Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Matt Klentak plays coy about Phillies' interest in Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich

Phillies general manager Matt Klentak, speaking before Saturday’s game against Milwaukee, chose his words carefully when asked about speculation that the Phils are interested in trading for Miami outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich.

“We have talked to each of the other 29 teams at least once sometime in the last three weeks, Miami being one of them,” he said. “But I hope in my career that you will never get me to comment on a specific player.”

He added that the Phillies, while expected to be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline, are “open-minded to the idea of adding, particularly controllable players (that) make sense for us.”

Someone then asked, at least partially tongue in cheek, if they would be OK inheriting a 10-year contract, a reference to the amount of time left after this season on the 13-year, $325 million contract Stanton signed before the 2015 season.

“Depends on the player,” Klentak said. “Never say never.”

The Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo speculated on June 17 the Phillies have the money and prospects to deal for Stanton and Yelich, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported Thursday the Phillies, Giants and Cardinals “are among teams showing strong interest in multiple Miami Marlins outfielders.”

Marcell Ozuna is the other Miami outfielder attracting attention.

Heyman added, however, that there is “almost no chance” Stanton will be dealt before July 31, citing the stumbling blocks as his no-trade clause and the pending sale of the Marlins — i.e., that a new owner might want to have a megastar like Stanton on hand to build around.

As for the Phillies, Klentak said, “We are open, and we have had conversations with certain teams about players where we would, if you’re looking at it in a binary way, be acting as the buyer. But … you understand that it doesn’t make sense for us to do that for a short-term asset.”

But there would be interest, he added, if it’s “a player that we believe would be with us for a long enough period of time to impact the long-term fate of this franchise.”

In general, Klentak said that “the dialogue has been pretty consistent” with other teams, and that while other clubs have consummated a handful of deals already, the activity should pick up as the deadline nears.

The Phillies did not make a deal before the July 31 deadline in 2016 but shipped Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers before the waiver deadline at the end of August. This year, they have a handful of veterans on expiring contracts – starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, utilityman Howie Kendrick and outfielder Daniel Nava — who might be appealing to a contender.

“Whether it’s now, whether it’s August, whether it’s the winter meetings, whether it’s spring training, no matter what, it’s generally still the same calculus: Does this potential transaction make sense for this franchise at this time?” Klentak said when asked about the likelihood of an August deal. “And there are a variety of factors that play into that. Whether a player is likely to get through trade waivers in August is a factor.”

He also stopped short of saying that any of the team’s minor league prospects — prospects who would presumably be involved in a potential deal with Miami — is untouchable.

“For any general manager to say they wouldn’t do anything, just doesn't make sense,” he said. “You really and truthfully don’t know what opportunity will present itself later down the road. There’s definitely players in our system that we’re more protective of than others.”

Matt Klentak: Phillies’ logjam with Tommy Joseph, Rhys Hoskins ‘not ideal’

Matt Klentak: Phillies’ logjam with Tommy Joseph, Rhys Hoskins ‘not ideal’

The Phillies’ brain trust held a three-hour meeting Friday about the state of the team, and the principals are certainly presenting a united front.

No, no one is untouchable with Major League Baseball’s trade deadline drawing ever nearer.

Yes, something needs to be done about the first-base logjam.

General manager Matt Klentak, speaking before Saturday’s game against San Diego, echoed the recent comments of team president Andy MacPhail on the first of those topics, and reiterated manager Pete Mackanin’s stance on the second.

The Phils are the worst team in the majors and are almost certain to be sellers with the non-waiver deadline coming up on July 31. Klentak said the team has been fielding inquiries for “the last week to 10 days,” but was quick to point out that the front office did not make a move last July.

“We’ll make trades that make sense for this club, but if we feel like there’s not fit, obviously as we demonstrated last year we’re not afraid to hang onto guys,” he said. “We’ll have to see.”

The Phillies’ most significant in-season move last year came before the waiver deadline at the end of August, when they sent Carlos Ruiz to the Dodgers. This year they have a handful of veterans on expiring contracts – starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, relievers Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, utilityman Howie Kendrick and outfielder Daniel Nava – any one of whom might be attractive to a contender.

But MacPhail told reporters last week in New York that it’s “pretty safe” to say that everyone is available for the right price. And Klentak did not disagree.

“You’ll probably never get me to talk specifically about any one or two players,” he said, “but as far as what Andy said and kind of piggybacking off of that, honestly whether you’re a good team or a bad team, whether you’re in a win-now mode or rebuilding mode, you have to be open-minded to different scenarios. You just never know what may present itself.”

Mackanin told reporters Friday that Tommy Joseph and Rhys Hoskins – the Phils’ current first baseman and the one tearing it up while manning the same position at Triple A Lehigh Valley – “can't coexist on the same team.” Both are right-handed power hitters (see story). Both seem unlikely candidates for a position switch.

Klentak acknowledged the situation is “not ideal,” and said that while the team has not taken a look at Joseph or Hoskins in left field, “I think there’s a reason both of them are playing first every day.”

Joseph, as a result, could very well find himself the odd man out.

The second-base situation is not quite the same, Klentak said, even though Cesar Hernandez has shown his worth and Scott Kingery, the team’s second-round pick in 2015, was promoted to Triple A two weeks ago.

Kingery needs more time at that rung of the minors, in the eyes of the GM, and there is more flexibility with middle infielders than those who man the corners. Kingery, for instance, has been taking groundballs at third of late.

Hernandez, for his part, has been on the disabled list since June 11 with an oblique strain. He figures to be activated soon after the All-Star break, Klentak said. Same for Kendrick (hamstring) and pitcher Vince Velasquez (elbow), the latter of whom made a rehab start for Double A Reading on Thursday.

Klentak said shortstop Freddy Galvis has been “incredibly valuable” in terms of what he brings to the team defensively and in the clubhouse and spoke highly of third baseman Maikel Franco and centerfielder Odubel Herrera, both of whom have struggled this season.

Herrera, the GM said, has picked it up since “a terrible May,” and the front office still likes his defense. The latter is also true of Franco, but he entered Saturday’s game hitting .219.

“He’s shown flashes of busting out of it,” Klentak said beforehand, adding that Franco’s walk rate is up, his strikeout rate down, his work ethic impressive.

“The numbers aren’t there and I understand that, but we’re going to continue running him out there.” 

Which they can afford to do, because of “where we are as a franchise, trying to find out about players,” he said.

Overall, though, there is no way to paint a smiley face on the season to date. Mackanin had spoken in spring training about playing .500 ball. Instead, the Phillies are on pace for over 100 losses.

“We’ve been frustrated, generally, with the team’s play, and we’ve had our fair share of mistakes, whether on the mound, on the bases, at the plate,” Klentak said. “We’ve not been a particularly good baseball team for the first half of the season. To say we have given up on players or the frustration has reached a point where we no longer feel players can help us, that is not true.”

At the same time, they’re going to have to start trading some of them away. And it could be anyone.

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.