Phillies rumors: Club willing to trade former top prospect

Spencer Howard #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Spencer Howard #48 of the Philadelphia Phillies (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies are reportedly willing to trade Spencer Howard.

If the Philadelphia Phillies make a blockbuster move ahead of the July 30 trade deadline, there seems to be a growing chance that right-handed pitcher Spencer Howard could be included in the swap.

According to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury, there have been “indications” that the Phillies would be willing to trade Howard as part of a deal that could possibly land them relief help:

"“The Phils have targeted Chicago Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel, and had targeted his bullpen mate, Andrew Chafin, before he was dealt to Oakland on Monday night. The price is high on Kimbrel and there are several teams in addition to the Phillies pursuing him. The Phillies’ payout could start with Howard.”"

Howard simply has not lived up to his former number-one prospect potential thus far. Through 13 big-league starts (17 total appearances) over the last two seasons, the 2017 second-round pick has averaged just under 3 2/3 innings pitched.

In his most recent outing on Monday against the Washington Nationals, Howard lasted just 3 2/3 frames, allowing six hits and four runs (all earned)), while walking none and striking out two of his 15 batters faced. When Howard left the game in the fourth with a blister on his middle finger, manager Joe Girardi was forced to use five different relievers behind Howard, including Brandon Kintzler, Connor Brogdon, Jose Alvarado, Hector Neris, and Archie Bradley.

Due to lack of stability beyond Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola in the rotation, other starters like Howard — and even Vince Velasquez — have to step up and last deeper into games. Instead, Howard not only is unable to go deep in games, but his velocity drops considerably after a few innings.

While Howard was removed early due to the blister, one of the Phillies trainers told the skipper that he thinks Howard will be fine. “Keep our fingers crossed,” Girardi added. Regardless, Howard had likely pitched to his final batter, injury or not, as he had allowed three consecutive two-out hits — including back-to-back triples — before leaving the game.

The Phillies may end up holding onto Howard simply because they need the starting pitching depth. But, do not rule out them “cashing out” on their former top pitching prospect if it means lockdown closer Kimbrel, or a pitcher similar to his caliber, will don red pinstripes.

The Phillies have struggled to develop pitching prospects for much of the last decade. Howard might be yet another page in that unfortunate chapter.

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