Philadelphia Phillies: Trading Eflin for Machado would be a mistake

(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Phillies would be wise to hold on to Zach Eflin, who has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the rotation this season.

Let me just come out and say it: The Philadelphia Phillies should not trade Zach Eflin. There has been no shortage of speculation over the last few weeks regarding the Phillies and some of the players they are rumored to be targeting, namely the Baltimore OriolesManny Machado. Eflin’s name is one that continues to come up, as he has won six of his last seven starts and has looked like a completely different pitcher in the process.

This season, Eflin is 7-2 with a 3.15 ERA and a 1.078 WHIP.  After offseason knee surgery, Eflin looks like a totally different pitcher. He’s quietly become Philadelphia’s number two in the rotation, when really’s he’s pitching out of the five spot. Eflin is absolutely one of the biggest reasons why the Phillies are currently in first place after he won six straight games from June 6 to July 11.

Now, it’s easy to understand why some are so willing to let go of a player like Eflin, especially considering that including him in a package deal could result in the acquisition of Machado, hypothetically speaking. Landing a player of Machado’s caliber, even as a rental, is a tempting and attractive situation for the Phillies as they continue to battle for a playoff spot, and to land a player like Machado, you typically need to give up something good in return.

More from Philadelphia Phillies

But giving up a good player for a rental is where I give pause, and at this time, there’s really no reason to believe that Machado would be anything but a rental if the Phillies acquired him before the deadline. Machado would be foolish not the test the market, where he would undoubtedly sign the biggest contract. It’s just not worth it. In my opinion, GM Matt Klentak would have to view this team as legitimate World Series contenders, which they are not.

The Phillies are in a need of another bat, however, and it’s no secret that Scott Kingery is not an everyday shortstop. Kingery has held his own at short, but he is a natural second baseman. He has also struggled at the plate. These alone are reason enough to warrant making a move to bring in Machado. The question here is cost, and Baltimore will not just accept unproven prospects and bench players.

No, if the Phillies did trade for Machado, I’d much rather they include a player like Cesar Hernandez in a trade, which would allow Kingery to slide to second base, creating an opening at short. The Orioles need players they can build around, and Hernandez is only 28. But Eflin is 24 and a pitcher, and so he probably appears to be a more attractive option.

The Phillies would be wise to hold on to Eflin for a number of reasons. For one, he’s a young pitcher who seems to finally be rounding into form. According to Ben Harris of The Athletic, Eflin spent the offseason overhauling his pitches, dropping the two-seam sinker and adopting a four-seam fastball instead. The results have been impressive.

This season, Eflin is throwing smoke at opposing batters. He’s whiffed 67 of them so far, which is more than his previous two seasons combined. While Eflin used to rely on forcing batters into contact, he’s now proving that he can be a strikeout threat. His resurgence has been a pleasant surprise and a welcome addition to the Phillies rotation.

Speaking of the rotation, and I’ve said this many times before, but Eflin compliments one of the best rotations in baseball, even with guys like Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta both going through rough patches of their seasons. Each night, Phillies pitching gives the team a chance to win ball games. It certainly feels like this is the best core of pitchers that the Phillies have had since the Four Aces of 2011.

Related Story: 3 reasons Rhys Hoskins will win 2018 Home Run Derby

The fact of the matter is that good, young pitching is incredibly hard to come by. This Phillies team is figuring out their future core, and the pitching staff is going to be a big part of that group. In fact, Arietta is the only pitcher on the staff older than age 30. He’s pretty much the only guy that doesn’t figure to be here long-term, but Vince Velazquez, Aaron Nola, Pivetta, and Eflin could be the Phillies top four for the foreseeable future.

And whether the Phillies would like to admit it or not, they lucked out in the trade that brought Eflin to Philadelphia. In 2014 the Phillies sent Jimmy Rollins to the Dodgers for Eflin and Tom Windle. It was essentially a salary dump that signaled the Phillies were ready to move on and rebuild, but also a classy move by the organization to see that Rollins went to a contender.

But Philadelphia surely didn’t expect that they would be in possession of a young pitcher that would be a major role player on a newly rebuilt club in just a few years’ time. That’s what Eflin is becoming to this team, and that is why he is too valuable to trade.

Now, the flipside to that coin is that the Phillies do have a nice stable of pitching prospects, as evidenced by Enyel De Los Santos‘ impressive spot start the other night against the New York Mets. One could argue that sending Eflin away in a trade may not hurt the Phillies that much if they have other guys like De Los Santos, Sixto Sanchez, and Adonis Medina ready to take the next step.

Next: Making sense of the Manny Machado rumors

Whichever side you stand on, I think that one is clear: pitching is this team’s biggest strength, and that is something they need to continue to rely on moving forward. Unless the Philadelphia Phillies are absolutely certain they have someone in the minors who is ready to replace Zach Eflin’s production on the mound right now, trading him for Manny Machado or anyone else wouldn’t make much sense right now.