Phillies' Potential Blockbuster Acquisitions of Hamels, Beltre, Diekman Could Propel Club Into Postseason
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.
The Phillies drafted Diekman in the 30th round of the 2007 amateur draft out of Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas. In 191 relief appearances with the club from May 2012 to July 2015, Diekman went 9-11 with a 3.84 ERA, 225-95 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.500 WHIP spanning 173 1/3 innings.
Diekman's most significant contribution to Phillies history was throwing in the club's first-ever combined no-hitter on Sept. 1, 2014. Hamels, Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon also pitched in the 7-0 victory.
Diekman could replace Tommy Hunter's seventh-to-eighth inning set-up role. The Phillies might be reluctant to not use Hunter in crucial, late-game situations however, as they are paying him $18 million between this and next season. Fellow offseason acquisition, injured RHP Pat Neshek, is on the brink of a return to the majors and will make his third rehab appearance in Double-A Reading on Friday.
Perhaps if Neshek returns and thrives like his 2017 All-Star season once again in the bullpen, the Phillies would not feel as bad for moving on from Hunter so early into the multi-year pact. The Phillies could try to unload Hunter back to the Rangers to clear a 40-man spot, as long as they cover a significant portion of his remaining contract. Diekman is owed just $2.7125 million in 2018.
While Diekman has allowed 17 walks as opposed to Hunter's three, he has yielded one less earned run in five more innings.
Beltre is a future Hall of Famer. The resume alone of the 21-year veteran — four-time All-Star, five-time Gold Glove Award winner, four-time Silver Slugger Award winner — should warrant him receiving playing time at the hot corner over Maikel Franco and the injured J.P. Crawford.
The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, native is slashing .303/.372/.487 in 21 games this June, as opposed to Franco slashing .276/.323/.466 in one less game. Beltre and Franco are about even fielding-wise at this stage in their careers, with seven and six errors committed, respectively.
Beltre has 10-and-5 rights, and therefore is capable of vetoing any trade. It would be hard to imagine Beltre denying a trade to Philadelphia, however, for a sixth crack at his first career World Series championship.
The 2008 World Series Most Valuable Player would almost single-handedly fill the Citizens Bank Park seats up once again, at least during his starts. Hamels could replace Velasquez, one of the arms the Phillies acquired from the Houston Astros in exchange for Giles in Dec. 2015. It has been speculated that Velasquez may be better served throwing out of the bullpen. This trade would force the Phillies' hands and finally make the perceived transition a reality.
Hamels would provide the Phillies a much-needed left-handed arm in the rotation. Although Hamels is nowhere near the former ace that he once was, his presence and postseason experience would help complement and strengthen the rotation behind Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. Hamels threw a no-hitter in his last start with the Phillies against Arrieta and the Chicago Cubs on July 25, 2015.
Given Beltre, Diekman and Hamels are in the latter-stages of their careers, and impending free agents, it likely would not cost the Phillies much to land all three talents.
It is easier said than done for Klentak to complete this potential trade, however. If the Ts and Is were ever to become crossed and dotted, it could be a move that would perhaps go down as one of the greatest in franchise history.