Phillies

MLB trade rumors: Bench bats who could help Phillies' league-worst pinch-hitting

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MLB trade rumors: Bench bats who could help Phillies' league-worst pinch-hitting

Given the Phillies' lack of pinch-hitting this season, it was no surprise to see Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal mention over the weekend that they are looking for a left-handed hitter open to a bench role.

Phillies pinch-hitters have gone 13 for 85, hitting .153 with two walks and 28 strikeouts. No National League team has gotten less from its pinch-hitters. The Phillies lack a big bat off the bench who can change a game with one swing. Right now, the bench consists of Sean Rodriguez, Phil Gosselin, Andrew Knapp and whoever does not play among the Scott Kingery-Nick Williams-Maikel Franco group.

Decent options will become available for the Phillies via trade if they have not already, players who won't cost much to acquire. Let's take a look at some players who fit the left-handed description and could help:

Nationals 1B Matt Adams

Adams has been a solid hitter throughout his career and accepting of any role. He has also performed well in extensive pinch-hitting opportunities, hitting .274 with a .790 OPS and 10 home runs in 211 career pinch-hit plate appearances.

Adams' team, the Nationals, are 23-32 and 9½ games behind the Phillies in the NL East. Washington's -30 run differential is fourth-worst in the NL and paints a picture of a team that may not be able to claw its way back into the race. All of the bullpen issues that have plagued the Nats since opening day are still there.

The issue with Adams is that he's one-dimensional — he can play only first base. He's seen time in the corner outfield in the past but he's never been effective there and will soon be 31. The Phillies wouldn't use Adams in the outfield. He'd basically be the 2019 version of Justin Bour.

The Phillies, ideally, want versatility out of their bench pieces and Adams wouldn't provide that. It still shouldn't close the door on him, though, because of what he can contribute in one at-bat per game off the bench.

Nationals OF Gerardo Parra

I mentioned Parra here a few weeks ago when he was designated for assignment by the Giants because of the impact he can make offensively and defensively. He ended up signing with the Nats on May 9 and has played very well so far, hitting .314 with three doubles, two homers and nine RBI in 12 games.

Parra is still one of the game's better defensive outfielders and can play all three outfield spots in addition to first base. He's as good a hitter, if not a better one, than any member of the Phillies' bench.

Marlins INF/OF Neil Walker

Walker offers more positional versatility because he can play first base, second base, third base and both corner outfield spots. He's off to a good start this season, hitting .295/.372/.438 for a terrible Marlins team.

Walker is a switch-hitter who has always been more effective from the left side. He has a career .798 OPS as a left-handed hitter. He's also always hit well at Citizens Bank Park, posting an .881 OPS in 36 career games, his second-highest OPS anywhere he's played more than 20 times.

Reds INF/OF Derek Dietrich

This one is a longshot because of the torrid start Dietrich is off to. He homered three more times on Tuesday night, giving him 17 for the season. He's become an important player to the Reds, but he's also probably not the kind of player they'd find meaningful value for on the trade market.

If Cincy goes on a big slide before July and he becomes available, Dietrich should top the list for any team looking for bench help. Makes you wonder why so many teams let him just linger in free agency. The Marlins designated him for assignment in November, he cleared waivers fully and then waited three months before signing a minor-league deal with the Reds. Anyone could have had him. And it's not as if this is the first year Dietrich has been a productive hitter. From 2015-18, his OPS was 14 percent better than the league average.

Marlins OF Curtis Granderson

Granderson's offensive profile fits what the Phillies like: He sees pitches, takes his walks, hits for power but will strike out a lot. This season, he's hit just .182 with six homers, 18 walks and 46 strikeouts, and has astonishingly been worse against righties than he has against lefties.

He'd probably be more of a fall-back option among this group, but it is worth mentioning that in 2017 and 2018, Granderson hit .349 in 53 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter with two homers, two doubles and an on-base percentage of nearly .500.

