It's July and Phillies will listen to anything

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It's July and Phillies will listen to anything

Hello, July.

Hello, trading season.

The Phillies spent the last day of June recovering from an embarrassing 2-6 homestand that knocked them out of the NL East race for good. There was a smidgeon of hope for this team after it put together a 5-2 road trip earlier last month, but splitting a four-game series with the Marlins and being swept by the Braves at home has put an end to all the little far-fetched fantasies surrounding this losing team.

The Phils needed a good homestand to keep their hopes alive. They came up small. Time to move on.

The Phillies are back on the road Tuesday night to begin a 10-game trip that will take them to Miami, Pittsburgh and Milwaukee before coming home for three games before the All-Star break against Washington.

The sweep at the hands of Atlanta left the Phillies eight games back in the NL East and on pace for 91 losses. Even a good road trip won’t turn this thing around. We won’t be fooled again. This team is just not good enough.

So what’s left for this club?

The coming months will be spent evaluating and giving experience to youngsters such as third baseman Cody Asche and relievers Jake Diekman, Mario Hollands, Ken Giles and Justin De Fratus.

As for the rest of the crew. Well, make an offer. Just about anyone can be had in a trade -- for the right price -- as the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaches and a much-needed franchise re-tooling comes to the fore. The Phillies need this and they are headed in that direction. No, it won’t be a Sixers-like strip-down -- Phillies management is loath to use the word “rebuilding” -- but changes are coming.

Cole Hamels is the closest thing the Phillies have to an untouchable. They would prefer to build around the 30-year-old lefty. But blow them away, and yes, they will consider it.

You can believe all the word salad coming from Phillies management about not wanting to deal the club icons that helped them win the 2008 World Series, but why would anyone admit that changes are coming a month before the deadline? What good would it do to publicly shudder the season a month before you have to? It would hurt ticket sales. Better to focus on winning as many games as possible now and make moves right before the deadline.

If Chase Utley comes to management and says he’d like to move on, maybe be a San Francisco Giant, Phillies elders will try to make to it happen (for the right return). If Utley remains hush, he will stay with the Phillies. He drove the bus last summer when he told club officials not to entertain trade requests and focus on a contract extension. He still drives it.

If the Phillies get an offer they like on Jimmy Rollins, they will go to him and ask what he wants to do. Stay or go? Ultimately it will be Rollins’ call.

Both Rollins and Utley have full veto power over trades.

Ryan Howard? Untradeable because of his contract.

Cliff Lee? If he proves healthy in the three starts he’s expected to make before July 31, the Phils would move him for the right return. Otherwise, they will hang on to him and make him available in the offseason.

Mike Adams? There would have been interest had he not come down with a sore shoulder. It’s tough to see him getting moved before the deadline, but he could be an August waiver deal.

A.J. Burnett pitches Tuesday night in Miami. He has put together four good ones in a row. He is a candidate to move before the deadline.

So is Kyle Kendrick. Yeah, he’s just a No. 5 starter, but sometimes a marginal pickup can make a difference on a contending team. Kendrick could be appealing to a contender.

Jonathan Papelbon could be a fit in a number of towns, especially if the Phillies would pick up part of his $13 million salary for next season. The Phils were willing to do that over the winter. Papelbon, however, might not be the most attractive reliever that the Phillies put on the market. Antonio Bastardo, left-handed and having a solid season, could be the first reliever to go. In fact, he might be the first Phillie to go.

Looking for an outfielder? The Phils would move four of them -- Marlon Byrd, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and John Mayberry Jr.

July is here. It’s baseball’s trading season. The Phillies might not be ready to admit it -- why wave the white flag publicly when there is a month to go before the deadline? -- but they are open for business. It won’t be easy making trades, not with the money some of these guys are owed beyond this season, but deals are coming. This season is beyond hope (and the Phillies have no one to blame but themselves for that after that awful homestand.)

It’s time to retool.

