It's becoming more and more evident that the Philadelphia Phillies' strong start to the season is not a flash in the pan. Two-thirds of the way through June, the Fightin's are six games over .500 and 3.5 games behind the similarly surprising Atlanta Braves in the NL East. They're just half a game behind the Washington Nationals for the second wild card berth going into a critical head-to-head series at Nationals Park.
With the Phils ready to play meaningful baseball in August and September for the first time in almost seven years, the question now becomes what the Phillies might do as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches just over a month from now. This will be the first year that general manager Matt Klentak and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail will be operating as potential buyers, and it will be interesting to see what actions they take.
As it happens, one of the Phillies' biggest needs comes at one of the most happening positions in the trade market.
Gabe Kapler's third basemen haven't been stellar thus far in the campaign, and if the team decides to chase a playoff spot a year early they will need an upgrade there. Amongst several possibilities at the position is a sure-fire Hall of Famer who can fortify the Phillies both on and off the field: Adrian Beltre.
Would Beltre be worth pursuing? Let's take a closer look.
The Phillies clearly need an upgrade at third. The Phillies' third basemen are cumulatively hitting .235/.300/.399 with 10 home runs and 43 RBI.
The majority of that production has come from Maikel Franco, who has gone on a couple of tears over the course of the season but hasn't been able to produce consistently. He's clearly fallen out of favor with Kapler, having been mostly benched in favor of the combination of Scott Kingery and J. P. Crawford on the left side of the infield.
With Crawford heading back to the DL after an errant pitch from St. Louis' Luke Weaver fractured his hand, Franco will likely get back into the lineup on a more full-time basis, but unless he suddenly finds the form from his rookie year in 2015 the Phillies would certainly be able to upgrade from outside the organization.
The case for Beltre
MLB.com's Jon Morosi has reported that the Phillies have real interest in Beltre as the deadline draws closer.
A move for the future Hall of Famer would certainly help the Phillies' cause. He certainly isn't playing like a typical 39-year-old: through 45 games this year he carries a .302/.357/.428 slash line. He's only homered three times and driven in only 22, which may be cause for concern, especially in the hitter-friendly confines of Globe Life Park, but Citizens Bank Park is even friendlier, and his power may begin to show through.
Beltre also continues to play the defense that won him five Gold Gloves and has put him in the discussion amongst Brooks Robinson and Mike Schmidt as the best defensive third basemen in history. Franco can pull out a fantastic play here or there but generally isn't a stellar glove man at third. The upgrade here would be obvious.
But there is a reason beyond the field that the Phillies want Beltre on the team: his presence in the locker room.
Beltre has long been considered one of the best locker room leaders in baseball, and he has extensive playoff experience, including a trip to the World Series in 2011 with the Texas Rangers. In a locker room like Philadelphia's, which boasts the youngest group of position players in the majors, that kind of leadership will be invaluable as they navigate games that mean something in the dog days of summer for the first time.
Beltre would provide a significant on-field upgrade and add a huge locker room presence. Given his age, his cost would be far less prohibitive than, say, Manny Machado, who the Phillies are likely better off taking a run at in free agency than spending premium prospects for a potential rental. The situation is complicated by Beltre's no-trade clause, which is ironclad and gives him final say in wherever he goes, but depending on the situation as the deadline looms he may be convinced to join a rising contender to chase the one accolade that has eluded him during his storied career: a championship.
Just make sure no one touches his head.
Should the Phillies chase Adrian Beltre? Let us know in the comments below.