Maikel Franco, Carlos Santana a powerful 1-2 punch right now

Maikel Franco, Carlos Santana a powerful 1-2 punch right now


With Rhys Hoskins and Scott Kingery ebbing, the Phillies' offense is being carried right now by three players: Odubel Herrera, Maikel Franco and Carlos Santana.

Herrera's recent successes have been well-documented. But Franco and Santana are making just as much of a difference right now after a poor 2017 from the third baseman and a slow April from the first baseman. 

Wednesday against the Giants, Franco and Santana had three-hit nights and Herrera walked three times to extend his on-base streak to 38 games.

Franco homered again in the 11-3 win. He's up to .292/.325/.540 on the season with seven homers and 28 RBI. Through this many games last season, Franco's power and run production were similar (five homers, 25 RBI) but he was hitting just .208/.281/.358.

We've been here before with Franco. Is this hot streak any different than the ones that have fooled us in the past? There's at least some reason to believe so. Between Franco's improved plate selection, decreasing groundball rate and ability to hit the ball the other way more often, this stretch looks and feels different.

As for Santana, he has eight extra-base hits in his last eight games. He went 3 for 5 Wednesday with a double and five RBI. Two of his run-scoring hits came with two outs, putting the Phillies up, 1-0, and then turning a three-run lead into a 5-0 lead.

It's not much of a surprise to see Santana heat up. He's a notoriously slow starter who has hit just .225 in April and .251 in all months thereafter. 

Over his last eight games, Santana has gone 10 for 34 (.294) with four doubles, three homers, a triple and 12 RBI.

The production from both players is a welcome sign for the Phillies, who got so little out of the five-spot in April.

Other notes
• The Phillies are now 14-2 against teams outside the division and 7-13 against the NL East.

Nick Pivetta delivered the kind of bounce-back start he needed with five scoreless innings and seven strikeouts (see story).

• Not that his admission was necessary, but Gabe Kapler said pregame that Jorge Alfaro and Aaron Altherr have earned their regular roles behind the plate and in right field. Andrew Knapp got the nod Wednesday, but Alfaro has started 22 of the Phillies' 36 games. Knapp had a nice night, walking and scoring in the fifth inning and singling in a run in the sixth.

• Over the last four games, Phillies starting pitchers have a 1.17 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and a .154 opponents' batting average.

• Another quick, impressive inning from Seranthony Dominguez in his second major-league appearance. He pitched another perfect inning against the Giants with a strikeout. He threw eight pitches, seven strikes, again flashing an upper-90s fastball and slider with notable downward movement.

• Bad news on Pat Neshek: He suffered a right flexor strain (elbow/forearm) while throwing a bullpen session during his shoulder rehab. More here on what the injury means.

• The Phillies activated Ben Lively off the 10-day DL and optioned him to Triple A. It was obvious that Zach Eflin would not be losing his rotation spot after dazzling in his last two starts.

• The Phillies' four-game series with the Giants concludes tomorrow at 1:05 p.m. in a Facebook-only game. Vince Velasquez (2-4, 5.14) will be opposed by left-hander Ty Blach (3-3, 3.60).

What if Kruk was the commissioner of baseball?

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What if Kruk was the commissioner of baseball?

On this edition of Krukcast, Gregg Murphy and John Kruk dive into one of life's great hypothetical scenarios. What would Kruk do if he became the commissioner of baseball? From uniform rules to schedule changes, Kruk has a lot of ideas. See if you agree with them (or any of them).

1:30 - Keep the uniforms uniform.
4:00 - Changing a fundamental rule in baseball.
5:30 - A change to the schedule.
8:00 - A day of per week for players?
10:00 - Get rid of September callups?
12:30 - What to do with players busted for PED's?
15:30 - Replay.
17:30 - Check swing rule change.

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How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

How much is too much for Phillies in a Manny Machado trade?

There has been even more Manny Machado talk than usual in Philly of late. The combination of the recent Phillies-Orioles series and the Phils' winning ways has increased the chatter about whether they should trade for Machado this season rather than wait him out in free agency.

Obvious arguments can be made for both sides. 

Why not make the trade? Because waiting him out until free agency allows you to hold on to all of your young players. 

Why make the trade? Because, as some have argued, it makes you significantly better in 2018 and could create a (pretty unlikely) situation where Machado wouldn't want to leave. I say unlikely because there is literally no recent example of a rental superstar signing with the acquiring team before free agency. Even when guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Holliday re-upped with the Mets and Cardinals, it was only after first testing the market.

Want the most recent example of it actually happening? It was 2002 when Scott Rolen re-signed with the Cardinals shortly after being traded by the Phillies. So we're talking 16 years.

Let's break down all the key points here.

Minuscule chance he signs before free agency
No matter what team might acquire Machado this summer, it makes little sense for him to sign a contract extension before first seeing what other teams will offer this winter. Even if a team like the Phillies, Dodgers or Cubs trades for Machado in July and offers him a $275 million extension, why would he sign it? Theoretically, that same offer would still be there a few months later, and the price would only surge if a bidding war between big-market teams ensues. Which it will.

Machado is such an amazing player that his market will be vast. The fact he can play both shortstop and third base is a huge factor as well. If he could play only one position, the list of fits would be reduced. But even the teams set at both shortstop and third base could move guys around to make room for a superstar.

How much is too much to give up in a trade?
With Machado being a two-month rental this season, the Orioles' asking price just cannot be as high as it would have been last winter or last summer.

Look, for example, at the J.D. Martinez trade from last July. The Tigers dealt him to the Diamondbacks in exchange for a three-player package that almost every analyst deemed light. None of the players the Tigers received were listed among the top 10 D-backs prospects on the major sites.

That was despite the fact that Martinez had gotten off to a great start in Detroit, hitting .305/.388/.630 with 16 homers in 200 at-bats.

Occasionally, there still are overpays for rentals, but it takes the right team and the right fit. In 2016, the Cubs could smell a World Series and traded exciting shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for two months of Aroldis Chapman. It worked for both teams, with the Cubs winning it all and Torres now playing every day for the Yankees.

The difference with the Phillies in this situation is that they are not merely one piece away like the 2016 Cubs. 

So, what's a legit trade package?
If the Phillies were to offer the Orioles J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens and a pitching prospect or two, that might at least get a conversation started.

Some will read that paragraph and immediately react with, "How could you give away 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford for a rental?"

Well ... how valuable is 5½ inexpensive years of Crawford if he's not the player we thought he might be? Crawford is extremely early into his major-league career, but so far he has been below average offensively and inconsistent defensively. He's the kind of player who makes sense in a trade like this because another organization might view him as young enough to reach his ceiling.

With Cozens, he's somewhat blocked in this organization but continues to put up big power numbers at Triple A. For some teams, he'd at least have been given a cup of coffee in the majors already. But the Phillies, at this point, have a surplus of outfielders with Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, Nick Williams, Rhys Hoskins and Roman Quinn (if he can ever stay healthy). The Phils also used their last three first-round picks on outfielders, though all three have underwhelmed to this point.

As for the third piece of this concocted offer, the pitching prospect, we are not talking Sixto Sanchez here. You simply don't get an organization's best pitching prospect for a two-month rental.

But the Phils have more than one intriguing young arm in their minor-league system. Cole Irvin and Enyel De Los Santos have been great this season at Triple A. The Double A guys — Franklyn Kilome, JoJo Romero, Ranger Suarez and Elniery Garcia — have struggled so far but all have potential.

The Orioles need help everywhere, so there's no specific player or position they'd be looking for in return. They just need quality and quantity because they have aging veterans, a truly awful starting rotation and one of the sport's most barren farm systems.