PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr enjoyed one of the Phillies' finest offensive seasons in years in 2017.But the Phillies optioned Altherr to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday, following a season's worth of struggles. He hit .171 with six home runs, 33 RBIs and a .595 OPS in 248 plate appearances."He was
PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Altherr enjoyed one of the Phillies' finest offensive seasons in years in 2017.
But the Phillies optioned Altherr to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday, following a season's worth of struggles. He hit .171 with six home runs, 33 RBIs and a .595 OPS in 248 plate appearances.
"He was in a really tough spot here," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said Monday at Citizens Bank Park. "The point at which Nick Williams began to really look over the baseball more successfully, take more pitches, be more selective, drive the baseball when he did get his A-swing off, he became a guy that we needed to get in the lineup frequently. And as he became more and more successful, it became more and more evident that it was going to be difficult to get Aaron regular at-bats. So he was coming off the bench against difficult relievers, some of the best relievers in the game, and it's not a position that he'd been in before. And it was a struggle for him, and very clearly so."
The timing of Altherr's demotion is interesting with the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline only eight days away. It leaves the Phillies thin on the bench with Trevor Plouffe, Jesmuel Valentin, Mitch Walding and either Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp. A source told MLB.com that the move does not mean a trade is imminent. In fact, the timing coincides more with the fact that Roman Quinn is finally healthy and playing again. Quinn, who just joined Double-A Reading, has missed much of the season following surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right middle finger. He could join the Phillies soon.
Of course, so could a player from outside the organization. The Phillies are trying to find a bat. A source has said the Phillies are interested in players like Twins infielder Eduardo Escobar, Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and Royals super-utility player Whit Merrifield. MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported Monday about the Phillies' interest in Blue Jays outfielder Curtis Granderson, but a source indicated Granderson might not be a frontburner option for the Phillies.
Rosenthal also mentioned Asdrubal Cabrera and Derek Dietrich as possibilities.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Friday the Phillies are trying to avoid the starting pitching market, but they had scouts Monday night at the starts for Rangers left-hander Cole Hamels in Texas, Tigers left-hander Francisco Liriano in Kansas City and Marlins right-hander Jose Urena in Miami. Of course, it does not mean the Phillies are specifically scouting those pitchers. The Phillies could be interested in Rangers relievers Jake Diekman or Keone Kela. They have established interest in Moustakas and Merrifield.
But the Phillies would love to see Altherr return to form. He hit .272 with 19 home runs, 65 RBIs and an .856 OPS in 412 plate appearances last season.
"We wanted to put him in a position where he could catch his breath, see the baseball consistently, get regular reps and get him back on track so he can help us down the stretch," Kapler said.
But in the short term, the Phillies are most likely to promote Quinn or find help from the outside.
"I just continue to maintain my position, which is we are here with the pieces that got us here," Kapler said. "Some of those guys that you mentioned are more recent additions -- some of them have been here for the long haul, but we're in first place for a reason and it's because the guys in this room have carried us to this position. I maintain that what we need is in this room right now. That's not to say upgrades wouldn't help us be even better than we are. I believe in the men in that room and that clubhouse right now and believe that they can carry us into the postseason."
Second baseman Cesar Hernandez did not start Monday for the second consecutive game. He fouled a pitch off his right foot a couple weekends ago in Pittsburgh, and it is giving him problems.
"It's been a little bit sore," Kapler said. "We just want to kind of manage it. We are being cautious about this, and [he will] most likely be back in there tomorrow."
Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.