- Phillies GM Matt Klentak tells Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com that if the Phillies can continue their surprising start and remain in the playoff picture, he’ll certainly be willing to seek upgrades on the summer trade market. “There will be nobody happier than me if we are still in playoff contention in July, and if that happens we’re going to do everything we can to help this team improve and get better and make a run at it,” said Klentak. The GM did preach some caution, noting that only one quarter of the season has been played, and he also explained that he’s been hesitant to go through too much early turnover, hoping instead to allow the players on the roster to settle into roles with which they feel comfortable. The Phillies did make a minor move, promoting Tommy Joseph in an effort to increase the club’s offensive output, but Klentak also acknowledged what has helped his team to its current place in the standings: “We continue to be open-minded towards any types of additions and ways to improve, but right now the success of our team has been built on pitching and defense and we’re going to continue to respect that.”
- The Phillies placed a claim on infielder Jimmy Paredes, who was claimed by the Blue Jays earlier today, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (via Twitter). However, the Jays had an earlier crack at Paredes due to the league-specific nature of outright waivers at this juncture of the season, though Kubatko points out that even if the order were based on record, the Jays would’ve had priority over Philadelphia due to the Phillies’ surprisingly strong start. The Phillies hired former Orioles special assistant Ned Rice as an assistant general manager the offseason, so it’s perhaps not surprising that Philadelphia would have interest in the now-former Orioles infielder/designated hitter.
- Meanwhile, the Phillies got some positive news on outfielder Aaron Altherr, as Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Altherr is two weeks away from picking up a bat, meaning he’s progressing as hoped, though Gelb says he could still land at the longer end of the four-to-six month timeline he was given for a full return. Philadelphia obviously still can’t count on much from the 25-year-old in the current season. With a surprising run out of the gates coming in spite of dreadful production from the corner outfield, it will be interesting to see whether the team is able to do anything to boost its lineup even while staying committed to a rebuilding effort.
The Phillies have released veteran catcher/first baseman J.P. Arencibia from their Triple-A affiliate at his request.
Arencibia, 30, signed a minor league pact with Philadelphia this offseason on the heels of an excellent run with the Rays, during which he batted .310/.315/.606 with six homers in 73 plate appearances. Even in the midst of that outburst, however, Arencibia showed many of the characteristic red flags with which he has come to be associated throughout his big league tenure — namely striking out on 22 occasions (30.1 percent) and walking just once. This year with the Phillies, he’s been unable to replicate that 2015 production, batting .167/.167/.271 in 48 plate appearances.
Arencibia, a former top prospect and once the Blue Jays’ regular catcher, has plenty of power but has long struggled with strikeouts and a lack of on-base skills. He’s a .212/.258/.412 hitter in 1687 plate appearances at the Major League level and a .255/.300/.501 hitter in a similar sample of 1615 PAs at the Triple-A level.
- In the latest Baseball America mock draft, Hudson Belinsky projects the Phillies will take Florida southpaw A.J. Puk with the first overall pick. Pat Gillick and other Phils executives, however, have been seen scouting high school outfielders Mickey Moniak and Blake Rutherford, and sources tell Belinsky that the Phillies could draft a slightly lower-regarded player in order to save slot money on the first overall pick. Philadelphia has a draft bonus pool of just over $13.405MM (the second-highest amount of any club) and it could be the latest team to strategically deploy their draft spending by spending less on a top pick in order to spend more on a harder-to-sign talent in a later round. Ultimately, however, Belinsky feels the Phillies still go with “the safer option” in Puk given “the importance of this pick in the club’s rebuilding effort.”
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is the latest to weigh in on the possibility of the Angels trading superstar center fielder Mike Trout, naming 10 teams capable of putting together packages for the 24-year-old. The Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies, Nationals, Astros, Rangers, Mets, Giants and Cubs could all make a hypothetical Trout trade work, writes Cafardo.
- Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is reviving his stock, having hit .291/.371/.509 with three homers in 62 PAs, and could interest teams looking for a cheaper alternative to the Brewers’ Jonathan Lucroy – who will be the best backstop on the market if Milwaukee shops him. “He doesn’t have the arm he once had, so that aspect of his game won’t come back, but young pitchers love throwing to him,” a National League scout told Cafardo. The 37-year-old Ruiz’s contract includes a $4.5MM club option for 2017.
At 22-15, the Phillies have been among the standings’ biggest surprises this season, but rookie general manager Matt Klentak isn’t losing sight of the fact that the team is in a rebuild, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Klentak also realizes that the Phillies have one of the majors’ worst run differentials and probably won’t be able to sustain their early success in the win column. “We’re not blind to the fact that our run differential is negative by a significant margin,” he said. “We’re well aware that there has been a lack of offensive production throughout much of the lineup.” Only the Braves’ historically anemic offense has been worse than Philadelphia’s thus far, but the good news on the offensive end is that the Phillies have seemingly found an enviable long-term piece in 24-year-old center fielder Odubel Herrera.
- Blue Jays first baseman/designated hitter Chris Colabello and Phillies reliever Daniel Stumpf both received 80-game suspensions in April after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs, and the two remain confused as to how PEDs entered their respective systems, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Colabello’s agent, Brian Charles, organized a conference call earlier this week with doctors, scientists and molecular biologists, all of whom are experts on steroid testing, as he tries to get to the bottom of his client’s positive test. Colabello, Stumpf and ex-UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir also partook in the call. All three tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid Turinabol, and each is without an answer as to how. The players association finds the cases of Colabello and Stumpf “puzzling,” sources tell Rosenthal. “The part that scares me the most is that I don’t know what to change for this not to happen again,” stated Stumpf, who said he only takes fish oil and doctor-prescribed medication. “It’s killing me,” added Colabello. “Everything I do in my life is thought out with careful attention and detail. I don’t do irresponsible things because I never want to make a mistake that could cost me my career.”
- Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com have published their latest mock draft, which is free to all. Within it, the MLB.com duo projects Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis (who was recently interviewed by MLBTR’s Chuck Wasserstrom) to go first overall to the Phillies. Florida lefty A.J. Puk, who has been projected to go 1-1 by some draft gurus, goes to the Reds at No. 2 in Callis and Mayo’s latest attempt to peg the first round, and they have prep lefty Jason Groome (an oft-speculated 1-1 candidate himself) going to the Braves to round out the top three.
Here are the day’s minor moves:
- The Pirates have released righty Daniel Bard, according to Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com (via Twitter). Now 30, Bard hasn’t seen the majors since a brief stint in 2013; indeed, he hasn’t even appeared in the minors since the campaign that followed. The live-armed reliever completely lost his ability to hit the zone and has seemingly never regained it. Pittsburgh had been the latest organization to take a chance on a return to form for the one-time late-inning ace, but obviously it appears as if the experiment didn’t take.
- There were several notable promotions today, some of which we haven’t yet covered. Tommy Joseph got his first big league call from the Phillies, as ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark was first to report on Twitter. He was moved out from behind the plate after dealing with numerous concussions, but has rebounded while shifting to first base and was scorching the ball at Triple-A. Meanwhile, the White Sox brought up lefty Matt Purke, once a high-dollar draftee who never worked out for the Nationals as he battled through significant shoulder issues. Purke owns a 2.30 ERA in 15 2/3 Triple-A innings, with 8.0 K/9 against 4.6 BB/9.
- Carlos Ruiz’s strong start to the season likely increases his marketability in trades this summer, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. While Gelb is quick to note that Ruiz, of course, will not net the Phillies a top prospect, the dearth of quality offensive backstops around the league could make Ruiz stand out, particularly for clubs in need of catching help that do not want to meet Milwaukee’s asking price for Jonathan Lucroy. Manager Pete Mackanin feels that decreased playing time has helped the 37-year-old Ruiz realize improved production, as his body isn’t being worn down by the rigors of catching on three or four consecutive days. Gelb notes that Ruiz does have a partial no-trade clause, and perhaps more interestingly, will gain full 10-and-5 rights on July 14 — just over two weeks before the Aug. 1 deadline. That would allow Ruiz to veto any trade proposal, though a move from a rebuilding club to a contender could hold some appeal to the veteran catcher. Ruiz wouldn’t tip his hand one way or another, simply saying he’s “really happy” in Philadelphia but noting that “anything can happen” at the trade deadline.
Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper is beginning to receive the “Barry Bonds” treatment, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, noting that the reigning NL MVP walked 13 times (including four intentional walks) in just 19 plate appearances over the life of a four-game series versus the Cubs. Harper, who also hit a sacrifice fly and was hit by a pitch during the series, incredibly recorded just four official at-bats. Rosenthal spoke to Harper, manager Dusty Baker, and Reds first baseman Joey Votto (arguably the game’s most patient hitter) about Harper’s approach at the plate and how favorably he compares to Bonds. While all of the interviewed parties agreed that Harper isn’t at Bonds’ level, Votto expressed admiration, opining that Harper could eventually deliver seasons with a .500 OBP and a .700 slugging percentage. Harper acknowledged that it’s difficult to exhibit patience even when he’s being pitched around. “You want to hit, you want to be excited, you’re trying to do everything you can to help your team win,” he said. “But you have to have the courage in the guys behind you.” Beyond faith in his teammates, Harper noted that selectively knowing which pitchers to battle against — Jake Arrieta, Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke (pitchers that “are going to paint”) — is important as well. The interview is well worth a read in its entirety.
A few more notes from the NL East…
- David Wright is continuing to learn how to manage his spinal stenosis, a condition that will impact the remainder of his Major League career, writes Newsday’s Marc Carig. Wright explained to Carig that he had to test his limits earlier this season and thus played in four consecutive games, culminating in a day game after a night game, knowing that the club had an off-day the following day. Upon waking up on that fifth Day, Wright found that he could scarcely stand upright for more than a few minutes and had difficulty walking. “I learned right then that if I tried to do this during the whole course of the year, I’m not making it,” said the Mets’ captain. “It’s just not happening.” Wright’s condition means that manager Terry Collins will have to be judicious in his off-days, particularly during day games that follow night games.
- Corey Seidman of CSNPhilly.com spoke to Phillies farmhand Mark Appel about the team’s upcoming No. 1 selection in the draft, and Appel said that he hopes to get the chance to offer some advice to whoever is selected with that pick. “Looking back, it’s one of those things that it’s a blessing and a curse, it really is,” said Appel, who was selected No. 1 overall by the Astros in 2013 but traded to Philadelphia in the offseason Ken Giles blockbuster. “Whoever the Phillies take first overall, hopefully I’ll be able to meet him and share some of the things that I struggled with and failed at to make him a better player and hopefully see him realize the potential that he has.” The pressure, expectations and public nature of being selected first overall are “hard to explain,” Appel said, admitting that he placed too much pressure on himself after being selected by Houston. Appel is off to a better start with the Phillies, having pitched to a 3.00 ERA through his first 27 innings at Triple-A, although as Seidman points out, the 13 walks and 39 overall baserunners he’s surrendered in that time still suggest that he has some work to do.
- Braves GM John Coppolella and vice chairman John Schuerholz discussed the club’s historically bad start with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. The pair continued to dismiss the notion that the team is tanking, and Nightengale writes that the Braves’ hope was to start out like the Phillies have this year — winning games while in the process of rebuilding. “It’s my first year as a GM,” said Coppolella. “I didn’t want to have the worst record ever.” Nightengale draws a parallel between the 2016 Braves and the 2014 Cubs, noting that there were many cries for president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s dismissal at the time. The Cubs, of course, have baseball’s best record just two years later, and the Braves’ front office that their farm system, built in a rebuild similar to Epstein’s, will also yield quick results. Also of note, Nightengale adds that the GM continues to vow that Freddie Freeman will not be traded, and Freeman himself voiced a desire to see the rebuild through and spend his career in Atlanta. “I owe everything to this organization,” said Freeman.