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Phillies trade rumors - Cesar and Rodriguez out, Fein in
by Scott Butler 6/15/17

Jimmy Rollins Phillies

MLB Trade Rumors is a site which describes themselves as "a clearinghouse for relevant, legitimate baseball rumors." Each week at Phils Baseball, we grab their latest Phillies rumors and put them all together in one weekly post.

Here are the latest Phillies rumors:

June 13

Cesar Hernandez Out Six Weeks With Oblique Injury

The Phillies will be without second baseman Cesar Hernandez for roughly six weeks due to a strained oblique muscle, manager Pete Mackanin tells reporters (Twitter link via Meghan Montemurro of the News Journal).

[Related: Philadelphia Phillies depth chart]

The loss of Hernandez will remove one of the few Phillies that has been enjoying a solid season at the plate from the team’s lineup. Through 259 plate appearances, the 27-year-old switch-hitter has batted .277/.336/.399 with five homers and six RBIs. Hernandez has demonstrated more power than he did in 2016, as he’s already just one homer shy of last season’s total, though it’s come at the expense of a diminished walk rate (10.6 percent in 2016, 7.7 percent in ’17). Hernandez has been four runs above average according to both Defensive Runs Saved and Ultimate Zone Rating this year, further contributing to his value.

Veteran Howie Kendrick, who has been excellent at the plate since returning from the disabled list himself, has filled in at second base in each of the past two games for the Phils. Kendrick and his .353/.409/.529 batting line (through just 93 plate appearances) can more than adequately fill in for Hernandez, though he’s a prime trade candidate as well. Of course, if the Phils wait until the trade deadline to deal Kendrick, they may be on the verge of getting Hernandez back on the big league roster anyway.

Some fans may clamor to use Hernandez’s injury as a means of getting a look at well-regarded second base prospect Scott Kingery, though there are numerous factors that could make that scenario unlikely. The 23-year-old Kingery, a former second-round pick, is still only in his first run through Double-A ball. There’s also no urgency for the Phillies to rush him, as they currently hold the worst record in the Majors and don’t need to be especially concerned with adding a couple of wins in what looks to otherwise be a lost season. Kingery also is not yet on the 40-man roster and needn’t be added yet this offseason to shield him from the Rule 5 Draft. He has, however, laid waste to opposing pitchers with a .306/.385/.625 with 18 homers and 14 steals through just 58 games.

June 13

Rangers Acquire Joely Rodriguez

The Rangers have acquired lefty Joely Rodriguez from the Phillies, per announcements from the organizations. Cash or a player to be named later will go back in return for Rodriguez, who was designated for assignment last week.

Rodriguez, 25, will head to Triple-A on optional assignment with his new organization. He’ll provide a depth option for a Texas club that has received strong contributions from southpaw Alex Claudio but may at some point see fit to add another lefty option to the pen.

After showing well in his first dozen major league games last year, Rodriguez opened the current season in the Phillies’ pen. But he struggled to a 6.33 ERA in 27 frames, coughing up 37 base hits while carrying a subpar 18:15 K/BB ratio. That said, Rodriguez has shown the capability to generate big groundball rates with his power sinker.

June 11

Phillies Place Cesar Hernandez On DL

The Phillies have announced that second baseman Cesar Hernandez has been placed on the 10-day DL, as expected, with a left oblique strain. Righty Joaquin Benoit has been activated from the DL and will take Hernandez’s place on the team’s 25-man roster.

As CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury previously noted, Hernandez was injured while throwing on Friday. He was batting .277/.336/.399 for the Phillies this season after emerging as a key offensive and defensive contributor last year. Some Phillies fans might have hoped prospect Scott Kingery, who is batting .300/.377/.612 for Double-A Reading, might have been promoted to take Hernandez’s place, but the team will instead turn to longtime Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, who will move in from the outfield to play second. The move could have implications for Kendrick’s status as a trade candidate; as Steve Adams noted in the Phillies entry in MLBTR’s Taking Inventory series earlier this week, Kendrick’s strong hitting so far this year could make him an attractive trade target for contenders later this summer. Daniel Nava could see more time in the outfield as a result of any playing time Kendrick might receive at second.

The Phillies placed Benoit on the 10-day DL last week due to a left knee sprain. The 39-year-old has a 3.68 ERA, 7.8 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 over 22 innings thus far this season.

