we’re going to continue doing this (with Thompson). And if Thompson pitches well again, then that might settle that for a while. But it is nice to have an opportunity to see a lot of different guys.”

False start
Mackanin planned to use RHP Jesen Therrien, recalled from Lehigh Valley on Thursday night, in the ninth inning of Friday’s game. Then he thought better of it.

“I didn’t want him to face the middle of that lineup in his debut,” Mackanin said. “But I’m anxious to get him in there.”

The heart of the Atlanta order includes two tough lefty hitters, Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis.
 

Phillies' remaining trade possibilities with heavy lifting out of the way

Phillies' remaining trade possibilities with heavy lifting out of the way

The Phillies have gotten their heaviest pre-trade deadline lifting out of the way early, trading Pat Neshek, Howie Kendrick and Jeremy Hellickson over the last 72 hours for two right-handed pitching prospects, two left-handed pitching prospects, a Single A shortstop, a major-league outfielder and some useful international bonus pool money.

The non-waiver trade deadline is Monday at 4 p.m. Should we expect any more activity from Phils GM Matt Klentak?

OF/1B Daniel Nava
A switch-hitter who can play both outfield corners and first base, Nava is one of the most versatile bench pieces in the league. That gives him trade value, even though he's a 34-year-old impending free agent.

Nava has been extremely consistent at the plate this season, hitting .303 with a .400 on-base percentage in 180 plate appearances. He's hit .301 as a starter and .310 as a pinch-hitter.

Nava was placed on the 10-day DL on July 26 and is expected to return the first week of August. The Phillies would be able to trade him while he's on the DL if they wish. If not, Nava would be an August trade candidate, though the Phillies would like to get a deal done in July if possible. Why? Because Nava is the kind of player who is likely to be claimed on waivers in August, meaning the Phillies would be able to negotiate a trade with only one team as opposed to many.

The Phillies' return for Nava wouldn't be significant. They'd likely be looking at a player to be named later or a modest prospect like the Garrett Cleavinger kid they got for Hellickson.

RHP Joaquin Benoit
Benoit has had a strange season — it seems like he's pitched worse than he actually has.

Benoit pitched 1⅓ perfect innings Friday to lower his ERA to 4.07. He's been scored upon in 10 of 44 appearances and allowed multiple runs only four times. It's just that three of those outings were so bad — Benoit allowed a combined 11 runs in 1⅔ innings to the Mariners, Nationals and Pirates.

Benoit has struck out 43 batters in 42 innings this season, and though his control has been erratic at times, he actually has a lower walk rate (3.4 per nine) than his career mark.

But still, Benoit doesn't have much trade value as a 40-year-old rental reliever. The Mariners traded him to Toronto last July 26 for Drew Storen in a change-of-scenery move. Benoit had a 5.18 ERA with Seattle but then allowed just one run in 23 innings for the Blue Jays, so perhaps another team will be convinced that Benoit has a strong second half in him.

Benoit signed a one-year, $7.5 million contract, so he'll be owed approximately $2.5 million after July 31. The Phillies won't care about eating the remaining contract if a team makes an offer that is even somewhat enticing.

1B Tommy Joseph
There's no market for him, and even if another team does decide to trade for a first baseman, there are better options out there. If you want a rental, there's Mike Napoli and Yonder Alonso. If you want a controllable player, there's Justin Bour. 

The Yankees could still be in the market for a first baseman even after acquiring Todd Frazier, but a left-handed bat would make more sense for them.

The Red Sox have a glaring hole in the middle of their order, but if they fill it they'd want to do so with a player better than Joseph.

Joseph, to me, is the first-base equivalent of Detroit Pistons point guard Reggie Jackson. He's a starting player so he puts up numbers, but he's a slightly-below-league-average player at his position. Therefore, he doesn't have a ton of trade value because if a team acquires him, it is locking itself into playing him a lot when it might have better options internally or through free agency.

In 723 plate appearances with the Phillies, Joseph has hit .255/.310/.481 with 37 homers and 98 RBIs. Joseph's OPS over that span is .791, which is about 20 points lower than the league-average OPS from first basemen.

There's a school of thought that clearing Joseph's roster spot for Rhys Hoskins is more important than getting a decent return for him but I don't share that view. Why trade Joseph for 20 cents on the dollar when the alternative could be calling up Hoskins, playing him regularly and using Joseph as a powerful bat off the bench if Hoskins succeeds? The Phillies could do that and shop Joseph again in the winter when more teams would be interested.

2B Cesar Hernandez
Hernandez, like Joseph, could be shopped in the winter. The Phillies listened to offers for him last offseason but found nothing worthwhile. The only reason it could be a consideration again this winter is that Scott Kingery has emerged at the upper levels of the minor leagues. 

Hernandez is a good major-league player, it's just that Kingery's ceiling could be higher. Kingery is equal to or better than Hernandez defensively and on the basepaths, has more pop but is less selective at the plate.

Since the start of 2016, Hernandez has hit .289 with a .362 OBP. He has three years of arbitration eligibility left before becoming a free agent after 2020. An inexpensive leadoff hitter at a premium position has a lot of trade value and the Phillies are right to wait it out unless they get a logical offer.

C Cameron Rupp
Might the Phillies use Rupp's recent hot streak as a way to entice a catching-needy team?

Rupp has been on fire since June 23, hitting .386 in 13 starts with five homers, three doubles and nine RBIs. As a result, his OPS is up to .770, which ranks 12th out of 30 major-league catchers with at least 200 plate appearances.

Rupp will be arbitration-eligible for the first time after this season, and he isn't slated for free agency until after 2020. He figures to make about $1.5 million to $2.5 million next season with slight raises coming after that.

