Matt Klentak sounded last week like a GM ready to add.
He didn't directly say the Phillies will be buyers at the trade deadline because a lot can happen between now and then. But if the Phillies continue to play well as June turns into July and the schedule finally lightens up, they will strongly consider making an upgrade.
"We talked a lot about the June schedule and the difficulty of the opposing teams. And to our guys' credit, the first 30 or so games of that 42-game stretch, our guys have hung in pretty well," Klentak said last Tuesday. "It's been uneven at times — we've had some tough losses, some exciting wins, I've lost some hair — but for the most part, the guys have hung in really well.
"What we've said all along is that if we can come out of June in a good position and get ourselves onto a roll in July, that would hopefully put us in a position to make additions."
The Phils have indeed stayed in the race. They've gone 12-12 in their last 24 games against good competition, and for the season they're 21-23 against teams over .500.
The team to keep an eye on in a trade is the Texas Rangers. At 34-45 with a minus-63 run differential and 18 games out of first place, the Rangers will clearly be sellers. And unlike some of the other sellers, Texas has multiple pieces that could help a contending team.
Last week, we heard of the Phillies' interest in veteran third baseman and future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre. He would be a definite upgrade at third base because, even at 39, Beltre is a much more consistent offensive and defensive player than Maikel Franco. Plug him into the 5-hole in this lineup and it gets that much better.
But Beltre isn't the only piece from the Rangers the Phillies could use ...
The two top starting pitchers on the trade market this July will be former Phillies: Hamels and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ.
Hamels is having a bit of a bounce-back season for the Rangers. Through 15 starts, he has a 3.41 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 92⅓ innings after posting by far the lowest strikeout rate of his career last season (6.4 per nine).
The biggest issue with Hamels at this point is the home runs. He's already allowed 18. As a Phillie, he allowed an average of 23 per season. Some of that is because he's around the plate often with a fastball that averages 91 mph; some of it is because the Rangers' home park is among the most homer-friendly venues in baseball.
The Phillies right now do not have a glaring hole for a starting pitcher, but Hamels would boost their rotation and give them their first lefty starting pitcher since Adam Morgan in September 2016. It's important to have different looks in the rotation. The Phillies have a five-man staff full of righties with good breaking balls. Not only does Hamels pitch with the other arm, he also utilizes his changeup much more than any of the Phils' starters.
Hamels is in the final guaranteed year of his six-year, $144 million contract he signed with the Phillies back in July 2012. After July 31, he'll be owed about $8 million this season. Next season, there's a $20 million club option on his contract with a $6 million buyout. That adds even more attractiveness to Hamels because he could be a rental or a piece for 1½ seasons.
Coincidentally, former Phils reliever Jake Diekman is the other Ranger who could perhaps help the Phillies most.
Diekman was traded to Texas along with Hamels at the 2015 trade deadline for that five-man package of Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher, Jake Thompson and Matt Harrison.
Since getting to the AL, Diekman's only gotten better. His ERAs by season with Texas: 2.08, 3.40, 2.53, 2.96. He still walks way too many batters — 52 in 91 innings the last three seasons — but usually gets away with it because he limits the hits. Since 2015, he has a .209 opponents' batting average.
The Phillies right now do not have a lockdown situational lefty. Adam Morgan is a left-hander but he's not a funky one who's difficult to see and stifles lefties. Diekman is the very definition of a funky lefty, from his frame to his delivery to his movement.
Lefties this season have hit .303 with a .452 OBP vs. Diekman but that's a bit of an anomaly. The previous two seasons, they hit .203.
The Rangers have reportedly made Diekman available in addition to right-handed closer Keone Kela. Kela has two more years of control left after 2018 and will be more expensive to acquire. Diekman is a free agent after the season so he'd be a rental the Rangers won't be able to ask the world for.
The Phillies, for what it's worth, are not opposed to dealing for a two-month player.
"If it's the rental type, we just have to make sure that we're maintaining the proper balance and perspective so that we're making this team better but not mortgaging too much of the future," Klentak said.
What would it cost?
The Phillies aren't trading top prospect Sixto Sanchez. They're not going to create a hole on the major-league roster by trading away a key player like Cesar Hernandez. Let's get that out of the way off the bat.
They can interest teams in other ways. This minor-league system is starting to deepen with starting pitchers. Enyel De Los Santos (1.63 ERA) and Cole Irvin (2.61) have been dominant at Triple A. Ranger Suarez has a 3.04 ERA in 11 starts at Double A. Adonis Medina, a top-100 prospect, is having a good year for High-A Clearwater. Kyle Young, the 6-foot-10 lefty, continues to pitch very well and avoids both walks and hard contact.
On the outfielder front, there's Mickey Moniak, Adam Haseley, Jhailyn Ortiz and even someone like Dylan Cozens, who there's still hope for yet. Highly unlikely the Phillies would part with a talent like Ortiz, and moving either first-round outfielder would be a tough pill to swallow unless you're getting a very good player (or package) back.
If the Phillies wanted to trade for just Beltre or just Diekman, it wouldn't be all that expensive because both are rentals. If they wanted to acquire a package of all three of Hamels, Beltre and Diekman, the cost would obviously rise, perhaps to two pitching prospects and an outfielder.
Suarez, plus a slightly lesser pitching prospect, Cozens and Jerad Eickhoff might get the Rangers interested.
Texas will be fielding plenty of calls this next month, though, so the Phils have virtually no chance of making a trade on the cheap.