Phillies' Joseph becomes trade candidate as club plots ways to look at Hoskins in majors

Phillies' Joseph becomes trade candidate as club plots ways to look at Hoskins in majors

Updated: 11:55 p.m.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin came out of Friday's three-hour meeting with general manager Matt Klentak and other top front-office officials believing the club could have a new look in the coming weeks. 

Does that mean a significant influx of young prospects for baseball's worst team?

Sounds that way.

"I'm hoping we are going to see them in the second half, sooner than later," Mackanin said. "We'll see what happens, especially at the (July 31) trading deadline. If we make a couple, three trades, it might change the whole complexion of the team."

It's no secret that the Phillies’ front office is trying to move veterans Jeremy Hellickson, Pat Neshek, Howie Kendrick, Joaquin Benoit and Daniel Nava. Heck, that was part of the plan when the team added each of these players, all of whom are on expiring contracts.

There are enough teams looking for a rental starting pitcher that the Phillies should be able to move Hellickson, especially considering that they are willing to eat a significant chunk of the approximately $6 million that will remain on his contract at the end of July. Kansas City and Seattle could be two teams to watch on Hellickson. The Phils will have no problem moving Neshek, who is having an excellent year as a setup man. Kendrick, Benoit and Nava could all offer something to a contender and the price to acquire them would not be high. 

Add Tommy Joseph's name to the list of potential trade candidates. The Phillies have no untouchables; that has been long clear. But Joseph is starting to stand out a little more than others as a player available for a trade. The Phillies would like to take a look at power-hitting first baseman Rhys Hoskins at some point during the second half of the season. To do that, they would have to move Joseph aside.

"They can't coexist on the same team," Mackanin said. "There is no way I could [get playing time for both]. It wouldn't be fair to either guy. It wouldn't be fair to us. It wouldn't be fair to Tommy. Tommy's got a chance to hit 30 home runs and drive in 90 runs. To take that possibility away from him, I don't think is fair to him, regardless of what we think about him. He's a pretty good hitter. And to bring Rhys up here just to play part-time doesn't make sense to me. If he could play another position, if either one of them could, it would make it easier for me to do. But I don't think it would help either guy or us to find out about Rhys Hoskins if he is not playing on a regular basis."

Both players play exclusively first base.

Joseph could be attractive to an American League club, where he could bring some power to the first-base position and also be a designated hitter. The Yankees are looking for a first baseman and a bullpen setup man. Sending Neshek and Joseph to the Bronx in a package deal could make some sense, provided the Phillies liked the return.

Joseph, who turns 26 next week, is hitting .251 with 15 homers and 43 RBIs. He has an on-base percentage of .311 and a slugging percentage of .467. He has 76 strikeouts and 24 walks.

Hoskins, 24, entered Friday hitting .292 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs at Triple A Lehigh Valley. He had a .387 on-base percentage and a .581 slugging percentage. He had 53 strikeouts and 46 walks. Phillies officials like the right-handed power that both players bring. But Hoskins' on-base percentage and his strikeouts-to-walks ratio are more typical of the type of hitter this Phillies front office wants to build around.

Joseph had a good game in Friday night's 4-3 loss to the Padres. He reached base four times with a double, a homer and two walks (see Instant Replay).

Always mature beyond his years, Joseph was philosophical when asked about the possibility of being traded.

"That's not anything that I get to control," he said. "I have the opportunity to play first base for the Phillies and make the most of that opportunity. This is a great team to be part of. It's a great city to play for. I'm enjoying it every day. Rhys Hoskins is a great player. The decision is going to be up to them, not me.

"I'm aware of the situation. He's a really good player. It's a decision that Pete and the front office will have to make. He's been playing well. I've been playing well. I'm just going to go out and do the best I can."

As for other prospects who could come up in the near future, Scott Kingery remains a long shot — unless, of course, the Phillies trade Maikel Franco. He is available, but the price is high. Kingery, a second baseman by trade, has been working out at third base in Lehigh Valley just to see if he could be an option if Franco is traded. Kingery still projects long-term as the Phils' second baseman of the future. For now, Cesar Hernandez has dibs on that position. He should be ready to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break. Hernandez could be dealt this winter to make room for Kingery and the team needs to play him so other teams can get a look.

