By Peter Marks

The Phils are “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 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.

However, McCarthy soph-slumped 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.

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 $40MM over the remaining two years of his five-year, $100MM 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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