PHOENIX — More than three hours before Saturday's game in the desert, Howie Kendrick walked to right field with a Phillies athletic trainer. He tested his stiff left hamstring with some sprints. The Phillies decided not to play Kendrick, 33, for the second straight night.
"I had him in the lineup," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, "but we just want to be careful."
Kendrick is Mackanin's hottest hitter. He doubles as the Phillies' best trade chip, and with a little more than a month until the July 31 trade deadline, that shadow grows. The Phillies do not have a Cole Hamels to deal this July, but it's almost certain they will not stand pat like last July. Kendrick, if healthy, will move. So will reliever Pat Neshek. Other veteran pieces, such as Jeremy Hellickson and Joaquin Benoit could be dealt. None of them will fetch top prospects, but the Phillies will accept whatever young talent can nudge the rebuilding process forward.
There is a little intrigue beyond that. What if another team shows interest in Tommy Joseph, Cesar Hernandez or Freddy Galvis? The Phillies have three projected replacements behind them — Rhys Hoskins, Scott Kingery and J.P. Crawford. Few, if any players in the organization, are untouchable. The Phillies have promised to be creative when evaluating short- and long-term solutions.
Either way, the roster could look different in a month's time.
"A lot of that depends on if and when somebody's traded, what we get back, how the guys in triple A or double A are doing," Mackanin said. "I foresee some changes, obviously. But I can't be a fortune teller. I don't know. There might be an injury here or there. You never know. It doesn't really behoove me to start thinking about that."
Kendrick will attract suitors. He plays a few positions. He has postseason experience. He has reached base and hit for power. He is under contract through the end of the season. The Phillies will pay down his remaining salary (approximately $5 million) if it enhances the return.
They will do that for every potential trade chip.
Neshek lowered his ERA to 0.61 with another scoreless inning Friday night. The club record for first-half ERA is Antonio Bastardo's 0.82 mark in 2011; Neshek could eclipse that. But a team acquiring Neshek will not have to surrender a bounty; he profiles as a seventh-inning man in most contenders' bullpens. The Phillies could fetch an A-ball arm or two for Neshek.
Washington, Boston and Chicago are potential landing spots. Really, just about any contender could use Neshek. The Phillies have been careful with his usage, much like their prudence with Kendrick's hamstring, to not ruin a good thing.
It will be interesting to see what Miami nets for its shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, who was rumored to be soon traded. Hechavarria and Galvis fit similar profiles as exceptional defenders who struggle to reach base. Galvis has a little more pop in his bat. They entered the season with almost identical service time in the majors, and are each making $4.35 million this season. Galvis is a free agent after the 2018 season.
If a team interested in Hechavarria fails to land him, they could turn to the Phillies. Or not.
Mackanin, for now, opts to ignore most of these conundrums. Does he expect the Phillies to be busy in July?
"I don't know," the manager said. "I think we have some players that are pretty desirable. But it's too hard for me to project that type of thing."