J.P. Crawford's status remains up in the air. The shortstop has had a poor season at Lehigh Valley.

"J.P. has to hit better to come up, for me," Mackanin said.

Catcher Jorge Alfaro will likely come up at some point, but he hasn't torn up the International League.

"He's been hot and cold," Mackanin said. "He's had his good moments and some off moments."

And on defense?

"Mixed results right now," Mackanin said. "He has good days and bad days. He's in the learning process."

Other matters that were discussed in Friday's summit included the pitching picture: 

Jerad Eickhoff (back strain) will come off the disabled list and start on Sunday in the final game before the All-Star break.

Vince Velasquez (forearm strain) will continue to throw in the bullpen and make a minor-league rehab start on Thursday. He will be evaluated after that and could return to the rotation soon after. The Phillies still want to try to develop him as a starter.

Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

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Best of MLB: Aaron Judge breaks Mark McGwire's HR rookie record, Yankees top Royals

NEW YORK -- Aaron Judge circled the bases for the 50th time this season, breaking Mark McGwire's major league record for home runs by a rookie, and returned to the Yankees dugout to exchange handshakes, hugs and high-fives with excited teammates.

And then, he walked up the steps and back onto the field.

Embarrassed by the attention, he managed four short waves with his right hand before heading back to the bench just three seconds later.

"They kind of told me: `You got to go out there. You got to go out there,'" he would later recall. "First curtain call. I hope it was a good one."

Judge had his second straight two-homer game in an 11-3 rout of Kansas City on Monday. On an unseasonably warm autumn afternoon, the Yankees won for the 16th time in 22 games during a playoff push that earned no worse than a wild card.

The 6-foot-7, 25-year-old slugger tied McGwire's 1987 mark with a two-run drive to right-center off Jakob Junis (8-3) in the third inning that put New York ahead 3-0, driving a 93 mph high fastball 389 feet about a half-dozen rows into the right field seats (see full recap).

Russell makes food run, Cubs beat Cards to near clinch
ST. LOUIS -- Say cheese!

Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs were all smiles after moving within a victory of another division title Monday night.

Russell hit a three-run double in the first inning, then made a food run for a fan in enemy territory while the Cubs beat the St. Louis Cardinals 10-2. Chicago can wrap up the division with a win Tuesday against the Cardinals or a loss by Milwaukee against Cincinnati.

Russell helped the Cubs get to starter Luke Weaver (7-2) early, then made some friends out of rival fans. After diving into the stands chasing a foul ball down the third-base line and spilling a man's tray of chips, Russell emerged from the dugout a few innings later with a plate of nachos and delivered it to the fan. Russell stopped to take a selfie before heading back to play shortstop.

"That was pretty entertaining," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said (see full recap).

Donaldson, Blue Jays stop Red Sox winning streak at 6
BOSTON -- The Boston Red Sox would like to get the AL East wrapped up quickly so they can start resting some banged-up players.

Josh Donaldson homered and drove in three runs, powering the Toronto Blue Jays past the first-place Red Sox 6-4 on Monday night.

Boston's six-game winning streak was snapped and its magic number to clinch a second straight division title remained at three. The Red Sox lead the second-place New York Yankees, who beat Kansas City earlier in the day, by four games with six remaining.

But the most important thing for the Red Sox was the loss of two key players to injuries. For how long? They don't know yet.

Eduardo Nunez and Mookie Betts both left the game early. Nunez aggravated a right knee injury that sidelined him for 13 games, and Betts came out with pain in his left wrist (see full recap).

Rangers fall to Astros, wild-card hopes fading
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Marwin Gonzalez had four hits and three RBIs as the AL West champion Houston Astros beat Texas 11-2 on Monday night, putting the Rangers on the brink of elimination in the wild-card race.

