In 2011, the Philadelphia Phillies won 102 games, but lost in the first round of the playoffs. They have not had a winning season since. They began a rebuilding process that has seen them lose more games than any other team in baseball from 2013-2017. Last year, they lost 96 games, and were the third-worst team in baseball.
But there are signs of hope in Philly. They have a core of solid young players. They finally have all their bad contracts off the books - they had just one player under contract going into this off-season. With this newfound payroll flexibility, the team appears to be trying to accelerate their rebuild. They have already signed a pair of relievers in Tommy Hunter and Pat Neshek to multi-million dollar deals, and last week they stunned the baseball world by inking first baseman Carlos Santana to a three-year, $60 million deal.
With the signing, everything seems to have changed in Philadelphia. They are done losing. And now their sights are set on a young, controllable starting pitcher. Chris Archer and Marcus Stroman are among the names they have looked at, but another available arm they have reportedly inquired about, according to Phillies beat writer Matt Gelb, is Kansas City’s Danny Duffy. What could the Phillies offer in return?
Your first thought may by Rhys Hoskins, the dinger-smashin’ rookie first baseman who wowed everyone last year with 18 home runs in 50 games last year. The signing of Santana was curious with Hoskins already in tow, but don’t expect him to be dealt. It looks like the Phillies will move him to left field and build their lineup around him, which isn’t surprising considering the kind of power he possesses.
But if Hoskins moves to the outfield, well, then one of their other three young outfielders - Odubel Herrera, Aaron Altherr, or Nick Williams - is probably on his way out. Herrera is the most accomplished of the three. Coming off his third Major League season, the 25-year old hit .281/.325/.452 with 14 home runs in 138 games. He is an exemplary defender in center - one of the best in baseball last year. He stole 25 bases in 2016, although that number fell to just eight in 2017. He seems to possess the kind of skills the Royals like - great defense, good speed, great gap power (42 doubles last year), and a blase attitude towards drawing walks (5.5% walk rate in 2017).
However, Herrera isn’t dirt-cheap. He signed a long-term deal that could keep him under club control through 2023. He will make $3.5 million next year - which is very reasonable considering his production, but perhaps difficult for a team trying to shed payroll. He has been maddeningly inconsistent, was fined last summer for trying to steal second with a red light, and was eventually benched for not running out a dropped third strike. If the Royals are trying to formulate the next great clubhouse chemistry, they may shy away from a player like Herrera.
The 23-year old Nick Williams may appeal to a team like the Royals more due to this youth. The right-fielder made his Major League debut this year and hit .288/.338/.473 with 12 home runs in 83 games. Originally acquired from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal, Williams was ranked as the #27 prospect by Baseball America before the 2016 season before having a disappointing season in AAA that year. Before the 2017 season, they wrote of the left-handed hitter:
Williams must develop better plate discipline to tap into his potential. His hand speed is top notch. He whips the barrel into the hitting zone quickly with a loose, fluid swing, though it can get long. Williams uses the whole field, has good hitting actions and easy plus raw power evident in batting practice, though it hasn't translated into big home run totals yet. Though he doesn't steal many bases, Williams is a plus runner who can play all three outfield spots with a solid-average arm.
Williams did have poor defensive metrics in center and right last year, although it was a smaller sample size and he has the tools to improve.
Aaron Altherr has been a late bloomer who never really put up very good numbers in the minors, but hit well when given the chance this year, with a line of .272/.340/.516 with 19 home runs in 101 games. The right-hander is under club control through 2021, but is already 26-years old, so he is kind of Philly’s version of Whit Merrifield. Altherr has plenty of minor league experience in centerfield, but has been slightly below-average defensively.
The Phillies may also not have room at second base for prospect Scott Kingery (EDIT: He is NOT the son of former Royals outfielder Mike Kingery). The power-hitting right-hander may be blocked by Cesar Hernandez and could be used as trade bait. The 23-year old hit .304/.359/.530 with 26 home runs in 132 games split between AA and AAA last year and swiped 29 bases to boot. Kingery is an all-around solid player who gets high marks for his baseball IQ, the kind of player the Royals seem to prefer.
The Royals would almost certainly like to add pitching to the thin farm system. The top arms in the Phillies system include Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, and JoJo Romero. The 19-year old Sanchez has made just five starts above low-A ball, so he would be a long-term project. Ranked as the #80 prospect by Baseball America before this past season, Sanchez can hit triple digits on the radar gun with an “easy, fluid” delivery. He showed good command last year with just 1.7 walks-per-nine innings, but will need to work on his secondary offerings more.
Adonis Medina is a 20-year old right-hander who was ranked as the #91 prospect by Baseball Prospectus before the season. He had a 3.01 ERA in 22 starts in low-A this past season with 133 strikeouts in 119 2⁄3 innings. He throws in the mid-90s and had a huge spike in his strikeout rate after altering his delivery.
JoJo Romero is a lower-upside lefty drafted out of junior college who throws in the low-90s but with more polished secondary pitches. He had a 2.16 ERA in 23 starts split between low-A and high-A with nearly a strikeout-per-inning.
Any trade with the Phillies for Duffy would likely have to include either Kingery or one of those outfielders, one of those pitchers, and probably another lower-level piece or two. And even that may not be enough. The Royals are not motivated sellers, and appear to have a number of other teams interested in Duffy, including the Cubs, Brewers, and Orioles. Teams may just be talking now, and the Royals may wait until desperation sinks in or they are blown away by an offer. Danny Duffy may be very stubborn about leaving Kansas City. But if the Phillies are looking to make a bold move, Duff could be keeping it “gnar” in the City of Brotherly Love.