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

Phillies Phodder: Jerad Eickhoff, a new bat, Montgomery and other matters

A few Phillies thoughts between NFL playoff games:
 
Jerad Eickhoff was in town the other day putting smiles on the faces of some special kids at CSN Philly’s annual Shining Star Awards dinner, which benefits the March of Dimes.
 
Before the event, Eickhoff was a guest on Philly Sports Talk and he was asked about the possibility of being the Phillies' opening day starter April 3 in Cincinnati. The right-hander said all the right things, noting that there were several worthy candidates and that the decision ultimately would be made by manager Pete Mackanin, and he was right on all counts.
 
In the big picture, it doesn’t matter a whole lot who gets the ball on opening day. The goal of every starter is to stay healthy for a full season and if he does that he’ll end up with 33 starts and ample opportunity to pitch himself to the top of the rotation.
 
Still, starting on opening day is a big honor, even if a lot of folks won’t remember who got the ball for the opener much beyond Memorial Day.
 
The 2017 Phillies have two legitimate candidates for opening day starter: Jeremy Hellickson and Eickhoff. 

Hellickson got the nod last year and did nothing to suggest he does not deserve the honor again this year. The veteran right-hander pitched 189 innings over 32 starts and was a pro’s pro from the moment he stepped foot in the clubhouse.
 
But with all due respect to Hellickson, this early vote for the opening day assignment goes to Eickhoff for a number of reasons.
 
First of all, he’s earned it with his performance. He led the starting staff in starts (33), innings (197 1/3) and ERA (3.65) in 2017. He delivered 20 quality starts and became just the fourth Phillie in the last 20 years to make 33 starts and record a 3.65 ERA or better, joining Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Curt Schilling. Mackanin and pitching coach Bob McClure constantly stress to the staff the importance of throwing strikes. Eickhoff responded in 2016. His ratio of 1.92 walks per nine innings was the fourth-best mark among National League starters in 2016.

In addition, he's earned it with his conduct and example. The guy approaches his craft with a maturity, dedication, work ethic and seriousness that is reminiscent of Roy Halladay.

All of this leads us to another reason that Eickhoff should get the opening day nod: The Phillies are a building team and Eickhoff, 26 years old and under team control for five more seasons, is going to be around for a while. Hellickson will likely depart for free agency after this season. Ditto Clay Buchholz. Awarding Eickhoff the opening day start would be a show of faith in the pitcher, a message that management believes he can be a rock and a leader in the rotation now and in the future. 
 
And as for the notion that holding Eickhoff back until the second or third game of the season would help keep him away from opposing teams’ top pitchers and get him better matchups and possibly more run support. Well, Eickhoff already knows what it’s like to face top rivals and keep his team in the game. Last year, he matched up against Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and twice against both Kyle Hendricks and Zack Greinke. Late in the season, he faced NL Cy Young winner Max Scherzer twice and lefty stud Chris Sale once. He pitched 19 innings in those three starts and allowed six runs. Pretty solid.
 
It’s certainly not the most important decision that Mackanin & Co. will face between now and April, but when it comes to opening day starter, well, we like Eick.
 
• Spring training is less than a month away, but the Phillies’ offseason roster construction remains in progress. You can pretty much bank on the club adding a bat, likely a left-handed-hitting outfielder, in the coming days.
 
Brandon Moss and Michael Saunders, both free-agent outfielders, remain the most likely targets, with Moss probably the best fit because of his ability to help out at first base.
 
The Phillies have had longstanding interest in Jay Bruce, who is on the Mets’ trading block, but sources say the price for him is two prospects. The rebuilding Phillies are committed to hanging on to their prospects. Moss or Saunders would cost just money, making them better fits on a short-term deal.

• The Phillies will officially open their new developmental academy in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday. The club has leased four different facilities since ramping up efforts in the DR in 1994. The new facility, built on 45 acres in Boca Chica, is co-owned by the Phillies and Minnesota Twins. The two teams have separate baseball facilities and dormitories for up to 78 players. The clubs share kitchen, dining and field maintenance costs.
 
