Phillies Trade Chips: Cameron Rupp

One of the more positive developments during this season of slow growth for the rebuilding Philadelphia Phillies organization has been the progress of the starting catcher.

Cameron Rupp, who turns 28 years old in September, was the club’s 3rd round selection in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Texas.
Rupp was born in Dallas, Texas, and is a huge, vocal fan of the Dallas Cowboys. Philly fans can decide on your own whether you want to hold that against him.
He rose incrementally through the Phillies farm system before making his big league debut in 2013, but didn’t see consistent playing time until last season, when he began to platoon with aging veteran Carlos Ruiz.
This season, with Ruiz in the final year of his Phils’ contract, the club has turned the starting role over to Rupp for the first time, and he has responded well.
Rupp is hitting for a .276/.323/.487 slash line
with 10 homers and 29 RBI. His offensive production is up, in some areas significantly, in every major category.
Defensively, Rupp has proven himself to be a tough, durable performer. His tremendous handling of a putout at the plate earlier this season was voted by fans as the Phillies top play of the first half of the season.
Rupp is also in a favorable contract situation for any acquiring club. He made just $518,000 this season, and is not arbitration eligible until after next season. The 6’2″, 260-pound strongman cannot become a free agent for another four years.
The Phillies are in an interesting position with their current organizational catching situation. Three of the club’s top 30 prospects are catchers, and there is even more talented depth in the lower levels.
Two of those prospects, Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, are among the top 10 with the organization, and neither is considered far off from being MLB ready.
Knapp was the organization’s Paul Owens Award winner last season as the top position player prospect. Now 24 years of age, he has overcome a slow start to the 2016 season and hit .282 over the last 30 days, and for a .300 mark during July.
Alfaro just turned 23 years of age last month, and is probably a year away from pushing for the big league job. Knapp appears to be ready right now for a shot, and could get a call-up should Ruiz be dealt by the deadline, as many expect.
That puts a wrinkle into Rupp possibilities, the apparently imminent exit of the popular “Chooch” in a trade to some contending team.
Would the Phillies deal both of their catchers, and turn the position over completely to inexperienced backstops, even during an acknowledged rebuilding year? That would seem unlikely.
Still, if another team believes that Rupp can step in and become their starting catcher, such a situation could take place. 
If is possible that Knapp and his soon-to-be 26-year old backup with the AAA Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Logan Moore, could take over those roles in Philly.

Phillies Trade Chips: Jeanmar Gomez

During the off-season, Phillies GM Matt Klentak dealt away closer Ken Giles in exchange for a large haul of prospects that included current starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez.
While some Phillies fans were initially disappointed in losing ‘100-Miles Giles’, whom they saw as one of the few exciting, young drawing cards with the cub, those have been mitigated by the exciting success and promise of Velasquez.
However, the trading away of Giles left the team with a gaping hole at the closer spot. For a young team such as the Phillies, coming off the worst record in baseball in 2015, to work hard for a lead only to have the bullpen blow it late can be crippling to morale.
The Phils needed someone to step up and claim the role. To help the process along, Klentak brought in veteran David Hernandez, who entered spring training as the favorite for the 2016 Phillies closer spot.
However, Hernandez faltered in the spring and early season. Other candidates also faltered when given an opportunity at seizing the job in spring training and over the first week of the season.
And so, somewhat because he had always shown himself to be a reliable option when called upon in the 6th and 7th innings, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez was given a shot at closing.
When he stepped on to the mound at CitiField in New York against the Mets on April 9th to try to protect a 1-0 lead, Gomez had exactly one career Save
, coming back in 2014 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
That early April evening, Gomez set the Mets down in order to record his first Save as a Phillies pitcher. It was just the beginning of what became an unexpected but sensational run.
Over the next five days, Gomez would save four more games. Running with his opportunity, he would register eight during the month of April to go along with a pair of extra-inning Wins on his record.
No closer is perfect, and Gomez would finally blow a Save opportunity on May 4th. But he did what the good ones do, putting it quickly behind him to register Saves in each of his next seven opportunities.
Gomez now has 26 Saves on the 2016 season. He has career-best 2.76 ERA and 1.117 WHIP marks in 45.2 innings over 43 games. He has allowed just 40 hits, and has a solid, if unspectacular, 29/11 K:BB ratio.
Gomez is not flashy. He does not come in and blow hitters away. Mostly he gets them to pound his cutter into the ground. If he doesn’t end up getting you to flail away at some offering for a strikeout, he gets you beating a ball into the dirt for a ground out.
His success as a closer, but also the fact that he has always been a reliable reliever in general, is making Gomez an attractive trade chip for the Phillies and acquisition target for opponents as the deadline approaches.