When looking at potential fits for Rupp, you have to consider more than just contending teams because he's not yet 29 years old and is relatively inexpensive. For example, even a seller like his hometown Texas Rangers could consider him in a trade if they first move Jonathan Lucroy.

For the Phillies, trading Rupp is a consideration only because Andrew Knapp looks like a capable major-league catcher (.366 OBP) and Jorge Alfaro is out of options after this season.

Phillies trade breakdown: Why they added lefties, Kim, bonus pool money

Phillies trade breakdown: Why they added lefties, Kim, bonus pool money

The Phillies didn't have much leverage with Howie Kendrick or Jeremy Hellickson but were able to make worthwhile trades involving both on Friday night.

In totality, the Phillies on Friday traded away Kendrick (to the Nationals) and Hellickson (to the Orioles) and brought back two young left-handed pitchers, a fourth outfielder already in the majors and two chunks of international amateur signing bonus pool space.

Here's everything you need to know about the pair of trades GM Matt Klentak swung last night — and what it means to add international bonus pool space:

Little leverage
Kendrick has been a very productive hitter this season when he's played (.340 batting average, .851 OPS), but he's already missed 61 percent of the season and could miss a few more days after being hit by a pitch on the wrist Wednesday.

Kendrick's solid bat and positional versatility made him attractive to contending clubs like the Nationals, but given his injury issues this season and his impending free agency, the Phillies were not going to get a ton for him.

With Hellickson, the leverage wasn't there because he has a 4.73 ERA and the second-lowest strikeout rate in the major leagues. He, too, is a free agent after the season, and the Phillies wouldn't have been able to extend him a qualifying offer a second offseason in a row under the new CBA. So teams around the league knew the Phils had to trade Hellickson, if only because they had no other path to getting any value whatsoever for him.

Adding lefties
For Kendrick, the Phillies received 21-year-old left-handed starting pitcher McKenzie Mills, who has experienced a "remarkable transformation" this season, according to Klentak.

Prior to this season, Mills had walked 74 batters in 111 innings at the lowest levels of the Nationals' farm system. But he's broken out in 2017 — in 18 starts, Mills is 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA, 118 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 104⅔ innings. He was recently promoted to High A.

Mills gives the Phillies another young starting pitching prospect with a chance to someday make an impact on the major-league rotation — kind of like Zach Eflin did after the Jimmy Rollins trade, or Ben Lively after the Marlon Byrd trade, or Nick Pivetta after the Jonathan Papelbon trade. Eflin, Lively and Pivetta have had varying significance on the Phillies' pitching staff the last two years. We don't know if any of them will be long-term keepers but at the very least Lively looks like a back-end starter and Pivetta has the potential to stick in the middle of a rotation with his strikeout stuff.

One thing the Phillies' farm system lacked before these trades — and still does to an extent — is left-handed pitching. Across all levels of their system, their pitching prospects are mostly right-handed. 

From Single A to Triple A, the Phillies have four left-handed pitchers who've had some degree of success: Nick Fanti (Lakewood), JoJo Romero (Clearwater), Cole Irvin (Reading) and Brandon Leibrandt (Lehigh Valley). Mills gives them another.

The left-hander acquired from the Orioles for Hellickson is Garrett Cleavinger, Baltimore's third-round pick in 2015 out of the University of Oregon.

Cleavinger is 23 years old and may end up being just a guy. He has a 6.28 ERA in 27 relief appearances this season with 42 strikeouts and 23 walks in 38⅔ innings. All 83 of his minor-league appearances have been out of the bullpen. He's had some trouble as he's progressed from Low A to High A to Double A, so it remains to be seen whether he'll factor into the Phillies' future in any way.

The Phils had more leverage with Kendrick than with Hellickson, so it makes sense they got a much better prospect back for Kendrick.

Hyun Soo Kim
In the Hellickson trade, the Phillies also brought back 29-year-old major-league outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, who left Korea to sign a two-year deal with the Orioles prior to 2016.

Kim is a contact hitter whose best skill in Korea was his ... wait for it ... control of the strike zone. (That term ring a bell?)

A left-handed hitting leftfielder, Kim walked a lot and barely struck out year after year in Korea, posting a .406 on-base percentage in 10 professional seasons. He signed a two-year, $7 million deal to join the Orioles and posted a .382 OBP in 346 plate appearances last season, but he fell out of favor this year.

Kim has played sparingly in 2017, hitting .232/.305/.288 in 141 plate appearances. He was expendable for the O's and trading him was a way for them to save a bit of money. He won't cost guys like Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams and Odubel Herrera playing time.

Kim is a free agent after the season. His inclusion in the Hellickson deal is reminiscent of the Phillies' getting Nate Schierholtz from the Giants in 2012 as part of the Hunter Pence trade. Like Schierholtz, Kim has a chance to stick here as a fourth outfielder if he hits. If he doesn't, the Phillies can let him walk after the season just like they did with Schierholtz.

International bonus pool money
This component of the trades of both Kendrick and Hellickson should not be overlooked. Klentak says he's added about $1 million in international bonus pool money.

What does that mean and why does it matter?

Over are the days when teams could spend a ton on the international market. Under the new CBA, most teams begin each season with $4.75 million to spend during the international signing period. But teams classified as small market or small revenue get either $5.25 million or $5.75 million. The Phillies fit into neither category, so they start with the lower $4.75 million figure.

But by adding international bonus pool money in both trades, the Phillies are now closer to the highest end of international spending space. Teams can acquire up to 75 percent of their original pool allotment, so for a team like the Phillies that means they can add a maximum of $3.56 million to their pool.

Eight MLB teams began with the high-end number of $5.75 million but three of them incurred a penalty for previously exceeding their bonus pools. So with this nearly $5.75 million, the Phillies are in the same position as only five other teams: the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Rockies and Pirates.