Phillies could be open to trading one of their core stars

November 9th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Phillies have enjoyed great success during the past two seasons, reaching the World Series in 2022 and the NL Championship Series this past October.

But as Philadelphia embarks on its offseason plans in an effort to be the last team standing in 2024, it appears a key cog in its lineup could be on the move.

According to a source, the Phillies are open to the idea of trading Nick Castellanos, whose streaky ways and disappointing performance in the NLCS could result in an offseason change.

Jorge Soler and Teoscar Hernández are among the right-field options on the free-agent market, so the Phillies could take the $20 million per year owed to Castellanos over the next three seasons to sign his replacement. Other players such as Boston’s Alex Verdugo could also be available in trades.

Although president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski said Wednesday that the plan is for Bryce Harper to remain at first base full-time, the Phillies could also pivot by moving him back to right field and re-signing free-agent first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who missed the entire 2023 season after suffering a torn ACL during Spring Training.

Castellanos’ numbers for the entire 2023 season were solid, as he hit 29 home runs with 106 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 157 games. He posted strong numbers in April (.878 OPS), June (.954 OPS) and August (.860 OPS), but he slumped in May (.695 OPS) and July (.497 OPS), then had a .570 OPS from Aug. 13 through Sept. 8, prompting manager Rob Thomson to drop him to eighth in the lineup, batting him no higher than sixth for the remainder of the regular season.

Castellanos’ free-swinging ways were an issue; he ranked in the bottom 2% of the league in chase percentage, the bottom 5% in whiff percentage and the bottom 12% in walk rate. He finished the NLCS hitless in his final 23 at-bats, striking out 11 times while chasing more than 50% of pitches out of the zone.

Marked man

The Brewers traded Mark Canha to the Tigers last week for Minor League pitcher Blake Holub, but there was competition for the outfielder, as sources say both the Royals and Athletics were in talks with Milwaukee for Canha prior to the deal.

Kansas City liked Canha’s .355 on-base percentage and the quality of his at-bats, as he ranked in the top 25% of the league in chase percentage, whiff percentage and strikeout rate. The Royals ranked 13th in the AL with a .303 on-base percentage, so Kansas City will seek to add at least one batter with on-base skills to help remedy that issue.

Up to the challenge?

Pirates GM Ben Cherington knew Craig Breslow was destined to have a second career in baseball once his playing days were over, and while he wasn’t sure whether that would be in a dugout or a front office, he wasn’t surprised to see Breslow take the path he ultimately did en route to running the Red Sox.

Breslow played for the Red Sox during Cherington’s tenure as general manager from 2012-15, winning a World Series in 2013. The two were reunited in 2018 with the Blue Jays, as Breslow pitched in the club’s system while Cherington worked in the front office.

“I think we all envisioned that he would do something meaningful in the game after he stopped playing,” Cherington said. “For a long time, I didn't know what that would be; I don't think he knew what that would be. I got to work with him in Toronto, talked to him a lot in the year or two after he was done playing as he was thinking about what path he wanted to go down. I talked to him about being on the field still in uniform and going down that path; ultimately, he chose the baseball ops/front office/player development path and he's done really well. I’m sure he’ll do well in Boston.”

Breslow was hired to run Boston’s baseball operations last month after a five-year stint working for the Cubs. His experience in Chicago helped him understand the inner-workings of a baseball operations department, while his time playing in Boston gives him a good understanding of the market.

“He's got all the equipment that you need [to succeed],” Cherington said. “He's experienced as a player, he's composed, he's exceptionally bright, he’s curious, he’s thoughtful, he's got a good process. He's got experience now putting a program together, putting a process together with the Cubs. He's got a good team of people around him. These jobs are hard, but he's got all you need to do well.”