Phillies Trade Chips: Hector Neris

The Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline is less than two weeks away now, coming on Monday, August 1st, 2016.
Before that time, it should surprise no one if the Philadelphia Phillies swing a handful of deals. In some of those, the mission may be to simply move longtime favorites Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz to a contender for one more shot at a ring.
In those deals, fans should not expect much in return. They will, in some ways, simply be courtesy trades to the players for over a decade of service, most of which was spent as a contender and eventual World Series winner in front of packed houses at Citizens Bank Park.
However, a few other players might bring back something of a bit more value. Certainly not a premium prospect, but possibly someone who could develop into a piece that could eventually help the team as its rebuilding program (when ‘Piece’ and ‘Chooch’ are dealt, we can officially stop calling it a “rebuild” and move to the term “building”) advances over the next couple of seasons.
One of those players is setup man Hector Neris. The right-hander turned 27 years of age just last month, so he is just entering the prime years of his career.
Neris is not only at a great age, but an acquiring team would get him in a strong contract situation. Neris does not become arbitration eligible until after the 2018 season
, and cannot become a free agent for another five years.
In other words, an acquiring team does not have to worry about Neris becoming a free agent through the duration of his prime years as a ballplayer.
Now, all of that also makes it attractive for the Phillies to keep him themselves. There is a very real chance that Neris could eventually become the closer here in Philadelphia.
However, should some team decide that they like Neris enough to pay a price that the Phillies like, then GM Matt Klentak will certainly listen and negotiate.
Neris has allowed just 38 hits over 50 innings this season, with a 61/17 K:BB ratio. He has proven versatile to this point as well, pitching in 49 games, the most of any MLB pitcher this season.
He is also pitching exceptionally well over the past month. Since June 17th, Neris has registered a 1.72 ERA and .237 BAA over 15 games. He has allowed 14 hits in 15.2 innings over the span with a fabulous 19/2 K:BB ratio.
Every contending team is looking for reliable bullpen arms this time of year. A pitcher such as Neris, capable of dominance, doesn’t beat himself, entering his prime, great team contract position. That is a very valuable commodity.

Phillies Trade Chips: Peter Bourjos

When new Phillies GM Matt Klentak selected outfielder Peter Bourjos off waivers from the Saint Louis Cardinals back on December 2nd of this past off-season, the move caused some scratching of heads among the fan base.
The Phillies already had Odubel HerreraAaron Altherr, and Cody Asche on the roster and apparently needing regular playing time. 
In the minor leagues, top outfield prospect Nick Williams appeared to be just a few months away from being ready for his big league shot.
If the club needed an extra veteran outfielder to suck up innings and at-bats at the big league level while awaiting the arrival of Williams, then many fans would have been very happy to see the Phillies bring back popular right fielder Jeff Francoeur for one more go-around.
Also, the Phillies controlled the top pick in the Rule 5 Draft, which at the time of the Bourjos signing was just a week away. 
It was rumored that outfielder Tyler Goeddel would be that top pick, which would mean the club had to plan on him possibly being carried all year on the big league roster.
But Klentak saw something that he liked in the former Angels’ 10th round 2005 draftee who had six years of big league experience. Remember, Klentak had been an exec with the Halos previously, and knew Bourjos from those days.
In 2011, Bourjos had hit .271 for the Angels with a dozen homers and 22 stolen bases
while playing on a full-time basis for the only time in his big league career.
“Since that time, he really hasn’t had the full-time opportunity that he had in 2011,” said Klentak to reporter David Murphy in a piece back in December. 

Part of that has been some nagging injuries, part of that was the development of Mike Trout, part of that was getting traded to St. Louis, which had a pretty good outfield.” ~ Murphy

Here in Philly, Bourjos got off to a rocky start. Following an 0-2 at Saint Louis on May 5th he was at a season-low .165 mark. 
Even as late as June 12th, Bourjos’ batting average was still below the feeble fabled ‘Mendoza Line’ at a .197 mark.
And then something clicked in, turning his season completely around. From June 13th through July 9th, the final game before the MLB All-Star Game break, Bourjos hit for a .412/.457/.671 slash line with seven doubles, three triples, three home runs, 9 RBI, and 17 runs scored over a 25-game stretch.
Bourjos also was playing a fantastic right field, using his speed to track down balls in the gap, up the first base/right field line, and back against outfield walls.
In short, the talent that Klentak had observed a few years ago with the Angels was on full display. 
The hot stretch also put Bourjos on the map for contending organizations looking to add a valuable and versatile outfielder at the MLB trade deadline.
So who might be able to use a speedy outfielder who can play everyday, but would also have real value coming off the bench as a hitter, defensive replacement, or base runner? Pretty much all of them.

Phillies Trade Chips: Jeremy Hellickson

In the continuation of my series on some of the more likely possibilities to be traded away by the Phillies over these next two weeks prior to the August 1st MLB non-waiver trade deadline, the next look will be at perhaps the single most likely and highest-valued such asset.
Jeremy Hellickson was acquired by Phillies GM Matt Klentak back on December 14th, 2015 from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor league pitcher Sam McWilliams.
At the time, the new Phils GM was looking to fill the holes created by the exit of veterans Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams.
Much as with those two veterans, Hellickson was brought in to eat up innings and bide a few more months for the many talented youngsters in the minor leagues system to more fully develop.
However, there was a difference with this acquisition. Hellickson was not an aged, mediocre talent. He was 28 years old at the time of the deal, and the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year and 2012 AL Gold Glove Award winner was in the prime of his career.
In other words, entering the final year of his contract, the right-hander fit perfectly with the plan to allow pitchers like Jake ThompsonZach Eflin, and Mark Appel to gain another three to four months of development
, and then be flipped at the deadline for a price worth more than was required to obtain him.
Thanks to his performances over these first three and a half months, Hellickson is doing his part, making himself valuable to contenders looking to add an experienced arm for their playoff push and postseason run.
Hellickson is 6-7 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.200 WHIP, not “ace” marks, but he was never going to be sold in that way. He is a mid-back-end rotation starter in a contending rotation. He is performing effectively at that level.
The 4th round pick of the Tampa Bay Rays in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of an Iowa high school has allowed 107 hits over 111.2 innings with a 98/27 K:BB ratio, and has thrown 10 Quality Starts among his 19 outings this season.
So what contenders could use a young veteran starting pitcher with postseason experience? Pretty much every one of them.
What kind of price could Klentak be expected to bring back for Hellickson? That’s a dicier question. He is not good enough to bring back a Top 50 prospect, especially as a rental pitcher in the final year of his contract.
However, as a healthy, experienced arm who could end up signing with the acquiring team and providing another handful of seasons, he should be able to bring back a Top 20 organizational prospect.