June 9

Taking Inventory: Philadelphia Phillies

MLBTR is launching a new summer series entitled ’Taking Inventory,’ in which we’ll preview the potential trade chips that could become available on a number of likely and borderline selling clubs throughout the league.

Entering the season, the Phillies would’ve been on the short list of clubs that were near universally expected to be deadline sellers in 2017. Philadelphia’s rebuilding efforts have been well documented, and while there was plenty of promise thanks to young pieces such as Odubel HerreraMaikel FrancoAaron NolaVince VelasquezJerad Eickhoff and Zach Eflin, that rebuilding effort was all but certain to continue.

Fast forward two months, and things in Philadelphia are more dire than nearly anyone could have predicted. At 21-37, Philadelphia has baseball’s worst record. They went 6-22 in the month of May. Their collective ERA is an MLB-worst 5.02, and they rank 26th in both runs scored and OBP. Suffice it to say, the 2017 season isn’t going well, and for a rebuilding team, that can only mean more trades to stockpile young talent. With that in mind, here’s a look at what the Phillies have to offer other clubs…

Rentals

Pat Neshek, RHP (reliever) | Salary: $6.5MM

Acquired in what amounted to a salary dump this offseason, Neshek has been the Phillies’ best reliever in 2017. Through 22 innings, he’s pitched to a pristine 0.82 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.6 BB/9 and a 35.8 percent ground-ball rate. He’s always been a buzzsaw against right-handed opponents, but lefties have posted a woeful .143/.194/.176 batting line against the 36-year-old Neshek in 37 plate appearances this season. That’s obviously a small sample, but Neshek’s control against both lefties and righties has been markedly better in 2017 than in previous seasons, so some of the improvements against lefties could be legitimate.

Joaquin Benoit, RHP (reliever) | Salary: $7.5MM

Another bullpen stopgap, Benoit has pitched reasonably well when healthy enough to toe the rubber. He’s been on the disabled list since June 1 due to a knee sprain, but there’s no indication that the injury is serious in nature. Assuming he returns and demonstrates his health, Benoit should draw some interest for teams in need of middle relief and/or setup help. The 39-year-old veteran has totaled 22 innings of 3.68 ERA ball, averaging 7.8 K/9 against 4.9 BB/9 with a 30.9 percent ground-ball rate. Those numbers, of course, aren’t exactly outstanding, but virtually all of the damage against Benoit has been confined to two outings in 2017. He served up five runs in an epic meltdown on May 10 and another three on April 16. Benoit had tossed eight scoreless innings prior to his injury.

Jeanmar Gomez, RHP (reliever) | Salary: $4.2MM

The Phillies couldn’t drum up much interest in Gomez at last year’s trade deadline despite the fact that he was sporting a 2.77 ERA and 27 saves at the time of the trade deadline. Given his dismal 7.13 ERA and the loss of nearly one full mile per hour off his fastball through his first 17 2/3 innings this year, it’s not likely that Gomez will generate much intrigue. He’s posted a more encouraging 17-to-6 K/BB ratio (two of the walks being intentional) and a solid 52.8 percent ground-ball rate, though, so there’s at least some hope of a turnaround.

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP (starter) | Salary: $17.2MM

Like Neshek, Hellickson was acquired more or less as a salary dump — just one offseason prior. The former Rays top prospect had a rebound campaign with Philadelphia last year, tossing 189 innings with a 3.71 ERA, 7.3 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 40.7 percent ground-ball rate. However, Hellickson was somewhat surprisingly not traded at last year’s deadline and, in another surprise, accepted a $17.2MM qualifying offer rather than seeking a larger guarantee on a multi-year deal in a weak market for starters. His strikeout rate has absolutely plummeted, as he’s punched out just 28 hitters in 66 innings (3.8 K/9). Hellickson is still showing good control, and his 4.50 ERA is at least respectable, but metrics like FIP (5.82), xFIP (5.88) and SIERA (5.77) all scream regression.

Howie Kendrick, LF/RF/2B/1B | Salary: $10MM

Yet another low-cost pickup for GM Matt Klentak, Kendrick has been on an all-out tear since returning from a DL stint for an abdominal strain. The versatile 33-year-old (34 next month) is hitting .333/.378/.522 on the season. That production comes with a ridiculous and unsustainable .422 average on balls in play, but Kendrick has a pair of homers, five doubles and a triple on the season thus far to go along with three steals. With his versatility and experience, he could appeal to a vast number of contenders if he can sustain some of this production.

