Phillies

Add Royals' dynamic utilityman Whit Merrifield to Phillies' trade wish list

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Add Royals' dynamic utilityman Whit Merrifield to Phillies' trade wish list

Mike Moustakas isn't the only Kansas City Royal to keep in the back of your mind as the MLB trade deadline approaches. The Phillies are also interested in Royals super-utilityman Whit Merrifield, according to MLB Network's Ken Rosenthal and Jon Morosi.

Merrifield is a dynamic player. The 29-year-old has speed, pop, the ability to hit for average and to play six different positions.

Merrifield hit .288/.324/.460 last season for the Royals with 32 doubles, 19 homers and an AL-leading 34 stolen bases.

This season, he's hit .290/.359/.414 with 25 doubles, five homers and 16 steals.

He typically plays second base for the Royals but wouldn't be playing there much if the Phillies acquired him. Merrifield's also started 11 games in center field this season and 19 in the corner outfield since the start of 2017.

The Phillies would have use for a player like Merrifield at third base and in the corner outfield at times. A right-handed hitter, he's hit a ridiculous .382 in 117 plate appearances this season vs. lefties.

Merrifield makes just $570,000 this season and is under club control through the end of the 2022 season. He won't start making what he's actually worth until 2021.

Because of Merrifield's offensive and defensive versatility and his team-friendly contract, he will be pricy to acquire in a trade. The Royals probably don't have a single more attractive player than Merrifield so they'd need to feel good about the return they get, and they're under no pressure whatsoever to move him right now. He'd still have plenty of trade value in six or 12 months, too.

If the Royals do move Merrifield this month, the Phillies could interest them with a combination of starting pitching prospects or borderline MLB-ready pieces like Dylan Cozens or Roman Quinn. Players like Maikel Franco and J.P. Crawford may be dangled as well. The Royals, like the Orioles, need help everywhere.

On June 29, our Jim Salisbury reported that Royals scouts have been watching the Phillies' farm system (see story).

That was in relation to a potential deal for Moustakas, a rental who would cost less. But the discussions and prep work done by both sides could also play a role in a bigger trade for Merrifield.

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Gabe Kapler remains committed to his bullpen principles even after infuriating loss to Cubs

Gabe Kapler remains committed to his bullpen principles even after infuriating loss to Cubs

CHICAGO — The Phillies tried to fight nuclear war with a bayonet on Tuesday night. They got away with it for a while, but in the end suffered one of their most painful and frustrating losses of the season.

If you added the word infuriating to the list, you probably wouldn't be wrong.

With his four best relievers unavailable because of recent workload, manager Gabe Kapler asked the trio of Edgar Garcia, Jose Alvarez and Juan Nicasio to get the final nine outs with a one-run lead on the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley Field.

Garcia and Alvarez got through the seventh and eighth innings before Nicasio imploded against the Cubs’ rugged lineup in the bottom of the ninth. The Cubs pushed across two runs in the frame and walked off with a 3-2 victory to snap the Phillies’ four-game winning streak (see observations).

It was a brutal loss not just because it came so suddenly, but because it seemed as if the Phils were fighting with one hand tied behind their back.

Relievers Pat Neshek, Adam Morgan, Seranthony Dominguez and Hector Neris — all of whom can and have gotten big outs at the end of games —were all unavailable on the same night. That bit of bullpen management left Kapler in the crosshairs of scrutiny, but he did not budge from his belief that giving those four arms a night off was the right thing to do.

For the record, Morgan had pitched three straight days and Neris three of four. Dominguez worked three of the previous five days and threw 32 pitches on Monday night. Neshek had worked two of the previous four days, but had been up in the bullpen four straight.

“We were strict in giving those guys a blow,” Kapler said. “They've all been working really hard, both in the ‘pen getting up, and also getting into games consistently. We definitely believed Nicasio could get the job done. We saw Alvarez get the job done, we saw Garcia get the job done, and we believed Nicasio could, as well. We were asking a lot of him to go through that part of the lineup. It's a really potent portion of the Cubs' lineup.”

Nicasio opened the ninth by walking the dangerous Kris Bryant. He then gave up a double to Anthony Rizzo. After that, it seemed like it was just a matter of time before the Cubs would push across the two runs they needed to win. The first came on a bases-loaded dribbler between the mound and the first-base line, the second on a clean hit by pinch-hitter Javier Baez.

Nicasio, who had been very good lately — he hadn’t allowed an earned run in 10 straight appearances — declined to speak with reporters after the game.

First baseman Rhys Hoskins was asked if it was frustrating to lose a ballgame without your best bullpen weapons available for deployment.