Read more about the new facility here.
  
• Agreeing at the midpoint and avoiding a hearing is always the goal when a player and his team exchange salary figures during the arbitration process. Cesar Hernandez submitted a figure of $2.8 million and the Phillies came in at $2 million. Shake hands at $2.4 million and move on.
 
• We mentioned this recently, but it’s worth repeating because it’s so remarkable. At home in 2016, the Phillies recorded a team batting average of .230 and a team on-base percentage of .291. Those marks were the club’s worst in more than a century of official record keeping.
 
• Phillies prospect Carlos Tocci is a strong candidate for the rookie of the year award in the Venezuelan winter league. The 21-year-old outfielder hit .323 with a .403 on-base percentage in 59 games for the Aragua ballclub.
 
Odubel Herrera was rookie of the year and batting champion in the Venezuelan league two years ago.
 
• And finally, Phillies chairman David Montgomery was among the honorees at the 14th annual Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation In the Spirit of the Game awards dinner Saturday night in Beverly Hills, California.
 
Montgomery received the Allan H. “Bud” Selig Executive Leadership Award. Rachel Robinson, the widow of Jackie Robinson, Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, Bo Jackson, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and a host of legendary scouts were among the other honorees at the event.
 
It was nice to see an organization dedicated to scouting recognize Montgomery, who served as Phillies president from 1997 to 2014. As leader of the Phillies, Montgomery always realized the importance of scouts in building a successful organization, and in his typical style built personal relationships with every member of his club’s scouting staff, right down to the area guys who drive around baseball’s backstreets in search of young talent. Winning the 2008 World Series was the highlight of Montgomery’s time as club president and that team was built on the back of good scouting.
 
So congratulations to one of the classiest and most respected men in the game on a most fitting honor.

Phillies avoid arbitration with Jeanmar Gomez, exchange figures with Cesar Hernandez

Phillies avoid arbitration with Jeanmar Gomez, exchange figures with Cesar Hernandez

Updated: 7:50 p.m.

The Phillies and relief pitcher Jeanmar Gomez on Friday avoided salary arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal worth $4.2 million, according to a major league source.

Friday was the deadline for teams and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures. The Phils avoided arbitration with shortstop Freddy Galvis on Thursday with a one-year, $4.35 million agreement.

Second baseman Cesar Hernandez is the team's lone remaining arbitration-eligible player. 

Hernandez and the team exchanged salary proposals on Friday. Hernandez is seeking $2.8 million. The team offered $2 million. The two sides can continue to negotiate and if a settlement is not reached, an arbitration panel will decide on Hernandez's 2017 salary by picking the player's asking price or the team's offer. Agreements are typically stuck at or near the midpoint before a hearing is even needed. Hearings are held during the first two weeks of February, if needed.

Hernandez made $525,000 in 2016. He hit .294 with a .371 on-base percentage and led the majors with 11 triples.

Cody Asche and Darin Ruf were also set to enter arbitration years but Asche was non-tendered and Ruf was traded to the Dodgers.

This is Gomez's final arbitration year; he's set for free agency after the season. It's a nice raise for a reliever who made $1.4 million in 2016.

Gomez surprisingly emerged as the Phillies' closer early in the season. He was the one man in early April who seized the late-inning opportunity and he carried the closer's job into the final weeks of September.

Gomez saved 37 games in 43 opportunities after registering just one in his career prior to 2016. He had a 2.97 ERA with 34 saves on Sept. 1 but had a rocky final month, allowing 17 earned runs in eight innings. It raised his season ERA to 4.85.

The Phillies added some relief depth this offseason in Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek. They also have Hector Neris, who had a 2.58 ERA with 102 strikeouts in 80 innings last season, consistently showing a disappearing splitter. 

So it's no given Gomez keeps the closer's job in 2017. In fact, it would seem unlikely given his shaky September and the type of stuff Neris and Benoit possess.

CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury contributed to this story.