By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor
Seventy-nine games into the season, the Philadelphia Phillies find themselves poised for their first taste of the postseason since their franchise-best 102-win season in 2011. Under new manager Gabe Kapler, the Phillies trail the division-leading Atlanta Braves by just two games, while holding a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second National League Wild Card spot.
Just a few moves could help propel and guarantee the club clinches one of five postseason spots in the National League. Just ask then-Phillies general manager Pat Gillick, who acquired utility man Tadahito Iguchi (July 27, Chicago White Sox) and RHP Kyle Lohse (July 30, Cincinnati Reds) in 2007, and RHP Joe Blanton (July 17, Oakland Athletics), southpaw reliever Scott Eyre (August 7, Chicago Cubs) and slugger Matt Stairs (August 30, Toronto Blue Jays) in 2008 — the Phillies' first seasons in the postseason since 1993. As it turned out, Blanton, Eyre and Stairs were all critical pieces which, just a few months after joining the team, helped lift the Phillies to their second World Series championship in franchise history.
Phillies Vice President and General Manager Matt Klentak has the perfect opportunity right in front of him, 10 years later, to mirror Gillick's three crucial 2008 mid-season acquisitions of a starting pitcher (Blanton), relief pitcher (Eyre) and a slugging veteran (Stairs). Making things easier, Klentak could do so by completing not three separate trades with three different teams, but rather one trade from the same team — the Texas Rangers.
Trailing their division by 18 1/2 games, and the second American League Wild Card spot by 15, the Rangers appear to have shifted their focus from 2018 to 2019 and the seasons beyond. Three Rangers veterans with expiring contracts, Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman and Adrian Beltre, would not fit into a Rangers rebuild.
Two reports this past week suggested that Hamels, Diekman and Beltre were all made available on the block. On Sunday, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reported that the Rangers have made Beltre and Diekman available. Four days later, FOX Sports' Jon Morosi reported it has become "increasingly possible" Hamels is dealt before the 89th Major League Baseball All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 17, at Nationals Park.
Per Grant, the Phillies had at least one scout watch the Rangers play against the Minnesota Twins last weekend in Minneapolis. While Hamels and Diekman did not pitch in the series, Beltre slashed .462/.500/.769 with four singles, one double, one home run, three RBI, one walk and two runs scored spanning 14 plate appearances. The Phillies' interest is there.
Acquiring Hamels, Diekman and Beltre would not only bolster the Phillies roster in three facets of the game, but it would also replace and/or define roles of some of the existing players, including Tommy Hunter, Maikel Franco and Vince Velasquez.