- Hector Neris and Edubray Ramos will see a lot of action over the last two months of the season and the relievers could be trade chips for the Phillies this winter, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The Phils scored one major trade haul for Ken Giles last winter, and if Neris and/or Ramos both continue their impressive performance, they could also bring back a solid return. As Phillies GM Matt Klentak noted about the trade deadline, “the industry is shifting. They’re paying a lot for elite bullpen arms. We learned that a little bit last offseason ourselves, and I think that’s been reinforced through some of the trades this year.”
The Phillies have announced that they’ve designated lefty Brett Oberholtzer for assignment, a move that clears roster space for top prospect Jake Thompson, who will start today. The team also announced that it has requested release waivers on righty Andrew Bailey, who was designated for assignment earlier this week.
[Related: Philadelphia Phillies Depth Chart]
The Phillies acquired the 27-year-old Oberholtzer last offseason when they sent Ken Giles to Houston. Oberholtzer has spent the season pitching in a long-relief role in Philadelphia, posting a 4.83 ERA, 6.8 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 in 50 1/3 innings. He doesn’t have great velocity or an outstanding breaking pitch, so his upside appears to be limited, even though he’s left-handed and is capable of starting or relieving. He has a 4.09 ERA, 6.0 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in parts of four big-league seasons.
Bailey’s 2016 season has been his first full, healthy campaign in years, but it hasn’t gone well, as he posted a 6.40 ERA, 9.2 K/9 and 4.2 BB/9 in 32 1/3 innings. The 32-year-old former Athletics closer has pitched parts of seven big-league seasons, spending time with the Red Sox and Yankees in addition to the A’s and Phillies.
As had been widely expected, the Phillies will promote righty Jake Thompson to the big leagues for the first time, per Ryan Lawrence of the Philly Voice (Twitter link). He’ll make his debut start on Saturday.
The move is partially tied to Philly’s placement of fellow young righty Aaron Nola on the 15-day DL, which opened a rotation spot. But the real driver is Thompson’s performance. Over his 129 2/3 innings on the year in his first attempt at Triple-A, Thompson carries a 2.50 ERA with 6.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9.
While that strikeout rate isn’t all that compelling, Philadelphia obviously felt it was time to give him a shot at the game’s highest level. The Phils are quickly building a formidable young rotation, and the organization surely hopes not only to give Thompson his first taste of the majors, but also to get a sense of how ready he will be to shoulder a full starter’s load in 2017.
In years past, Thompson has seen his name in headlines this time of year for rather a different reason. After being shipped from the Tigers to the Rangers in 2014’s Joakim Soria deal, Thompson went to the Phils last summer as a piece of the Cole Hamels package. Thompson will again be looking for a new place to stay this August, but this time it’ll be with the same organization.
A second-round pick in the 2012 draft, Thompson has rated as a leaguewide, top-100 prospect entering each of the last two seasons. There are varying ways to characterize his potential, with some giving him a shot at harnessing his four-pitch mix to become a top-of-the-rotation presence and others viewing him more as a durable, solid piece who has a somewhat limited ceiling.
The Phillies will soon begin to get an idea of just what they have in Thompson, who was arguably the key piece in the Hamels swap. Philadelphia’s big league roster already features three very promising young hurlers in Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, and Vincent Velasquez, and Thompson will be bidding to take up a similar place in a new-look staff.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images
[Related: Updated Phillies Depth Chart]
- The Phillies have placed righty Aaron Nola on the 15-day DL after he experienced some elbow discomfort, as Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Voice writes. Though there doesn’t appear to be any grave concern, it’s also not clear that Nola will throw again in the majors this year. He’s set to be shut down for at least a week, and if it goes much longer than the team may not see the benefit in trying to ramp him back up for only a few outings.
Bailey, 32, signed a minor league contract with the Phils back in December, and while he didn’t make the club out of Spring Training, he had his contract selected in mid-April and has been in their bullpen ever since. The former A’s closer pitched quite well through his first 16 appearances with Philadelphia, but he’s been scored upon in seven of his past 10 appearances and has a dreadful 10.26 ERA dating back to June 3. Collectively, he’s logged a 6.40 ERA in 32 1/3 innings this season. Bailey’s averaged more than a strikeout per inning this year but has had some issues with his control (4.2 BB/9) and has been susceptible to the long ball while averaging a career-low 92 mph on his heater.
While Bailey’s career got off to a highly promising start — he was a two-time All-Star and the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year during a three-year run as Oakland’s closer — his career went awry following a 2012 trade to the Red Sox. Bailey required thumb surgery early in his Boston tenure, causing him to miss the majority of the 2012 campaign, and his career since that time has been slowed first by a biceps injury and eventually by 2013 shoulder surgery. Bailey didn’t pitch at any level in 2014, and he logged just 8 2/3 innings with the Yankees last season, so the very fact that he’s been able to take a big league mound with some degree of regularity is a step in the right direction for him. With nearly six years of Major League service time under his belt, Bailey has the right to refuse an outright assignment in favor of free agency if he’s put through waivers.
There’s no question that the Phillies are rebuilding, with some of their better prospects—see J.P. Crawford, Nick Williams and Jake Thompson—closing in on the Major Leagues. As a result, there was an expectation that general manager Matt Klentak would, at the least, trade away free agents-to-be Jeremy Hellickson and David Hernandez, both of whom are having strong seasons, and veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, who has a $4.5MM club option in 2017. But the first-year general manager came up empty during his first trade deadline.
As Klentak explained on a conference call earlier today, he was open-minded to making a deal and had dialogue with quite a few teams on a number of their players.
“We had offers out to other teams that, if accepted, we would have done,” Klentak said. “At the end of the day, there was nothing we felt made sense for the organization at this time.”
