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Phillies trade rumors - Velasquez out, Kendrick in, and Klentak staying patient
by Scott Butler 6/5/17

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 4

Minor MLB Transactions: 6/4/17

The Phillies optioned first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi to Double-A, the club announced.  The drop of two levels was due to a crowded Triple-A roster, and Phils manager Pete Mackanin told reporters (including MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki) that the team wants Stassi to get regular at-bats.  Stassi, 27, made his big league debut this season, hitting .197/.290/.361 with one home run over 69 plate appearances and 35 games for Philadelphia.

June3

Phillies Place Joaquin Benoit On 10-Day DL

The Phillies have placed right-hander Joaquin Benoit on the 10-day DL (retroactive to June 1) with a left knee sprain, the team announced.  Benoit has a 3.68 ERA over 22 innings for the Phils, though his advanced metrics (such as a .167 BABIP, 7.77 K/9 and 4.91 BB/9) indicate some good fortune.  He had a short-lived stint at Philadelphia’s closer after Jeanmar Gomez’s struggles and before Hector Neris ultimately took over the role.  The veteran Benoit signed a one-year, $7.5MM deal with the Phillies last winter and projects as a trade candidate this summer, provided he makes a successful return from injury.

June 3

Phillies Won't Rush Prospects To Majors

Despite the Phillies’ struggles, GM Matt Klentak reiterated to MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki and other media that the team hasn’t altered its approach to promoting its top minor league position players.  The likes of J.P. CrawfordRoman QuinnRhys Hoskins and others at Triple-A could provide the Phils with a boost or at least give the youngsters some experience at the big league level as part of the team’s overall rebuilding process.  The Phillies aren’t going to promote their prospects, however, until there is a clear opportunity for regular playing time and until each player is fully prepared for the majors.  “To expose players to the big league level before they’re ready isn’t doing them any favors, nor is it doing the organization any favors. We have to constantly balance that,” Klentak said.

June 1

Klentak On State Of Phillies, Franco, Herrera

Phillies GM Matt Klentak sat down for an interesting chat with Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com, which you can watch or read about right here. It’s certainly worth a full look for Phils’ fans, as Klentak discusses the team’s woeful performance in May. He emphasized a need to remain patient and keep the focus on the future, but acknowledged the disappointment. As for two particularly important players, Klentak says the team wants to let them work things out at the major league level. There are “reasons to believe” that Maikel Franco will bust out of his slump, he says, and the organization is “committed to giving Maikel more time to get out of this.” And center fielder Odubel Herrera is still a valuable contributor in the field, Klentak notes, explaining that his struggles at the plate may be due to the fact that he is currently “not taking pitches as well as he used to.”

May 31

NL Notes: Franco

The Phillies have at least held internal discussions about giving third baseman Maikel Franco some time at Triple-A, manager Pete Mackanin told reporters including Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Though nothing has been decided, and Mackanin was non-committal, that’s certainly a notable development. Franco, 24, has long been viewed as a building block for the Phils. But he took a step back last year after an excellent 2015 season, and currently owns a disappointing .209/.268/.349 slash through 190 plate appearances in the current campaign.

May 31

9 Budget Free Agent Hitters Off To Strong Starts

Mining the free agent ranks for good value remains an art, with the potential for rather significant rewards. While it’s unusual for a team to find a true gem — think Justin Turner — there is quite a lot of potential for adding impact in part-time roles.

We already looked at some minor-league signees who have impacted their organizations’ bullpens. Now, let’s check in on some hitters who signed for little but have been rather useful through about two months of action:

May 31

Vince Velasquez Placed On 10-Day DL With Flexor Strain

TODAY: The Phillies announced that Velasquez has been placed on the 10-day DL. Righty Ricardo Pinto will be called up to take the open roster spot.

YESTERDAY, 11:13pm: Velasquez says that he believes the injury to be mild, Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly tweets, though a trip to the DL will be required regardless.

7:49pm: Phillies righty Vince Velasquez left his outing early tonight after experiencing a velocity drop. The team has now announced that he has been diagnosed with a strained flexor in his right elbow.

Obviously, the severity isn’t yet fully known at this time, but it seems clear that Velasquez will require at least some kind of absence. The Phillies aren’t contending and will surely exercise plenty of care in handling the young righty.

