Royals scouts watching Phillies' minor-league system in prep for possible Mike Moustakas trade

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Royals scouts watching Phillies' minor-league system in prep for possible Mike Moustakas trade

It’s no secret that the Phillies are considering an upgrade at third base — both for the long and short term.

They have long had their sights on Baltimore’s Manny Machado. The Orioles are expected to trade the free-agent-to-be in July. The Phillies have long been in touch with the Orioles, but don’t appear to be in a hurry to part with significant young talent for a rental player when they can pursue him with just cash in the offseason (see story).

Texas veteran Adrian Beltre has been mentioned as a potential short-term fit for the Phillies, but there are others, including Kansas City’s Mike Moustakas. Neither would cost anything close to the prospect outlay that Machado would.

According to a baseball source, Phillies and Royals officials have had discussions about Moustakas and Royals scouts have been peeking in on prospects in the Phillies' minor-league system in advance of a possible deal.

Moustakas, who turns 30 in September, is a two-time All-Star and left-handed-hitting power bat who stroked 38 homers and drove in 85 runs in 2017. He had hoped to ride that season to a big, free-agent payday last winter, but one never materialized and he returned to the Royals for one year and $6.5 million.

In 78 games this season, Moustakas is hitting .255 with a .777 OPS. He has 15 homers and 49 RBIs. His on-base percentage is just .310. That does not fit what the Phillies are looking for long term, but for the right price the Phils would probably roll the dice on Moustakas bringing some pop to the lineup for a half-season.

Earlier this month, the Phillies appeared to be transitioning away from Maikel Franco at third base (see story). He had lost time at the position to J.P. Crawford before Crawford went on the disabled list with a broken hand.

Franco has gotten more playing time recently and responded with more production. He entered Friday night with 10 hits, including five doubles and a home run, in his last 21 at-bats (.476) and had reached base in half of his 22 plate appearances to push his on-base percentage over .300. It’s doubtful Franco’s recent surge will seal his place in the Phillies’ future, but the team will take it because it helps win games and could build some trade value.

The calendar turns to July on Sunday and that typically starts the countdown to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Phillies general manager Matt Klentak has indicated that his level of aggressiveness in making trades would be dictated by the team's place in the standings as the deadline approaches. The Phillies have survived a tough June schedule. They entered Friday night’s game against Washington with a 12-13 record in June and were 43-36 overall, just two games behind first-place Atlanta in the NL East.

In addition to seeking an upgrade at third base, Klentak will monitor the market for available starting and relief pitching.

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At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?


At the Yard podcast: Where will Didi Gregorius bat? Are Phillies done?

Where will Didi Gregorius hit in the Phillies' order? How will the infield defense be aligned? Are the Phillies done? Jim Salisbury and Corey Seidman discuss on Wednesday's At the Yard podcast.

• Surprised it was a 1-year deal?

• Why a 1-year deal carries so much value for the Phillies.

• Will Kingery play 2B or 3B?

• Could Segura be dealt?

• Where might Didi bat in the order?

• An interesting Phillies-Yankees trade idea from Jim.

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Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Phillies obviously better with Didi Gregorius, Zack Wheeler and Joe Girardi, but was this enough?

Didi Gregorius is a fun addition for the Phillies. His personality and the joy he plays with will quickly make him a fan favorite. He'll improve the clubhouse dynamic and he'll improve the Phillies' infield defense and lineup.

At one year, what's not to like? It's a one-year, $14 million contract for Gregorius, according to Jim Salisbury, which gives the Phillies an entire year to figure out their infield. Where does Jean Segura fit? What about Scott Kingery? When will Alec Bohm be ready? Can Rhys Hoskins, the most important hitter of them all, turn it around in 2020?

By tying themselves to Didi for only one year, the Phillies can pivot quickly if this does not work out, or if a second base/third base combo of Jean Segura and Scott Kingery does not provide enough offense. Bohm is the other major factor in all of this — if his defense can hold at third base for even a few years during the early part of his career, and if his power and control of the strike zone can translate to the majors, he could be the run-producing five-hole hitter this Phillies team needs.

Before Bohm arrives, though, the question is whether the Phillies' eight projected everyday players represent a contending lineup. It will likely shake out like this. Focus more on the names than the batting order because of how many variations there could be:

1. Andrew McCutchen, LF (R)
2. Didi Gregorius, SS (L)
3. J.T. Realmuto, C (R)
4. Bryce Harper, RF (L)
5. Rhys Hoskins, 1B (R)
6. Jean Segura, 2B (R)
7. Scott Kingery, 3B (R)
8. Adam Haseley, CF (L)

Given the current composition of the rest of the Phillies' roster, this looks like a mid-80s-win team at first glance. A team that projects for 85 to 87 wins with a chance to crack 90 if many things break right. 

If Hoskins rebounds. 

If Kingery becomes a valuable everyday offensive contributor. 

If McCutchen has a full season as productive as his pre-injury work in 2019. 

If the Aaron Nola-Zack Wheeler duo combines for 400 innings with an ERA in the low 3.00s.

If Bohm and Spencer Howard force the Phillies' hand by playing well.

If we see second-half Realmuto and Harper in 2020.

If Jake Arrieta can be more of a No. 3 than a No. 5.

If the Phillies find and settle on a reliable 8th inning-9th inning combination.

The Phillies are unquestionably better now than they were at the end of the 2019 season. Gregorius is a better and more impactful than the player he's basically replacing, Cesar Hernandez. Wheeler is the No. 2 starter the Phillies desperately needed. New manager Joe Girardi may be able to add a win or two here and there with good decision-making.

They are better. The question is how much better. Good enough to push the Nationals and Braves for the division? That would seem an optimistic viewpoint of this Phillies roster, but they can still tinker with their core throughout the offseason by adding another starting pitcher like Wade Miley, a high-upside reliever like Dellin Betances and another good hitter for the bench.

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