Citing a focus on appropriately balancing the present and the future, Klentak believes that Ruiz and Hellickson are playing a key role in the development of their younger players.
“We want to make sure our young players are being mentored by the right veterans,” Klentak explained. “Chooch has had a great career with the Phillies, and we value what he means to the organization and to the younger players. We like what he brings to this team.”
With regard to the 29-year-old Hellickson, who was acquired from the Diamondbacks last winter, Klentak stressed the importance of having a reliable innings-eater with many of the Phillies’ young pitchers beginning to approach innings totals that they haven’t reached in their careers.
“The reason we went out and acquired him last offseason is to provide stability to our rotation and mentor our young pitchers,” Klentak said. “I think he’s been outstanding in that role.”
While Klentak said that they have not determined whether Hellickson will be given a qualifying offer, which is estimated to be $16.7MM, they are mindful that a new Collective Bargaining Agreement could be in place by the offseason. With a very supportive ownership group and few future commitments, however, he wouldn’t rule it out. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of an August trade, although there are more hurdles to clear that would make it complicated.
As far as opening up playing time for young prospects, Klentak said that he never looked at the trade deadline as the platform that would allow them to play. The important thing, he said, is to call them up when they’re ready and never have to send them back because they’re not ready.
“[The lack of trades] doesn’t set back the timeline for any promotion,” he says. “We will promote them when they’re ready. If we need to create room, we will do so. There’s a decent chance we’ll see another somewhat notable promotion of a first-time big-leaguer before the season’s up.”
While we’ll certainly break out any stories that seem to have some helium, we’ll use this post to keep tabs on less pressing developments in the market for starting pitching:
- The Pirates are talking to the Yankees about Ivan Nova, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
- The Marlins are now looking for another starter after sending Colin Rea back to the Padres, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets.
- Angels lefty Hector Santiago is still on the Tigers’ radar, along with Hellickson, per Morosi (via Twitter). Santiago has been talked about a decent bit in recent weeks, but we haven’t heard very many strong connections. Los Angeles is likely willing to deal him in the right situation, but surely puts a high value on a useful starter who is controllable beyond the year.
- The Astros are mostly just “dabbling” in the market for starters, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. Edinson Volquez of the Royals represents one possible target, though Houston is said not to be terribly interested in the veteran righty.
- While we haven’t heard much in the way of specifics, the Cubs are said to be eyeing an impactful rotation addition, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that’s still the case. (He adds that the team prefers not to overpay for a left-handed-hitting outfielder, which is also on their wish list.)
- The Phillies may well hold onto righty Jeremy Hellickson, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark tweets. Philly hasn’t changed its asking price — last we heard, at least one quality prospect — but the market is changing. The Giants and Tigers aren’t in the bidding, per Stark, while the Rangers and Blue Jays have other names higher on their priority lists. With that being said, Jon Morosi of MLB.com tweets that Detroit is still looking at Hellickson, among other starters, as they seek to add to their rotation.
The market for relievers is always moving on deadline day, as teams look to add pen pieces that will bolster their depth down the stretch. Fernando Abad is off the board, having been traded to the Red Sox today. We’ll keep tabs on the remaining relievers here:
- The Orioles and Marlins are shopping for a low-end left-handed reliever, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Sherman feels the Braves’ Hunter Cervenka could be one such candidate, while ESPN’s Jayson Stark names Cervenka as a last-minute target for the Fish.
- Sherman also notes that the Rangers are among the teams looking at Braves righty Jim Johnson. The Braves have kicked around Johnson as well, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday, but nothing appears close.
- While they are also pursuing larger targets, the Giants have perused the second tier of the relief market, per ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (Twitter link). While the top targets have perhaps mostly already been traded, San Francisco has scouted the Brewers’ strong group of relievers as well as increasingly valuable Rockies southpaw Boone Logan — though last we heard he may not be traded. Jeanmar Gomez of the Phillies is another name the Giants have checked, though he too isn’t sure to be dealt. And even as the Giants talk with the Rays on starter Matt Moore, the club has also watched right-handed swingman Erasmo Ramirez, per Crasnick.
- The Astros are kicking around some left-handed reliever options, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports (Twitter links). That’s arguably the team’s biggest area of need. Some of the names mentioned include Logan and Jake McGee of the Rockies and the Brewers’ Will Smith — all of whom are at or near the remaining market for relief southpaws. It’s not immediately clear whether any are real options at this stage, as Crasnick notes that nothing has “materialized” to this point.
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reports that the Giants’ interest in Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has been overstated (Twitter link). San Francisco isn’t currently in the mix for Hellickson, says Crasnick, despite prior connections. As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki writes, Hellickson left his last start after bruising his hand at the plate, but the issue seems to be a minor one. Zolecki notes that, in addition to the Orioles — who could be out of the market after acquiring Wade Miley — clubs including the Blue Jays, Tigers, and Marlins have sent scouts to watch Hellickson’s recent outings.
- ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets that the Tigers have been checking in on fourth/fifth starter types, including Jeremy Hellickson of the Phillies, Wade Miley of the Mariners, Edinson Volquez of the Royals, Hector Santiago of the Angels and Erasmo Ramirez of the Rays. Detroit is looking to bolster its rotation and doesn’t seem keen on dealing away any potential long-term options in the rotation, as Crasnick’s colleague Jayson Stark tweets that clubs who have spoken to the Tigers say they’ve repeatedly turned away offers including Daniel Norris and Matt Boyd. (Notably, Stark mentioned the refusal to include Boyd and Norris in connection to some speculation on Jonathan Lucroy, but Detroit’s reluctance to part with either left-hander is worth mentioning all the same.)