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Phillies Hot Stove: Expect Club to Target Left-Handed Bench Hitter

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

It is easy for the Philadelphia Phillies to plan ahead in possibly playing postseason baseball this October, considering they are 10 games over .500 and hold a lead in the National League East, nearly one-third of the way through the season.

A part of that process is analyzing strengths and weaknesses, improving the club to address such weaknesses — particularly through trade. 

And unlike in seasons past, July 31 is the only trade deadline; prior, the date was referred to as the "non-waiver Trade Deadline," while players could still be dealt after that date if they first cleared revocable trade waivers. No longer is that the case. Nonetheless, players may still be placed and claimed on outright waivers after the single trade deadline, but trades will no longer be allowed after July 31.

In other words, teams may be looking at trades earlier, since they no longer have August as an option to explore waiver trades. The Phillies may be among the first clubs to strike.

According to FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies are expected to "seek a left-handed hitter for their bench," ahead of the July 31 trade deadline, "in addition to whatever pitching needs might arise."

Rosenthal said the ideal left-handed hitter for the Phillies would be "an experienced player who is comfortable coming off the bench and can hit for power." One name Rosenthal mentioned that could fit that description is from the struggling Washington Nationals, eight-year veteran 1B/LF Matt Adams.

Adams, 30, was born in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania; through 739 games and 2,267 plate appearances since debuting with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012, Adams has logged 256 runs scored, 558 hits, 118 doubles, 100 home runs, 346 RBI, 141 walks, 529 strikeouts and a .266/.313/.470 slash.

While trading within the division is not common, the Phillies and Nationals have recently struck deals. The Nationals acquired Howie Kendrick, who remains with the club, in July 2017 in exchange for southpaw McKenzie Mills — who the Phillies then dealt to the Miami Marlins last August for Justin Bour. In November 2016, the Phillies dealt reliever Jimmy Cordero to the nation's capital. The most memorable recent example is from July 2015, when the Phillies acquired then-Double-A prospect Nick Pivetta in exchange for franchise saves leader Jonathan Papelbon.

Adams is owed $3 million in 2019, and has a $4 million mutual option or $1 million buyout for 2020. Entering Saturday's action, Adams had just two hits in 13 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, a solo home run and double, along with seven strikeouts. 

While Adams may not be a 2008 version of Matt Stairs, his 26 career games of postseason experience surely would be a welcomed asset for the Phillies' bench depth. That is something fellow left-handed hitter Nick Williams, currently at Triple-A, just cannot offer. The Phillies' only current left-handed bench bat is backup catcher Andrew Knapp (switch-hitter).

The Nationals just are not the same team in 2019 without Bryce Harper. With a -33 run differential, they sit 10 games behind the first-place Phillies, who sport a nearly polar opposite +35 run differential.

"The way the Nationals are playing, [Adams] is one of many whom might be available," Rosenthal said.


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