Report: Phillies showing trade interest in Diamondbacks outfielder

    As the Phillies look to put some final touches on a talented roster, Philadelphia is “keeping an eye on” Jake McCarthy as possible outfield help, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale writes. Such a trade would naturally depend on whether or not the Diamondbacks are still in the playoff race by the deadline, and even if not, Arizona would still be hesitant about moving an outfielder who is controlled through the 2028 season.

    McCarthy has been been frequently mentioned in trade rumors in the past, even if his stock has ebbed and flowed over his first two full MLB seasons. McCarthy finished fourth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2022 and was subsequently a much-discussed figure that offseason as the D’Backs looked to sell from their surplus of left-handed hitting outfielders. (Daulton Varsho ended up being the outfielder moved in the December 2022 trade that brought Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. to the desert.)

    However, McCarthy ran into a sophomore slump last year, hitting .243/.318/.326 over 312 plate appearances, and he was demoted to Triple-A, before an oblique injury then sidelined him for the Diamondbacks’ playoff run. As per a report from Nightengale in February, Arizona offered the White Sox either McCarthy or Dominic Fletcher in a trade for pitching prospect Cristian Mena this past winter, with Chicago opting to take Fletcher.

    If McCarthy’s Diamondbacks tenure really was that close to coming to an end, he has done well in his second act with the club. McCarthy hit his third homer of the season in Sunday’s game against the Padres and entered the day’s action hitting .268/.354/.370 over his first 160 PA. Sunday’s home run was a rarity for a player who hasn’t shown much power and whose barrel and hard-hit ball rates are both mediocre — McCarthy’s 22.5% hard-hit ball rate ranks only in the second percentile of all batters.

    A .327 BABIP has accounted for a good chunk of McCarthy’s success, but his excellent speed has also been a benefit in turning some of those balls in play into extra hits. His strikeout and walk rates are both above average, and on the defensive side, McCarthy has been roughly average to slightly below average as a right fielder. The D’Backs have deployed McCarthy in left and center field on occasion, but he has mostly been used in a right field platoon with the right-handed hitting Randal Grichuk. Oddly, McCarthy has hit southpaws much better than he has right-handed pitchers this season, with a .917 OPS in 32 PA against lefties and a .674 OPS in 128 against righties.

    Between his years of control, his age (27 next month) and his past draft pedigree as the 39th overall pick in 2018, McCarthy would be far from a rental piece for the Phillies for any team looking to pry the outfielder away from Arizona. The Phils’ acquisition of Brandon Marsh from the Angels at the 2022 trade deadline could be a comp here, as that deal also saw Philadelphia land a left-handed hitting outfielder with some past prospect appeal who hadn’t quite gotten it all together at the MLB level. That one-for-one deal saw the Phillies land Marsh for Logan O’Hoppe, another well-regarded young player who was blocked at catcher by J.T. Realmuto, so the Phils and Angels mutually addressed each other’s needs for outfield and catching help.

    Marsh has gone on to become a solid regular in the Philadelphia outfield, this season acting as the strong side of a left-field platoon with Whit Merrifield. Marsh is currently on the 10-day injured list with a hamstring injury that isn’t considered too serious, so in the event that McCarthy was acquired, the Phillies would likely view him as a left-handed hitting complement to Johan Rojas in center field and even Nick Castellanos in right field.

    Rojas hasn’t hit at all this season, and his once-impressive center field glove has been much closer to average. Castellanos’ defensive limitations are well-known, but the bigger issue has been his bat, as Castellanos is hitting .215/.275/.360 with nine homers over 269 PA. The veteran is on pace for the second negative-fWAR season in his three years with Philadelphia, which isn’t a great sign considering that Castellanos is still owed $40M over the remaining two years of his five-year, $100M contract.

    The lack of production from Castellanos or Rojas hasn’t much slowed the Phillies down in their run to the NL’s best record, but the outfield does stand out as a natural area to address as one of the club’s relatively few weak links. Acquiring a rental player at the deadline might be a more logical idea for the Phils given how Castellanos will still be in the mix for the next two years, and trading for a shorter-term outfielder would come at a much lesser prospect cost than McCarthy’s price tag.

    Since only four National League teams are above the .500 mark, the Diamondbacks are still just outside the wild card picture despite their unimpressive 30-35 record. There is still plenty of time for the reigning NL champions to turn things around, and the D’Backs would have to be pretty decidedly out of the running at the deadline for the front office to turn to selling, considering that the team has invested heavily in trying to remain a top contender.

    Even if Arizona does sell, impending free agents and veteran players figure to be the team’s first options for trade candidates before getting around to considering moving controllable players like McCarthy. Even if it’s true that the D’Backs were willing to take Mena (not a highly-touted pitching prospect) for McCarthy last winter, Arizona might be in a position to demand more in return for McCarthy now, given his improved numbers and some extra leverage the Diamondbacks might hold in shopping him to needy contenders come July 30.

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