Rollins is available, but the market appears thin

083113_phillies-loss-rollins.jpg

Rollins is available, but the market appears thin

The Phillies' entire roster is available for the right price, and as Buster Olney reminded on Monday, that includes shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

The Phils shopped Rollins at the 2013 trade deadline but a move was never worked out, mostly because Rollins stated his desire to remain with the team that drafted him.

Because Rollins has at least 10 years of service time with at least five coming with the same team, he has full no-trade rights. So if the Phillies want to deal him to a team in need of a shortstop, like the Twins for example, they'd need Rollins' permission. And there's pretty much no way he'd say yes.

Though the demand for shortstops outweighs the supply, the Phillies are in a bit of a bind when it comes to Rollins. He'll be unwilling to waive his no-trade rights to go to a non-contender, and that means that any team interested in him will have leverage over the Phillies.

Which contenders are in need of a short-term solution at shortstop? Perhaps the Red Sox, if they trust Xander Bogaerts more at third base. Every other AL contender is set, though. In the NL, you're looking at the Pirates and Reds.

So even if Rollins is willing to waive his no-trade rights to go to a contender, there are only three fits, one of which (Boston) is unlikely. Cincinnati is set to start Zack Cozart at short, and Pittsburgh has Clint Barmes and Jordy Mercer -- shaky options at best. 

Cozart had a .284 on-base percentage last season, Barmes doesn't get on base or hit for power, and Mercer performed well in limited duty last season but has just 145 games of major-league experience.

Rollins' defense and baserunning have slipped slightly, but he's still on the elite level in both categories and could help both NL Central clubs. His offense has dipped significantly -- he slugged 27 points lower last year than ever before -- but he's still probably a better option for one or two years than Barmes, Mercer or Cozart.

The issue is that since there are so few fits for his services, the Phillies don't have much leverage. If they want to rid themselves of his contract -- $11 million for 2013, with an easily vestible option at the same price for 2014 -- they won't get much of anything in return. It's another Jonathan Papelbon situation.

It still might make sense to deal Rollins for nothing but salary relief. The Phillies have Freddy Galvis ready to step in, and although Galvis provides no offense whatsoever, his defense would make him nearly as valuable as Rollins. (That's if and only if 2013 was a sign of things to come and not an aberration. After all, Rollins did hit 23 homers the year before.)

The likely reason the Phils want to move Rollins is for that salary relief. As we outlined over the weekend, they are dangerously close to the $165 million mark that Ruben Amaro Jr. said the team doesn't wish to exceed. And they have holes to fill on the bench and in the bullpen, and could use another decent starting pitcher.

This is, again, why you don't re-sign all of your veterans while trying to rebuild the farm system at the same time.

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Zach Eflin, Phillies aim for first series win since April

Phillies-Reds 5 things: Zach Eflin, Phillies aim for first series win since April

Phillies (17-30) vs. Reds (23-25)
1:35 p.m. on CSN; streaming live on CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports App.

Tommy Joseph came through as the Phillies' hero on Saturday with his second walk-off single in three days. It was just the Phillies' sixth win in their last 27 games, but the victory allows the Phillies an opportunity to take the series with the Reds.

Zach Eflin will take the hill for Sunday afternoon's start and will oppose Scott Feldman, the 'ace' for the Reds this season.

Here are five things to know for Sunday's game:

1. What a relief
It may have crept up on you, but the Phillies' bullpen is hot right now -- to the tune of 19 2/3 straight scoreless innings hot.

The Phils' relief corps came through with 3 2/3 more scoreless on Saturday to back up starter Jerad Eickhoff and give the bats a chance to walk off. After Joaquin Benoit expressed public frustration with the lack of roles in the 'pen, the team has slowly but surely found a pecking order for its back-end. With Hector Neris entrenched as closer, Benoit now serves as the primary setup man while Pat Neshek and Edubray Ramos have also been in line for high-leverage innings.

Neris has allowed just one run over 10 2/3 this month after closing last month with that back-to-back-to-back home run implosion in Los Angeles. He's back to his bread and butter -- setting up hitters with his fastball before unleashing his nasty splitter, which he used to retire Joey Votto in Saturday's ninth inning.

Benoit has seven consecutive scoreless one-inning performances. He's looking more and more like the reliever the Phillies thought they were getting when they signed him in the offseason. Neshek has five straight scoreless appearances since giving up his first runs of the season two weeks ago during the doubleheader with the Nationals. Both setup men are in line for possible trades this season and could get the Phillies something in return.

