Phillies

As Phillies wait for answer on Manny Machado, keep an eye on J.A. Happ

As Phillies wait for answer on Manny Machado, keep an eye on J.A. Happ

As the Phillies wait for the Baltimore Orioles to make a decision on where they will send Manny Machado, here is another name that is on the team's list of July trade considerations:

J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The left-hander ranks behind Machado and his Baltimore teammate, Zach Britton, on the Phillies' wish list, but there is definite interest, according to a league source.

In fact, the Blue Jays have spent much time scouting the Phillies' minor-league system recently, according to a league source.

Happ, 35, is in the final season of a three-year, $36 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. In 19 starts, he is 10-6 with a 4.29 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.

Happ, of course, was originally Phillies property, selected by the club in the third round of the 2004 draft out of Northwestern University. He debuted with the Phillies in 2007 and earned a World Series ring with the club in 2008. He finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2009 and was traded to Houston as part of the package for Roy Oswalt the next summer.

The Phillies have not had a left-hander make a start for them since late in the 2016 season. Having a lefty in the rotation is not imperative, but there would be value to it in a pennant race — and beyond — if the Phils could land the right one. Landing a lefty starter could open the possibility of using Vince Velasquez as a one-inning bullpen weapon in the postseason.

The Phillies have long been connected to Cole Hamels, another lefty starter who, of course, has significant Phillies roots. However, there has been no evidence to date that the Phils are pursuing Hamels, who has a $20 million contract option for next season that can be bought out for $6 million.

Neither Happ nor Hamels have pitched especially well lately. Happ, however, was named to the American League All-Star team on Sunday, a nod to his consistency earlier in the season.

Machado update

As for Machado, the Phillies, according to well-placed sources, are one of two or three teams — the others being the Dodgers and Brewers — awaiting a verdict in the Machado sweepstakes. Some industry sources question whether the Brewers have the prospects to get a deal done. The Dodgers and Phillies do have the prospects. The Phillies would be willing to part with a more significant package if Britton, a lefty closer, is included in the deal. It would not be surprising if there is a resolution to all this later this week.

Machado, a slugging left-side infielder, is eligible to become a free agent at season's end. The Phillies are willing to trade for him now and take their chances that they can sign him later this summer or in the offseason, provided they trade from depth areas of their farm system and don't mortgage their future.

Over the weekend, club president Andy MacPhail said the team's play — first place in the NL East at the All-Star break — had put management in a position where it needed "to try to augment our current group to try to preserve our place in the standings for as long as we can."

More on the Phillies

Jake Arrieta 'taking the lead' of Phillies' rotation, imparting some wisdom to Nick Pivetta

Jake Arrieta 'taking the lead' of Phillies' rotation, imparting some wisdom to Nick Pivetta

This is the guy the Phillies paid $75 million for.

Jake Arrieta has been awesome in his first four starts, resembling more of the pitcher from 2014-16 than the last two seasons. Again on Wednesday afternoon, he kept the ball low, generating groundball after groundball, tapper after tapper in the Phillies' 3-2 win.

He allowed six hits over eight innings and four were infield hits. He ended three innings — the third, seventh and eighth — with double-play balls. 

He faced 29 batters and only six sent the ball past the infield.

Through four starts, Arrieta is 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA. He has four straight quality starts, a longer streak than he had at any point in 2018. And the Phillies have needed every bit of it. In their other 13 games, their starting pitchers have just three quality starts.

It's definitely the most locked-in he's been as a Phillie.

"When I'm right, you're going to see a lot of balls on the ground. The timing of my delivery right now is really good," Arrieta said. "I just look forward to continuing to keep that where it is and still want to make some progress with a couple of my off-speed pitches, but the changeup's been great. It's a pitch for me where I know I can get swings and misses and weak contact so I'm going to keep throwing that quite a bit and get the cutter sharpened up."

It's early, but this changeup could take Arrieta to a higher level. Lefties hit .281 against him last season compared to .156 entering Wednesday. The pitch has enough movement, laterally and vertically, right now for him to use it against hitters from both sides.

In his last start, he threw 20 changeups and 17 were strikes. Wednesday afternoon, he threw 21 changeups and while two went for hits, one was a double-play ball and two more were swinging strikeouts.

"It was one of the top two or three performances I've seen from Arrieta since he's been a Phillie," manager Gabe Kapler said. "It was really impressive. It certainly seems like he's taken the reins and taking the lead for our pitching staff right now."

Despite inconsistent starting pitching, the Phillies are 11-6, a pace of 104 wins. They've gone 4-1-1 in six series. They'll need other starting pitchers to step up throughout the season, and they'll definitely need Aaron Nola to find his release point and command, but right now Arrieta is softening the struggles of a few of his rotation-mates.

