Phillies Notebook: As trade deadline approaches, scouts focus on Phillies' Werth, Happ

J.A. Happ made first start after recovering from elbow strain.
J.A. Happ made first start after recovering from elbow strain.
Posted: July 26, 2010

IT IS SHAPING UP to be an interesting week at Citizens Bank Park, both for the home team as a whole and for a couple of players whose names have been involved in trade speculation during the previous month.

After 4 p.m. on Saturday, teams are not allowed to trade players unless they first put them on waivers, which give every other team the ability to claim them (and the remainder of their contract). Any player who is unlikely to pass through waivers - pretty much anyone who would impact a pennant race - must be dealt this week, which means a frenetic scramble of contenders looking to upgrade, pretenders looking to shed salary, and media members looking to cover each new development.

Lefthander J.A. Happ and rightfielder Jayson Werth are no strangers to the madness that surrounds baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. And since general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who is looking hard for pitching help, already has said he is open to dealing from his big-league roster, both players could once again find themselves in the eye of the storm.

Scouts from various potential trading partners were on hand to watch Happ pitch and Werth play rightfield in the Phillies' 4-3 win over the Rockies yesterday. Spotted among the delegation were representatives from Tampa Bay, which is said to be looking for a power hitter, and Houston, where the Phillies continue to show keen interest in veteran righthander Roy Oswalt.

"It's not like we sit around and talk about that stuff," Werth said. "We sit around and joke about it. But it's more of giving each other stuff and talking smack. Whatever happens is out of our control, for sure. But I think we're still very comfortable with each other in here. We have a team that's built to win, and we plan on doing that."

Out of Werth, scouts saw signs that he has awoken from a 57-game slumber that saw him hit just .232 with 60 strikeouts in 198 at-bats from early-May to mid-July. Werth, who is owed about $2.9 million until he becomes a free agent at the end of the season, went 2-for-4 with a double and is now 12-for-31 with five doubles in his last nine games. The Phillies are not optimistic about their chances of signing him to a multiyear contract, and his presumed replacement, Domonic Brown, has hit .347 with a .932 OPS and five home runs in 25 games since his promotion to TripleA Lehigh Valley.

Out of Happ, they saw a pitcher who still needs to shake off the effects of a 2 1/2-month layoff due to an elbow strain. That's how manager Charlie Manuel saw it, anyway. In his first big-league start since April 15 - Happ made six rehab starts and then two more at Triple A Lehigh Valley after the Phillies optioned him July 6 - he gave up a few hard-hit balls, including a two-run home run to Ryan Spilborghs in the fourth inning, and walked four batters while throwing 57 of his 92 pitches for strikes. But he struck out four, and maintained a fastball that sat from 89 to 91 mph and twice touched 93.

"I thought his stuff was there," Manuel said. "He was just wild - a little wild up. He was having trouble getting the ball down. When Happ's good is when he can start the game low to pitch high . . . He looked healthy. He stuff was pretty good, really."

But the qualities that might make Werth and Happ attractive to other teams are also qualities that the Phillies could use.

A lack of organizational pitching depth is one of the reasons they find themselves in their current situation. Regardless of how they feel about Happ's upside or his ability to bolster them down the stretch, the fact that he has minor league options and is still a year away from arbitration helps them in that department. Plus, with $130.35 million committed to 15 players for next season, it would be interesting to see how the Phillies accommodate Oswalt's $16 million while also addressing the rest of their roster needs. (Happ is likely to receive only slightly more than his current $470,000 salary.)

Werth, meanwhile, is their only true righthanded power hitter, having accounted for 13 of their 38 home runs and 32 of their 93 doubles from the right side (Brown is lefthanded, and will be just 23 on Sept. 3).

"He's important to our lineup," Manuel said. "The fact that we're lefthanded heavy . . . he definitely balances us out."

Phillers

First baseman Ryan Howard extended his hitting streak to 11 games and is hitting .372 with 13 RBI during that stretch . . . The crowd marked the 87th consecutive sellout at Citizens Bank Park . . . To make room for J.A. Happ on the roster, the Phillies optioned righthander Vance Worley to Triple A Lehigh Valley.

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