“I don’t know if ‘frustrating’ is the word,” he said. “I think over the course of a long season, sometimes that’s not the hand you’re dealt. We’ve had to use some guys in big situations pretty frequently lately and we’ve gotten wins because of it. I think this was a situation that everybody knew what we had going in.”

Hoskins paused and added: “I think as an offense we hoped to do a little more but (Cubs’ starter Jose) Quintana was good tonight.”

Quintana indeed limited the Phils to two hits over six shutout innings, but the Phils got three hits against the Cubs’ bullpen in the seventh and took a 2-1 lead on a two-out hit by Andrew McCutchen.

Zach Eflin reached 104 pitches in six innings and Kapler had to to rely on a compromised bullpen to try to close it out.

“It's difficult to hold the Cubs down like (Garcia and Alvarez) did,” Kapler said. “Certainly, we felt like we were in a good position to win that game. We knew we were going to go through the teeth of their lineup and that's a tall task for anyone.”

Kapler showed no regret over not having his top relievers available. He remains committed to going for wins when they are in front of him, even if that means not being in the best position to win a night or two later.

“I think I've been pretty consistent with the approach of aggressively going after wins when we can lock them down,” he said. “I think you always want to balance winning tonight's baseball game with winning a series and winning the long game.”

The Phillies, who remain in first place in the NL East, are 1-1 in this four-game series against the NL Central-leading Cubs. The two teams will be right back at it Wednesday night and the Phillies should have a fresh bullpen, though you probably already deduced that.

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Cubs 3, Phillies 2: Phillies' winning streak ends on Javier Baez's walk-off single

Cubs 3, Phillies 2: Phillies' winning streak ends on Javier Baez's walk-off single

BOX SCORE 

CHICAGO — The Phillies suffered a painful 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

The Cubs won it with two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning against reliever Juan Nicasio, who was called on to close on a night when four of the team’s top relievers were apparently unavailable because of recent workload.

The Cubs scored the game-tying run on a bases-loaded infield hit by Albert Almora Jr.

They won it on a hit by pinch-hitter Javier Baez.

The Phillies’ bullpen was clearly not at full strength as Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez, Adam Morgan and Hector Neris were all unavailable because of recent workload.

Edgar Garcia and Jose Alvarez got the Phils through the seventh and eighth innings with the lead, but Nicasio could not hold it.

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Phillies.

The keys

• Starter Zach Eflin did a lot of bending, but he did not break. In the end, it did not matter.

• Kris Bryant scored from second base on a ground ball to shortstop in the first inning, giving the Cubs a 1-0 lead. Bryant was running on the play. It ended up being a huge run for the Cubs.

• Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco had hits in the seventh to set up Andrew McCutchen for a two-run single that gave the Phils a 2-1 lead.

• The Phillies won a challenge in the bottom of the fourth inning and it kept a run off the board. Bryant stroked a ground-rule double to left with two outs. It initially appeared as if Kyle Schwarber had scored from first on the play, but he was told to return to third after the replay review showed him just past second base as the ball left the field of play. It was a pivotal moment in a close game.

• Nicasio faced an uphill battle after walking the leadoff man in the ninth. He then allowed a double. The Cubs scored the tying run with the bases loaded on a nubber out in front of the plate by Almora. Nicasio's toss home to J.T. Realmuto for an attempted force out was not in time. The next batter, Baez, finished the game with a liner to right field.

Eflin’s night

Eflin worked with catcher Realmuto. His previous four starts had come with Andrew Knapp behind the plate.

The right-hander, who entered the game walking just 1.45 batters pre nine innings (third-best in the majors), was uncharacteristically wild, especially early. He walked a season-high four and three of them came in the first inning.

Eflin was able to survive that early wildness and 32 pitches in the first inning on his way to giving the Phils six innings of one-run ball.

Push for playing time

With Odubel Herrera in an 0-for-15 funk and a lefty on the mound for the Cubs, manager Gabe Kapler used Scott Kingery in center field for the second time in three games. He handled three balls in center and doubled in the ninth. Kingery will continue to get looks in centerfield and has a chance to make a serious dent in Herrera’s playing time if he produces.

Health check

Outfielder Dylan Cozens, who had been playing at Triple A Lehigh Valley, is sidelined indefinitely after requiring surgery to repair a heel injury that bothered him as far back as spring training.

Up next

Rookie Cole Irvin, winner of his first two big-league starts, returns to the mound Wednesday night. He will oppose another left-hander with the same first name. Yes, Cole Hamels will pitch against the Phils for the first time in his career. He is 4-0 with a 3.33 ERA.

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