And if the rotation continues to stumble (averaging 5.38 innings per start with an ERA above 6.00 in May), the bullpen could be a backbone to keep the team respectable.

2. Needing a better effort from Eflin
One starter who is certainly struggling is Eflin, who needs to rebound after a couple poor starts.

His last two starts have been nothing short of disasters. In 10 innings, he's allowed 15 runs on 21 hits while surrendering three home runs. The appearances -- losses to the Rangers and Rockies -- account for the worst two-start stretch of his career.

Through seven starts, Eflin has an ERA of 5.36. He was coming off a string of four consecutive quality starts before this late-May swoon and had an ERA of 2.81 while averaging 6.4 innings per start.

The 6-foot-5 righty relies heavily on his sinker, so he's going to have a lot of balls put in play. However, he simply can't survive with home runs. He needs to keep the ball on the ground, especially against the slugging Reds, who have four batters with at least 10 home runs.

There's no doubt that Eflin could pitch his way out of the rotation if he can't turn things around. He's only 23 and has made just 18 MLB starts. However, pitching through his struggles in the majors is the right way to go. This is a pitcher who had a 2.81 ERA just two weeks ago and two bad starts aren't worth an overreaction.

None of his 18 career starts came against the Reds and he has not faced anyone currently on Cincy's roster.

3. The Reds' ace?
Believe or not, the Phillies don't have the worst rotation ERA in baseball. That belongs to the Reds, whose starters sport a combined 5.74 heading into Sunday's rubber match in South Philly.

In 48 games, they've allowed 53 home runs and 154 earned runs. They've walked 109 batters and have the third fewest strikeouts (185) of any staff.

So with an only OK ERA of 3.99, Scott Feldman is actually the staff ace. At 34 years old, he's played for six different teams and had middling results at each stop. For his career, he is 74-81 with a 4.38 ERA.

This season, he has a career-worst walk rate, but has limited hits and home runs to keep teams off the board. On May 7, he threw a four-hit shutout against the Giants and is coming off a six-inning, one-run start against the Indians. He struck out a season-high nine in that game.

The Phillies are more than familiar with the righty as they faced him on opening day in Cincinnati. Feldman lasted just 4 2/3 innings and gave up three runs, including home runs to both Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis. It was his only ever start against the Phillies as he's spent the majority of his career in the American League.

4. Players to watch
Phillies: Joseph has been the Phillies' saving grace recently. In both games he finished with walk-off singles, he also hit a home run and he's looking more and more like the hitter that took the Phils' lineup by storm last summer.

Reds: Votto is undoubtedly one of the best hitters in baseball. The 33-year-old Canadian is 0 for 7 with a walk in this series but has a .413 OBP this season with more walks (36) than strikeouts (26).

5. This and that
• Howie Kendrick made his fourth rehab appearance on Saturday with Triple A Lehigh Valley. He went 1 for 5 and played the full game at third base.

• The Phillies have not won consecutive games since their six-game win streak concluded on April 27.

• The Phils lost their last eight series, beginning in Los Angeles against the Dodgers on April 28-30.

• The Phillies are 9-11 in one-run games. They were 28-23 in those contests last year.

Howie Kendrick makes 4th rehab appearance in Lehigh Valley

Howie Kendrick makes 4th rehab appearance in Lehigh Valley

Howie Kendrick on Saturday night made his fourth rehab appearance in Triple A during Lehigh Valley's 13-1 rout of the Louisville Bats in Allentown.

Kendrick went 1 for 5 with a run scored and three strikeouts. He also grounded into a double play and left two runners in scoring position.

It was his second rehab game playing third base. He played third during his appearance in the IronPigs' 8-4 loss Thursday to the Indianapolis Indians. He was 0 for 1 in three plate appearances with a run scored and was hit by a pitch twice (see story).

The Phillies' plan for Kendrick was to have him play a minimum four games at Lehigh Valley. He played left field in two games and third base twice. Pete Mackanin said Wednesday that Kendrick would also get a game at first base but he hasn't gotten a game at first yet.

There is a chance Kendrick could be recalled Sunday before the Phillies’ series finale against the Cincinnati Reds depending on how he feels.

Kendrick has been sidelined since April 15 with an oblique strain. In 10 games before the injury, Kendrick went 13 for 39 (.333) with five extra-base hits and four walks while exclusively playing left field.