It’s too soon to grade the trade. We do not know what Enyel De Los Santos, the player the Phillies acquired for shortstop Freddy Galvis, is going to become. He pitched well enough in his first season with triple-A Lehigh Valley to get a big-league look and victory, but final deliberations are a long way off on the 22-year-old righthander.
All we can say for sure right now is that the Phillies would have been better off with Galvis this season than they were without him. A low bar is required to say that, too. Galvis, 28, has regressed at the plate in his first season with the San Diego Padres, but even with a .233 batting average, .291 on-base percentage, and .630 OPS, he is still outperforming Phillies rookie shortstop Scott Kingery, who is just one of three qualified hitters in major-league baseball with an OPS of less than .600. Kingery, 23, enters the weekend series against Galvis’ Padres hitting .223 with a .266 on-base percentage and a .588 OPS.
Maybe this all still works out for the Phillies. Maybe Kingery shrugs off his disastrous rookie season and becomes the player general manager Matt Klentak believed he was when the Phillies signed him to a six-year contract worth a guaranteed $24 million before his first official major-league at-bat. Maybe De Los Santos becomes a solid rotation contributor and Galvis continues to decline as a hitter.
This season, however, the Phillies would have been better with Galvis at shortstop. For all his offensive flaws, he is still among the top five defensive shortstops in baseball and the defensively challenged Phillies could use a great defensive player at one of the game’s most important positions.
Galvis has started every game for the Padres this season and has made just six errors. Only Didi Gregorius of the New York Yankees has a better fielding percentage than Galvis among shortstops. The advanced metrics will tell you Galvis is a better fielding shortstop than Gregorius.
Galvis also emerged as one of the team leaders for the Phillies, and you can never have too many of them on a young team.
Phillies shortstops — a group that features Kingery, J.P. Crawford, Pedro Florimon, Jesmuel Valentin and the recently acquired Asdrubal Cabrera — have made 13 errors and have a .971 fielding percentage, which ranks 16th in baseball. Crawford, who was supposed to be the shortstop of the future when the season started, committed seven errors in just 25 games at the position, which was part of the reason Kingery took the job from him in June.
Give Kingery credit for making himself better at a position he had played just twice in three minor-league seasons. Perhaps his rookie problems at the plate correlate to what the Phillies have asked him to do in the field this year. He entered spring training as primarily a second baseman, left spring training touted as an all-purpose infielder/outfielder who would get plenty of playing time, and before midseason became the everyday shortstop when Crawford landed on the disabled list with a fractured hand.
Now, unless something changes again, Kingery will finish this season as mostly a bench player as Cabrera gets most of the starts at shortstop. Manager Gabe Kapler needs Cabrera’s offense, and the fact that Kingery will serve as his defensive replacement late in games is a testament to not much going according to plan at shortstop this season.
It will be fascinating to see how Kapler distributes playing time as the first-place Phillies try to hold off the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals down the stretch. Crawford came off the disabled list Friday, but it’s hard to see where he’ll fit in before Sept. 1 when rosters can expand. With the trade addition of Justin Bour from Miami, either Kingery or Crawford could be optioned to Lehigh Valley soon. The Phillies delayed that decision temporarily Saturday by optioning pitcher Zach Eflin.
Cabrera is by far the best offensive option, but it’s fair to worry how much he will hurt the team on defense if forced to play shortstop on even a semi-regular basis. He had not played a single game at shortstop this season for the Mets after making 11 errors in 45 games at the position last season.
It will be equally interesting to see what the Phillies do at shortstop beyond this season. Even if Kingery improves his offense, shortstop does not seem to be the ideal position for him. It should be the ideal position for Crawford, but his small sample size in the big leagues has not been encouraging either offensively or defensively. In fact, his minor-league rehab stint makes it difficult to justify bringing him back to the big leagues right now. In eight games — one in the Gulf Coast League and seven with high-A Clearwater — he was just 2-for-23 and struck out 11 times. He did draw 10 walks, which accounted for the 277-point difference between his batting average (.087) and his on-base percentage (.364).
Galvis, of course, was traded to open up shortstop for Crawford, and now we don’t even know exactly where Crawford is on the depth chart at that position. Kapler’s main concern right now is figuring out the best player to put at shortstop for the Phillies to win the National League East. They can figure out what to do at that position in the future during the offseason.
Galvis was not going to be the long-term answer at shortstop for the Phillies, but as things turned out, he would have been the best option for 2018.