It has already been a trying year for Velasquez, who has shown signs of excellence in the past. Through 48 2/3 innings entering today’s action, he carried a 5.55 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 3.9 BB/9.

Now, there are increasing questions about durability for Velasquez, who’ll soon turn 25. He missed time last year with a biceps strain and was ultimately shut down for the last month of the year.

Velasquez did manage 136 total frames in 2016 (including a rehab start), which set a career high. But it remains to be seen whether he can carry a full starter’s load. It has long been said that Velasquez may end up pitching from the back of a bullpen, and those calls figure to increase with this latest injury flare-up.

May 28

Trade Candidate: Howie Kendrick

Howie Kendrick’s strong start to his Phillies tenure was cut short by an oblique strain, so the veteran will be playing in his just 11th game of the 2017 campaign when the Phils activate him from the disabled list tomorrow as expected.  His return should provide some on-field help to a Phillies team that now owns the worst record in baseball (17-31 after today’s loss), though Kendrick’s greatest value to the team may come as a trade chip before the July 31 deadline.

Of course, any interested teams will need to assure themselves that Kendrick (who turns 34 in July) is healthy before entering into trade talks.  Kendrick’s .333/.395/.487 start to the year can almost surely be chalked up to the small sample size of 43 plate appearances, though Kendrick will naturally need to produce at the plate to show teams that he still swings a dangerous bat, particularly after his disappointing 2016 season.

Over 543 PA with the Dodgers last season, Kendrick hit .255/.326/.366, with his average and slugging percentage counting as new career lows.  A lack of batted-ball luck played a part, as Kendrick only managed a slightly above-average .301 BABIP last season, well below his .338 career mark.  The rest of his advanced metrics, however, were largely in line with his career norms, so it could be that Kendrick simply had a bit of an off-year.  In fact, on the positive side, Kendrick’s 9.2% walk rate was a new career high, and he was maintaining that same patience early in 2017 (with the small sample size caveat).

Beyond what Kendrick can bring to a lineup, the veteran’s ability to play multiple positions will also draw him some attention at the deadline.  After years as an everyday second baseman and occasional outfielder, Kendrick made 79 starts for the Dodgers in left field last year, 23 starts at second, 14 starts at third base and seven starts at first base.  While he is likely somewhat of a defensive liability as a regular second baseman at this point in his career, Kendrick did a solid job in left last year and can likely at least hold his own at third or first in limited action.

Though Kendrick will get his fair share of playing time by moving around the diamond, the Phillies since they have a young player at all of his positions.  Aaron Altherr has blossomed since taking over as the regular left fielder in Kendrick’s absence, and Tommy JosephCesar Hernandez, and Maikel Franco are all still potential infield building blocks (though Franco is off to a rough start).  Altherr could be shifted over to right to supplant Michael Saunders, though one figures prospect Roman Quinn will also eventually figure into the outfield mix.

Using the top 30 trade deadline power rankings from MLBTR’s Jeff Todd as reference, it’s a pretty pitching-heavy list of trade candidates likely to be available this July.  Of the position players that could be on the market, few have Kendrick’s defensive versatility, or reasonable price tag both in prospect cost and salary owed (roughly $6.7MM between now and season’s end).

It is quite possible Philadelphia could even eat some of that remaining salary since the team will be motivated to get something back at midseason.  As recently noted by Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia InquirerPat Neshek is the only one of the veterans acquired by the Phillies last winter who has performed well this year; Kendrick has been on the DL, Clay Buchholz is out for the season, and Saunders and Joaquin Benoit have struggled.  Beyond that group, Jeremy Hellickson (who accepted a qualifying offer to remain with the Phillies) has also not pitched well, leaving the Phillies with a pretty bare cupboard of trade chips unless someone besides Neshek starts producing.  Kendrick, in a way, has done less damage to his trade value simply by missing time with a not-too-serious injury than Hellickson, Saunders and Benoit have by playing poorly.

The Phillies didn’t give up too much to acquire Kendrick from L.A. (Darin Ruf and Darnell Sweeney, neither of whom is still in the Dodgers organization), but they will likely be motivated sellers in order to get some return from their veteran investments.  Kendrick keeping up the .883 OPS would be great for all parties, though simply a return to “the old Howie Kendrick” would be good enough to make him a sought-after trade piece for teams in need of position depth.

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