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Phillies trade rumors - Padres interested in Franco? Phils interested in Beltre?
by Scott Butler 6/25/18

Philadelphia Phillies Trade Rumors

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 24

Padres Interested In Maikel Franco

The Padres have interest in Phillies third baseman Maikel FrancoKen Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (video link). A deal may not be easy to swing, though, as Rosenthal notes that the Phillies would have to acquire a third baseman or a shortstop from elsewhere in order to move Franco.

Franco, now 25, garnered hype as a prospect and made good on that as a rookie in 2015, when he slashed .280/.343/.497 with 14 home runs in 335 plate appearances. He hasn’t been anywhere near that effective since, however, as he has offered below-average production in each season dating back to 2016. In 229 trips to the plate this year, Franco has hit .255/.297/.425 – nearly matching his lifetime line of .248/.300/.426 – with nine homers.

With a .230/.300/.498 line and 16 HRs in 230 PAs this season, Padres rookie third baseman Christian Villanueva has been better than Franco in the aggregate. But the 27-year-old Villanueva has gone backward in each month of the season, having posted a wRC+ of 199 in April, a 74 mark in May and a paltry 53 this month. Given Villanueva’s struggles and their lack of obvious third base solutions in general, it’s understandable that the Padres are seeking help there, even though they’re 35-44 and well out of playoff contention. Franco could be a multiyear solution for San Diego if it acquires him and he turns his career around, as he’s arbitration eligible through the 2021 campaign.

Despite the subpar production of Franco and other left side infielders Scott Kingeryand the injured J.P. Crawford, the Phillies boast a 41-33 record and own a 1 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers for the NL’s second wild-card spot. They’re also in contention in the NL East, trailing the division-leading Braves by just 1 1/2 games. As such, it seems the Phillies are on track to buy as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches. If they do bolster the left side of their infield before then, it could come in the form of Orioles shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado or one of the other high-end third basemen likely to be available – the Royals’ Mike Moustakas, the Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson or the Rangers’ Adrian Beltre (who has drawn Philly’s interest).

Should the Phillies land one of those players or other infield help, it could open the door for Franco to head to San Diego. The Phillies may package him with other talent in order to acquire relief help from the Padres, Rosenthal notes. The Padres’ bullpen has been a significant bright spot this year, which has led to interest in relievers such as Brad HandKirby Yates and Craig Stammen. Hand, the closer and the best of the Padres’ relievers, would garner the largest return. The Padres reportedly want a “young everyday player” back for him, and while Franco fits that description, there’s little doubt Philly would have to surrender additional talent for San Diego to give up Hand.

June 23

Pat Neshek Begins Rehab Assignment

Phillies reliever Pat Neshek began a rehab assignment at the Single-A level Saturday, though it’s still not known when he could return to the majors, Kyle Melnick of MLB.com relays. After Neshek enjoyed an excellent season between Philly and Colorado in 2017, the Phillies brought him back on a two-year, $16MM deal over the winter. But shoulder and forearm injuries have prevented the 37-year-old from taking the mound this season.

June 22

Phillies Sign Danny Espinosa To Minor League Deal

The Phillies announced that they’ve signed veteran infielder Danny Espinosa to a minor league contract. The MVP Sports client will give the Phils some additional infield depth following this week’s injury to J.P. Crawford, who is expected to miss up to six weeks due to a broken hand.

Espinosa, who turned 31 back in April, has now been with seven different organizations since Opening Day 2017. The longtime Nationals infielder opened the 2017 season as the Angels’ second baseman but was released by the Halos last July. Since that time, he’s had brief stints with the Rays, Mariners, Yankees, Blue Jays and Dodgers (though he only appeared in the Majors with Tampa Bay and Seattle).

The switch-hitting Espinosa has had a rough go of it so far in 2018, hitting a combined .190/.236/.276 through 125 plate appearances between the Triple-A affiliates for the Dodgers and Blue Jays. That’s served as a continuation of last season’s .173/.245/.278 slash through 295 Major League plate appearances between the Angels, Rays and Mariners. Espinosa did hit 24 homers as recently as 2016 with the Nationals and is considered to be a strong up-the-middle defender, but his bat has become increasingly questionable in recent seasons.

June 21

Adrian Beltre Drawing Trade Interest

Both the Phillies and Indians have varying levels of interest in Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltrereports Jon Morosi of MLB.com. Philadelphia’s interest is portrayed a bit more strongly in the report, whereas Morosi writes that “[a]t least some within the Indians organization would like to acquire Beltre,” who is familiar with skipper Terry Francona from the 2010 season with the Red Sox.