Houston second baseman Jose Altuve, the American League leader with 199 hits and a .348 batting average, left in the eighth inning after he was hit by a 95 mph fastball. The team said X-rays were negative and Altuve had a bruised forearm.

Gonzalez had two hits and scored twice in an eight-run fourth, including a two-run single that chased starter Andrew Cashner (10-11). Gonzalez later hit his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth.

Collin McHugh (4-2) struck out six while throwing 112 pitches in five innings. The right-hander is 15-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 19 starts in September or October during his four seasons with the Astros (see full recap).

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

In final start of 2017, Aaron Nola establishes himself as Phillies' best pitcher in loss

BOX SCORE

Before beginning a season-ending six-game homestand Monday night, Phillies manager Pete Mackanin singled out Aaron Nola when asked about the positives of what is mostly a dismal 2017 season. 

“Nola has really established himself,” Mackanin said pregame. “To me, he’s a solid No. 3 starter.”

Nola then looked the part in what was likely his final start of the year, using a sharp curveball to strike out nine over six innings in the Phillies’ 3-1 loss to the Washington Nationals at Citizens Bank Park (see observations)

“I felt like just the command and getting ahead of hitters helped out this year,” Nola said. 

Returning from elbow surgery that ended his 2016 season in July, Nola (12-11) became the best starter on the team thanks to the development of a changeup in spring training to go with his fastball and dominant curveball. 

“I felt a lot stronger,” the soft-spoken Nola said when asked to sum up his season. “I felt like I was using my legs more and that increased my velocity a little bit.” 

Nola allowed two runs or fewer in 18 of his 27 starts. His 184 strikeouts are the most by a Phillies pitcher who made fewer than 30 starts in a season. 

“I wouldn’t call him a power pitcher. He doesn’t appear to be a strikeout pitcher,” Mackanin said. “But when you can locate your fastball and get ahead with your fastball down in the strike zone and have that kind of curveball and then you add that kind of changeup, now the hitter has three pitches to worry about.”

He struck out 36 over his final four starts and 25 1/3 innings, using his sweeping curve as an out pitch. All but one of his strikeouts Monday night came on the curve. 

“It’s been good,” Nola said. “I’ve been able to command it on both sides of the plate and down, which has helped me. I felt like my fastball command was better this year than it was last year.” 

In a rotation in which basically nothing else is settled, Nola gives the Phillies an anchor for next season. The 24-year-old LSU product has a 3.54 ERA and the changeup gives him three quality pitches. 

“It’s been kind of the cherry on top, a little bit, being able to throw that right-on-right,” catcher Andrew Knapp said of the changeup. “It’s a hard pitch to hit when you’re a left-handed hitter. But when you’re right-handed and coming to that back foot, it’s a really good pitch.” 

Nola retired the first four hitters before Jayson Werth singled and Michael A. Taylor followed by crushing a 3-1 fastball into the left-field seats for his 17th homer. 

It was the 18th home run allowed by Nola. But he got into a groove from there. Facing a lineup without Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon, Nola held the NL East champions to two runs and five hits with two walks. 

But it didn’t prevent the Phillies from losing for the fourth time in five games. 

Odubel Herrera’s solo home run on an 0-2 pitch from A.J. Cole (3-5) in the fourth was all the offense the Phillies could muster. They’ve managed seven runs in four games. 

Rhys Hoskins is slumping (0 for 4 and hasn’t homered since Sept. 14) and Nick Williams struck out three times. 

“Our bats have gone silent for a few days now,” Mackanin said. 

They still have to win one more to avoid 100 losses, and many changes are possible in the offseason. Mackanin said before the game that “I still don’t know if I’ll be back here next year," (see story)

It’s a team that still has plenty of holes and lots of questions ahead of 2018. 

Nola, though, appears to be someone they can rely on. 

“The goal is to have five [reliable] guys on every start. But it’s nice,” Mackanin said. “When Nola pitches, we all expect to win. He’s done an outstanding job. He’s had the arm issues, but he came back from that better than he was before.”