Arrieta is also well-qualified to discuss what Nick Pivetta is going through. Pivetta was sent down to Triple A on Wednesday morning after a miserable first four starts. When GM Matt Klentak spoke about the move, he referenced Victor Arano and Hector Neris as recent examples of pitchers going down to the minors, finding their command and confidence and returning to have success. Klentak also mentioned Roy Halladay, who had the early-career issues before becoming the best pitcher in baseball. Halladay's name wasn't used to argue that Pivetta could someday be the best of the best, but instead to remind folks that even the most talented arms go through rough periods.

Another example Klentak could have cited was Arrieta himself. Arrieta was a touted prospect coming through the Orioles' farm system a decade ago, and after a few unsuccessful years in Baltimore, he became an ace in Chicago.

The Phillies' young starting pitchers take a lot of their cues from the 33-year-old Arrieta, who spoke with Pivetta after the somewhat surprising roster move.

"I talked with him, yeah. The situation he's in right now is one that I'm very familiar with," Arrieta said. "In 2012 and 2013, I went through very similar experiences. This is a moment for him to kind of get away, put his head down and get back to work. I just tried to reiterate to him that the guy he was in spring training is the guy who he really is. 

"He just needs to be a little bit more on the attack with the type of stuff that he has. You pick five to 10 guys with the best stuff in baseball and he's in that group. He just needs to refine some things, make sure his head's in a good space and get back to work because he's gonna be here. He's gonna be a big part of our team this season. This is just a moment for him to kind of get away for a little while, get his stuff right and get back here pretty soon."

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies

Phillies 3, Mets 2: Scott Kingery, Cesar Hernandez provide Phils just enough offense for series win

Phillies 3, Mets 2: Scott Kingery, Cesar Hernandez provide Phils just enough offense for series win

Another strong performance from Jake Arrieta and a pair of solo home runs were the difference for the Phillies Wednesday afternoon as they completed a series win over the Mets with a 3-2 victory.

Arrieta allowed one run over eight innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA through four starts. He's made four straight quality starts to begin his season. He did not have a streak of four straight quality starts at any point in 2018.

Arrieta came out to pitch the ninth but was pulled after allowing a leadoff single, which eventually came around to score. Adam Morgan and Hector Neris walked a tightrope but picked up the final three outs. Neris struck Keon Broxton out on a full count with the bases loaded to close it out.

The Phillies are 11-6 and have gone 4-1-1 in their six series. The Mets are 10-8.

Keys to victory

• Scott Kingery stayed hot with a solo home run. Since starting the season 0 for 4, Kingery is 12 for 20 with four doubles and two homers. At no point in his rookie year was he this hot.

• Cesar Hernandez had a productive day at the plate against Mets right-hander Zack Wheeler. Hernandez worked an 11-pitch walk in the second inning to load the bases, and Maikel Franco followed with a sacrifice fly for the Phillies' first run. In the sixth, Hernandez took Wheeler deep for his second longball of the year.

• Arrieta induced inning-ending double plays in the third, seventh and eighth innings. He allowed only six fly balls to the 28 batters he faced.

• J.T. Realmuto is hot at the plate. He went 2 for 4 with a pair of singles and is up to .279/.348/.426 on the season. His work on the basepaths was what stood out the most. He went first to third on a single to left field, scored on a sac fly to center with the centerfielder catching the ball while running toward the plate, and later beat out an infield single. Ninety percent of catchers would be out on all three plays.

Another hammy pull

Odubel Herrera left the game in the fifth inning with an apparent hamstring injury, making it two hammy pulls in two days for the Phillies after Jean Segura left last night. A call-up of Roman Quinn is the logical move if Herrera has to miss time.

Rotation shakeup

Nick Pivetta was optioned to Triple A on Wednesday morning. Jerad Eickhoff takes his spot for the time being and will start Sunday at Coors Field.

Up next

The Phillies head to Colorado. The pitching matchups are:

Thursday — Zach Eflin (2-1, 3.94) vs. LHP Kyle Freeland (1-3, 5.40)

Friday — Vince Velasquez (0-0, 2.25) vs. German Marquez (2-1, 2.00)

Saturday — Aaron Nola (1-0, 7.45) vs. Antonio Senzatela (1-0, 1.35)

Sunday — Jerad Eickhoff (0-0, 0.00) vs. Jon Gray (1-3, 3.42)

Marquez is one tough customer. He pitched a one-hit shutout Sunday against the Giants.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Phillies