Phillies general manager Matt Klentak made a trade Monday afternoon, but not the one that’s on everyone’s mind.
Klentak peddled minor-league first baseman Jack Zoellner to the Baltimore Orioles for an undisclosed amount of international signing bonus money. Zoellner, 23, was a ninth-round draft pick out of the University of New Mexico in 2017. He was hitting .236 with seven homers, 26 RBIs and a .786 OPS in 47 games in the Gulf Coast League this summer.
OK, on to the trade — make that the potential trade — that has folks buzzing.
The Phillies, according to a report by Ken Rosenthal, put in a claim on veteran slugger Jose Bautista, who has been placed on waivers by the New York Mets. A source confirmed that report. The Mets can pull Bautista back or work out a trade with the Phillies. According to a baseball source, the two sides were attempting to swing a deal, but the Phillies were balking at the high price tag that the Mets had placed on Bautista. If the Mets come down on their price, a deal could happen Tuesday.
The Phillies view Bautista, 37, as a right-handed power bat off the bench. It’s a similar role to the one the team assigned to Justin Bour, who was acquired in a waiver deal earlier this month. Bour is on the disabled list with an oblique strain, but the Phillies don’t believe he will be out long.
Bautista has swatted 342 homers in a 15-year career. He is no longer the player he was in his prime with Toronto. He entered Monday hitting just .199 in 277 at-bats with the Atlanta Braves and Mets. But he still has pop. Eleven of his 55 hits were homers.
If the Phillies are successful in landing Bautista, they would have to trim from their 40-man roster, which is full. Acquiring Bautista before Saturday — Sept. 1 — would ensure that he would be eligible for the postseason, if the Phillies get there.
Major League Baseball rules prevented Klentak from talking specifically about Bautista or any player on waivers. Klentak did offer that he has claimed a number of players on waivers this month. In some cases, a deal was simply not struck. In other cases, the player was claimed by a team with a higher waiver priority. For instance, the Phillies put a claim in on Bryce Harper, according to a baseball source. Harper was claimed by a team, reportedly the Dodgers, with a higher waiver priority and the Washington Nationals eventually pulled him off waivers.
“We have been fairly aggressive this month in claiming players on waivers,” Klentak said. “One of those claims led to a trade for Justin Bour a couple of weeks ago. Most of our claims have not led to any trades happening.”
Klentak said it was “possible” he could make a deal before the end of the week.
“I think you have to keep in mind we have added five players in the past few weeks that we feel have shored up our most pressing needs," Klentak said. "We are very cognizant of the fact that August 31 is close and that’s the roster deadline and if there is anything else we need to do, we need to do it by Friday. At this stage, it’s tough to handicap whether that’s likely or not.”