The Rangers’ stance as sellers on this summer’s trade deadline has been clear for weeks. Texas currently sits 12 games below .500 and an insurmountable 18 games out of first place in the American League West. They’re a similarly daunting 14.5 games out of the American League Wild Card chase.

While trade interest in Beltre figures to pick up as the deadline draws nearer, it’s not yet clear whether the 39-year-old Beltre will waive his 10-and-5 rights, which allow him to veto any trade scenario with which he is presented. Certainly, there’s a logical case to be made that given his age, Beltre would prefer to go somewhere with a chance to win a World Series ring. At the same time, he’s been with the Rangers since 2011 and undoubtedly has a comfort level with his teammates, the coaching staff, the city and Rangers fans. He’s earning $18MM this season — with approximately $9.77MM of that sum still owed to him through season’s end.

For the Phillies, it’s not difficult to see the appeal Beltre brings to the organization. Philadelphia third baseman have posted a lackluster .235/.300/.399 batting line so far in 2018, and their third basemen have been seven runs below average in the field according to both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved. There’s been little in the way of value provided from either Maikel Franco or J.P. Crawford, the latter of whom just went on the disabled list for up to six weeks after incurring a broken hand when he was hit by a pitch two days ago.

The Indians, meanwhile, have a less obvious need, considering the brilliance of Jose Ramirez, who has broken out as a full-fledged superstar over the past two seasons. Ramirez is hitting a ridiculous .291/.391/.611 with 22 homers, 20 doubles, a triple and 10 steals (in 12 tries) while playing strong defense at third base. However, Ramirez is also a more-than-capable second baseman, and the Cleveland organization has received virtually no production at that position from former star Jason Kipnis(.208/.282/.328 in 295 plate appearances). Acquiring Beltre would allow Cleveland to shift Ramirez to second base.

Clearly, Beltre isn’t the player that he once was. But the future Hall of Famer has still notched an impressive .302/.357/.428 slash with three homers, nine doubles and a triple so far through 182 plate appearances. However, he’s also had a pair of DL stints this season due to hamstring strains and has begun to see more time at designated hitter as a means of keeping his legs healthier. That could limit some of his appeal to an NL club such as the Phillies, though with Crawford, Franco and Scott Kingery on the roster, the Phils have the depth to rest Beltre a couple of times per week should they deem it necessary.

June 20

J.P. Crawford Out Four To Six Weeks With Fractured Hand

June 20: The Phillies have formally placed Crawford on the 10-day disabled list. Infielder Mitch Walding has been recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley for his second stint with the Phillies in 2018.

June 19: Phillies shortstop/third baseman J.P. Crawford suffered a broken left hand upon being hit by a pitch in tonight’s game, tweets MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki. He’ll be out for the next four to six weeks as he recovers from the injury.

The 23-year-old Crawford, a former first-round pick and long one of the game’s top prospects, has struggled to this point in 2018, hitting just .194/.312/.333 with a pair of homers, five doubles, a triple and two steals (in two attempts). He’d already missed a bit more than a month with a forearm strain and now, unfortunately, is headed for another prolonged absence.

With Crawford back on the shelf, the Phillies will likely give Maikel Franco and Scott Kingery regular at-bats on the left side of the infield. Franco has recently been relegated to a part-time role but voiced a desire to remain with the organization in spite of his reduced playing time. Now, with Crawford sidelined, he’ll likely get another opportunity to prove that he’s capable of emerging as the regular, middle-of-the-order presence the Phils envisioned when he, too, was considered one of the game’s elite prospects.

Of course, an injury on the left side of the infield only figures to further fuel speculation about the Phils making a run at the Orioles’ Manny Machado. Phillies president Andy MacPhail, GM Matt Klentak and assistant GM Ned Rice have all previously worked in the Orioles’ front office, and the Phillies have received scarce production from the entire left side of their infield as a whole.

That said, there’s been little beyond speculation connecting the two sides since the offseason, and there’ll be no shortage of other clubs showing significant interest in Machado. Realistically, given the lackluster production from the combination of Crawford, Franco (.243/.288/.416) and Kingery (.222/.278/.335), Crawford’s injury may not even move the needle much as far as the team’s interest in Machado; the club was already receiving poor enough output that it’d be logical to expect them to explore the possibility of a Machado acquisition with or without a healthy Crawford in the fold.

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