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Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

Zack Wheeler's floor a huge boost for Phillies, but that ceiling ...

For long stretches in each of the last two seasons, Zack Wheeler was every bit as effective as Aaron Nola.

Wheeler had four terrific months in 2018, posting a 2.52 ERA over his final 20 starts beginning on June 1.

In 2019, he found his groove right around midseason, pitching to a 3.04 ERA over his final 16 starts.

When you hear the phrase "untapped potential" in relation to Wheeler, this is what it means. It means that if he can pitch like this a bit more consistently — four good months instead of two — he can be a legitimate ace.

If he can't? Well then, if you trust his stuff and his results the last two years, you're getting no worse than a low-end No. 2 starter. Wheeler has made 60 starts the last two seasons with a 3.65 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, a strikeout per inning and less than a home run per nine.

Those numbers might not jump off the page, but they are impressive when you consider the surge in home runs in 2019 and especially so when considering his workload.

Wheeler is one of only 12 pitchers to reach 375 combined innings the last two seasons. The others are Jacob deGrom, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Aaron Nola, Patrick Corbin, Trevor Bauer, Jose Berrios, Miles Mikolas and Mike Leake.

In 2019, Wheeler made 18 quality starts (at least six innings with three earned runs or fewer). Nola also made 18. Zach Eflin had 14, Jake Arrieta had 10 and no other Phillie was in double-digits.

When Nola did not start a game for the Phillies in 2019, they received a quality start 31 percent of the time — less than once every three games.

Wheeler obviously helps with that. Think back to late last season when the Phillies could generate no momentum and had such a smaller chance to win when anyone was on the mound other than their ace. Wheeler changes that. He offers more of a chance for series wins, sweeps, actual winning streaks.

He also brings velocity, something the Phillies' rotation has sorely lacked for years. Wheeler's four-seam fastball averaged a career-best 96.7 mph last season, fourth-fastest in the majors behind Noah Syndergaard, Cole and deGrom.

The Phillies have never had a starting pitcher throw at least 100 innings in a season and average better than 95 mph with his fastball. Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez came the closest. Wheeler has done it comfortably in back-to-back seasons.

Velocity is not the only thing, especially these days when so many have it, but it is obviously still a major part of missing bats and getting outs. Because Wheeler has 3 or 4 mph more on his fastball than Nola, and because he can locate significantly better than Pivetta or Velasquez, he offers the Phillies' rotation a different, much-needed look.

This is not to say Wheeler comes without flaws or concerns. He hasn't yet ripped off a string of strong seasons. Two is a start and the Phillies are banking on it continuing.

He hasn't been a Top 10 Cy Young finisher, though he should have been in '18.

He's never reached 200 innings in a season, though some of that was because of caution the Mets exercised with him.

And Wheeler, despite the velo, has gone through plenty of multi-start stretches where he's been hit hard and doesn't miss many bats, in a way you don't see with the tippy-top guys like Scherzer and deGrom (which Wheeler is not).

He had three starts in a row like that last August and two straight in June.

But Wheeler is as capable of 7 innings, 1 run, 11 strikeouts as any pitcher in either league. When he's on, he can be so, so good. He went at least seven innings 15 times last season and allowed one or no runs in seven of them.

This one addition will not boost the Phillies to 90 wins, but it's the first giant step to another critical offseason.



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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

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At the Yard podcast: Reacting to the huge Zack Wheeler news

Ricky Bottalico and Corey Seidman react to the big news of the Phillies agreeing to a five-year deal with Zack Wheeler on the latest At The Yard podcast.

They also discuss the possibility of the Phillies signing Didi Gregorius, Cole Hamels heading to the Braves, and much more.

• Initial impressions of the signing
• What the guys like most about Wheeler
• Was this the right price?
• Bittersweet day with Hamels to Braves
• Phillies still need to add another good SP
• One Wheeler concern
• The market for Anthony Rendon



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