Michael Saunders, RF/LF | Salary: $9MM

With a .213/.262/.377 batting line through his first 195 plate appearances on the season, Saunders looks more like a release candidate than a trade candidate. But he’s not far removed from an outrageously good first half in 2016, and if he can rebound at the plate, the Phils could find a taker to absorb a bit of his salary. There’s an $11MM club option with a $1MM buyout attached to Saunders’ deal, but it’d take a remarkable turnaround for the Phillies or any other team to consider exercising it.

Daniel Nava, RF/LF/1B | Salary: $1.35MM

A minor league signee that has paid dividends thus far, Nava is sporting a high-quality .306/.429/.452 triple slash through a modest sample of 77 plate appearances. Nava’s not going to command much of a return even if he continues to hit well, but the veteran switch-hitter could be a nice bench piece for a contending club.

Andres Blanco, SS/2B/3B/1B | Salary: $3MM

Blanco was a quietly productive bench piece for the Phils from 2015-16, but he’s not going to draw much interest with a .180/.268/.260 line. He’s tallied just 56 plate appearances this year, so he can turn things around in a hurry. The switch-hitter crushed lefties in 2015 and hit righties well in 2016. If he turns it on before July 31, he, like Nava, could be a bench piece elsewhere.

Controlled Through 2018

Freddy Galvis, SS | Salary: $4.4MM

Galvis posted the worst OBP in baseball in 2016 (.274) and was still worth better than two wins above replacement due to sensational defense at shortstop and a surprise 20-homer season. The 27-year-old switch-hitter is showing some power once again and playing good defense as well. With a .245/.297/.420 batting line, he’s not an elite shortstop, but that triple slash paired with his glove and baserunning could help a club both this year and next. Unfortunately for the Phillies, there aren’t many contenders in need of a starting shortstop. However, injuries can change the marketplace in a hurry, and some clubs may like the idea of Galvis as a defensive-minded bench piece with some pop.

Longer-Term Assets

Cameron Rupp, C; Tommy Joseph, 1B ; Cesar Hernandez, 2B ; Hector Neris, RHP (reliever) | All pre-arbitration

None of this bunch stands out as especially likely to be moved, but the Phillies do have promising alternatives in the minors that could take their place if a rival club makes an enticing offer. Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro both represent potential long-term options at catcher. Rhys Hoskins has 52 minor league homers dating back to Opening Day 2016 and could step in for Joseph at first base. Second base prospect Scott Kingery is having a monster season in Double-A. The Phils have a number of enticing young arms that could slot into the ninth inning, with Edubray Ramos already in the Majors and several promising arms in the upper minors.

Rupp and Hernandez are controlled through the 2020 season, while Neris is controlled through 2021 and Joseph all the way through 2022.

June 9

Rays Acquire Taylor Featherston From Phillies

The Rays have acquired infielder Taylor Featherston from the Phillies in exchange for cash and placed infielder/outfielder Rickie Weeks on the 10-day disabled list with a right shoulder impingement, the team announced. Tampa Bay also formally announced Kevin Kiermaier’s placement on the DL for a hip fracture and recalled Mallex Smith from Triple-A in a corresponding move.

The 27-year-old Featherston was not on the Phillies’ 40-man roster, though it seems that the Rays may immediately be bringing him to the Majors, as Tampa Bay also moved Matt Duffy to the 60-day disabled list, thus opening a 40-man roster spot.

Once a Rule 5 pick by the Angels out of the Rockies organization, Featherston has spent parts of two seasons in the Majors. However, in that time, he’s struggled to an unsightly .156/.207/.233 slash in 197 plate appearances. The defensively gifted shortstop, however, was off to a considerably better start with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate in Lehigh Valley this season, hitting .270/.370/.394 with three homers and eight doubles. He’s also a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen base attempts. Featherston has appeared at shortstop, second base and third base in the Majors, and he’s also seen action in left field and at first base in Triple-A this year.

