PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies always hoped to trade Jeremy Hellickson, Howie Kendrick and Pat Neshek before the end of July.
They traded them within a span of 48 hours this week, including separate deals Friday night involving Hellickson and Kendrick. The Phillies traded Hellickson and cash to Baltimore for outfielder Hyun Soo Kim, Double-A Bowie left-hander Garrett Cleavinger and international amateur signing bonus pool money. They shipped Kendrick and cash to Washington for Class A left-hander McKenzie Mills and more international signing bonus money.
The Phillies have acquired more than $1 million in international signing money in the past few weeks.
"We wouldn't make the trades if we weren't excited about them," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said after midnight Friday. "We proved that last year with Hellickson. We didn't trade him because we didn't feel we had a trade we liked so we held onto him. The fact that we made three trades suggests that we think pretty highly of the players we're getting back."
But the Phillies had plenty of motivation to trade Hellickson and Kendrick, just like Neshek. First, they will be free agents after the season and had no future in the organization. Second, it opens opportunities for younger players to play.
"I knew Matt from our time together [with the Angels]," Kendrick said. "Coming into this season, he told me that there was a good chance to move you if the opportunity comes up. It was something I knew could happen eventually."
It is unclear who takes Hellickson's spot in the rotation, although Jake Thompson started in his place and got the win in Friday's 10-3 victory over the Braves. Zach Eflin, Ben Lively and Mark Leiter are in Triple-A. Kendrick's absence means no playing-time issues in the outfield with Nick Williams, Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera.
Kim is expected to play in a reserve role. He will be a free agent after the season.
Cleavinger, 23, was Baltimore's No. 27 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. He is 2-4 with a 6.28 ERA in 27 appearances. He has struck out 42 and walked 23 in 38 2/3 innings.
"Clevinger is a really interesting arm," Klentak said. "He struggled with walks a bit this year, but our scouts do believe in his arm. A power arm that will pitch out of the bullpen."
Mills, 21, was the Nationals' No. 18 prospect and is now the Phillies' No. 24 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com. He went 12-2 with a 3.01 ERA in 18 starts with Class A Hagerstown. He struck out 118 and walked just 22 in 104 2/3 innings, making the South Atlantic League All-Star team. He just got promoted to Class A Potomac.
"Mills is a projectable left-handed starter who really had a remarkable transformation this year," Klentak said. "He struggled with command early in his career, and this year he's been dominant. We're adding another solid starting pitching prospect to the lower levels of our system, and we're really excited about that."
The international money is noteworthy. Every team gets at least $4.75 million to sign international amateur prospects during the current signing period, which began July 2. The Phillies have more than $5.75 million in their pool, which gives them an opportunity to sign more talent in the next 11 months, although the top players already have signed.
"The international slot money was a big part of the value in both these trades for us," Klentak said. "The name of the game is talent. There are limited ways that we can acquire talent. This was an opportunity for us to add to our pool and allow our international group to go identify more talent. In a sense we added the named players in these two trades today and are also adding some yet to be named players we haven't signed yet."
Klentak praised Hellickson, Kendrick and Neshek for their efforts in providing veteran leadership and stability in the team's rebuild, but their greatest contributions might be these trades. Maybe some of these prospects -- the Phillies got a shortstop and two pitchers for Neshek -- or unsigned amateurs will pan out.