I’ll admit: The premise of this article feels ill-timed. Rhys Hoskins is on one of his patented hot streaks, the kind that can carry the Phillies offense for weeks at a time. No hitter in the sport has a higher slugging percentage in June than Hoskins. It’s been a treat to watch, and a huge part of the reason the Phillies season has turned around.
It’s also not a reason to avoid the elephant in the room and reality of this roster.
If the Phillies are ever going to break through from an interesting potential contender to a true bona fide October threat, a shake up is needed. Firing Joe Girardi was a start and certainly changed the energy in the clubhouse and within the dugout. It’s already been enough to save this season, but Rob Thomson’s good vibes can’t fix disjointed roster construction, baseball’s worst defense and a flawed bullpen.
Trading Hoskins before the August 2 trade deadline potentially could, and should be something team president Dave Dombrowski seriously considers.
Hoskins is a good offensive player. That much is very obvious, with a half decade of evidence pointing to it. Since debuting in 2017, Hoskins owns a 127 OPS+. That means he’s been 27 percent more productive than the average hitter across that span. Hoskins’ bat is more of an asset than it is a liability, but those numbers don’t account for what we know: There’s perhaps no streakier hitter in the sport. I’ve never seen an above-average offensive player with as egregious high-highs and low-lows as Hoskins. His hot streaks can help the Phillies beat any team. But his inevitable cold streaks tend to cripple the offense for weeks at a time.
Then, of course, there’s the defense. Hoskins’ isn’t the worst defender on the Phillies (those would currently reside at third base and right field), but he’s not an asset in the field. Think back to the Tuesday night loss to Miami. Hoskins had four hits. He had six RBI. But his inability to rescue Alec Bohm from a ninth-inning error (a good first baseman makes the scoop on that play) started a sad defensive meltdown. Hoskins isn’t a bad player, but I’ve yet to ever feel that he’s a winning player.
With only one full year left before free agency, perhaps it’s time for the Phillies to reconsider the roster and Hoskins’ greatest value to the club. With DH-types at third base, left field, right field, the reigning NL MVP currently forced into DH duty, and a 31-year-old catcher in decline, handing Hoskins a long-term contract after 2023 seems far-fetched. It’s far more likely that one (or more) of Bohm, Kyle Schwarber, Nick Castellanos, J.T. Realmuto or Bryce Harper has a future at first base, leaving Hoskins’ presence on the roster as another square peg trying to fit into a round hole.
So why not sell high, and move Hoskins now in a league struggling to slug like it has in past years? Yes, Hoskins’ offense has been key for the Phillies. But it shouldn’t be *as* important when Castellanos finds his level and/or Realmuto wakes up. The Phillies offense will go as Schwarber and Harper go.
If I sat in Dombrowski’s shoes, I’d be shopping Hoskins with the idea of improving this team’s bullpen and/or defense with a roster shake up similar to how then-Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein swapped Nomar Garciaparra for shortstop Orlando Cabrera and first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz in 2004. The move was shocking at the moment. For as much as you might associate Hoskins with the Phillies, it pales in comparison to the connection Boston had with Garciaparra. Epstein was initially crushed for the deal, but his initial explanation still sticks with me all these years later.
"I thought there was a flaw on the club that we couldn't allow to become a fatal flaw, that the defense on this team is not championship caliber," Epstein said. "In my mind we were not going to win a World Series with our defense the way it was."
You could absolutely say that now about the 2022 Phillies, with both defense and bullpen in mind.
I know, I know. Other teams know what Hoskins is too. They see the highs and lows. But it only takes one interested team, and that might be easier to find with a universal DH. Heck, perhaps it could even be a three or four-team deal (like the Nomar trade was) that ends up with both contenders and rebuilding clubs coming out feeling like winners.
Would the Rays (26th in OPS) swap out a long-term bullpen piece like Jalen Beeks (1.29 ERA in 28 innings) in a Hoskins deal? How about throwing in a Gold Glove-caliber outfielder like Kevin Kiermaier to take money off Tampa’s books as they make room for Hoskins? There’s a deal to be made there.
Or perhaps a bigger-picture, prospect-laden deal could come together with the Phillies getting a prospect back from a contender in need of a bat at first base (Astros, Red Sox) or DH (Guardians, Padres) and flipping those players (and one or two from their own system) to a rebuilding club like Oakland for center fielder Ramon Laureano (117 career OPS+ and a rocket for an arm in the outfield), left-handed reliever A.J. Puk (former top 10 pick coming into his own with a 1.29 ERA, club control through 2026, and a young Andrew Miller-feel to him) and veteran utility man Tony Kemp. It’s the kind of deal that a smart team would try to make.
The Phillies have built a team capable of pushing for the postseason, but won’t be able to outhit its flaws at a championship level. It’s time to re-think the roster, and consider a bold move. Is trading the hottest hitter in the National League right now bold? Maybe. But it just might be the way to unlock this team in a way they’ll never realize with Hoskins here.