June 8

Prospect Therrien Emerging As Bullpen Option

Relief prospect Jesen Therrien has put himself on the map for a 2017 call-up with the Phillies, manager Pete Mackanin told reporters (via CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury). Philadelphia brought Therrien over to big league camp a couple of times in Spring Training, and his slider caught Mackanin’s eye right away. His first two months of the season have done nothing to dissuade Mackanin’s interest; Therrien tore through Double-A opponents with a 1.26 ERA and a preposterous 39-to-3 K/BB ratio across 28 2/3 innings before being promoted to Triple-A. He’s tossed four more scoreless innings there with four punchouts and no walks. “For me, he’s on the map,” said Mackanin. “Especially out of the bullpen, if you have a good breaking ball and can command it, that’s half the battle.” The Montreal native was the Phillies’ 17th-round pick back in 2011.

June 8

Pat Neshek Expects Trade

Contract-year reliever Pat Neshek has enjoyed his season with the Phillies, but the right-hander expects to end up in another uniform by the trade deadline, writes Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com“I would say yes,” Neshek said. “It would be really cool to stay around here. I like it here. I feel very comfortable here. But if that happens … I’m sure it will happen.” The 36-year-old joined the Phillies in an offseason deal with the Astros, and though Neshek’s now on a rebuilding team instead of a contender, he regards the trade as “the best thing that happened to me in a few years.” Given their impressive collection of relievers, Neshek understands why the Astros phased him out, but he was “miserable” in a diminished role last season. “I would almost rather retire than do a role like I was doing for them,” commented Neshek, who has taken advantage of a higher-leverage job in Philadelphia. One of the few Phillies to perform well in 2017, Neshek has pitched to a microscopic .82 ERA over 22 innings, also posting 8.59 K/9 against 1.64 BB/9. In doing so, the $6.5MM man has beefed up his trade value, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd recently noted.  

June 8

Phillies Select Casey Fien’s Contract

The Phillies have announced the addition of reliever Casey Fien to their 25- and 40-man rosters. Fien will take the place of fellow reliever Joely Rodriguez, whose designation for assignment is now official.

Philadelphia acquired the 33-year-old Fien in a cash trade with Seattle last month, which came after the Mariners outrighted him. The right-hander signed a $1MM deal with the Mariners over the winter and then posted disastrous results in six innings with the club, allowing 10 earned runs on nine hits and four walks, with six strikeouts. Fien also struggled in the majors last year across 39 1/3 innings with the Twins and Dodgers, combining for a 5.49 ERA despite logging 8.0 K/9 against 2.3 BB/9.

Unlike 2012-15, when he pitched to a 3.54 ERA over 223 2/3 innings with the Twins, home runs have been problematic lately for Fien. He gave up homers on 24.5 percent of fly balls last year and has yielded them at a 50 percent rate during his small sample of big league work this season. That could be an issue in the Phillies’ hitter-friendly confines, but there’s little harm in giving Fien an opportunity to reestablish himself in the majors. The 21-36 Phillies are already out of the playoff race, after all, and their bullpen has produced the majors’ seventh-worst ERA (4.74). Fien, for his part, fared well with their Triple-A affiliate before his promotion, throwing nine homer-less innings of two-run ball and adding 11 strikeouts against two walks.

June 7

Phillies Designate Joely Rodriguez For Assignment

The Phillies have designated southpaw Joely Rodriguez for assignment, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury reports (Twitter link).

Originally acquired from the Pirates in the Antonio Bastardo trade, Rodriguez made his big league debut last season and pitched 27 innings out of the Phillies’ bullpen this year, posting a 6.33 ERA and barely more strikeouts (18) than walks (15).  The lefty also allowed four homers in his brief time on the hill this season.

Ranked by Baseball America as the 23rd-best prospect in Philadelphia’s system prior to the season, Rodriguez is the curious combination of a hard-thrower who doesn’t generate many strikeouts.  The 2017 Baseball Prospect Handbook describes Rodriguez as the owner of a 94-96 mph fastball that “can touch 98 with sink to help him get grounders.”  These groundball tendencies have been on display even in his brief big league tenure, as Rodriguez has a 58.5% grounder rate over his 36 career innings.  Over 647 1/3 frames in the minors, Rodriguez has a 4.24 ERA, 1.91 K/BB rate and just a 5.6 K/9.

Adam Morgan is the only left-handed remaining in the Phillies’ bullpen, so Triple-A southpaws Cesar Ramos and Hoby Milner stand out as the most obvious candidates to be called up as Rodriguez’s replacement on the 25-man roster.  Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets that the new player will likely not be on the 40-man roster (Ramos and Milner both fit this bill) and the Phillies won’t name the new player until Thursday.

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