Rebuilding the Phillies

Posted: June 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Cole Hamels may be workhorse on the mound, but he sure looks like he belongs in Hollywood.

It has been a long time since Phillies fans have heard the word, “rebuild.” Not since the Ed Wade era has Philadelphia been without confidence that their team is doing everything it can to compete for a world championship. But, years upon years of gutting the farm system for aging, high priced talent eventually leaves a team with a bare cupboard. Like an aging boxer clinging on to the dream for one last fight, the Phillies remain hopeful that their 2012 campaign will turn itself around.

But, for the sake of this article, let us assume that their chances of contending are minute. If rebuilding is the method that the team must take, what are the best options for Ruben Amaro Jr. to explore? In the past, the Phillies’ General Manager has sold high ceiling prospects for top flight talent. Now, the pendulum has turned. It’s time for Amaro to hone his skills as a seller. Here are the top five moves that the Phillies can make by the trade deadline to improve their chances in 2013 and beyond:

5. Trade Juan Pierre to the New York Mets

Pierre leads the team with a .325 batting average.

Juan Pierre has been a terrific pickup for the Phillies this year. His .325 batting average is first on the team and his .363 on-base percentage is second on the team among players with at least 50 at bats. However, the speedy outfielder is 34 years old and on a one year contract. His emergence is reminiscent of Kenny Lofton’s with the Phils in 2005. But, Pierre has not hit over .300 since 2004 with Florida. He has no power whatsoever (0 home runs) and often his left field play looks awkward and uncoordinated. Should the Phillies choose to sell, I think Pierre should be one of the first to go. His value at this point in his career will never be higher. Trading him for perhaps a middle-reliever or pitching prospect would allow the team to play John Mayberry Jr. full time to truly gauge whether or not he is major league material.

The Mets, meanwhile, have been shuffling left fielders like your favorite deck of playing cards. Mike Baxter is on the DL. Jason Bay just came back from the DL and could be right back on it after crashing into the wall on a Jay Bruce inside-the-park-HR on Friday. New York is in contention for a playoff spot, but they do not have a leadoff hitter with veteran experience who can drive pitchers crazy once he reaches base. Acquiring Pierre would instill a bonafide leadoff hitter and left fielder into a Mets lineup that desperately needs it.

4. Trade Shane Victorino to the Detroit Tigers

Shane Victorino has experienced a very disappointing walk year.

Free agent to be Shane Victorino came in to this season with high hopes. Much like those hopes of Phillies’ fans, he has been a colossal disappointment. The “Flyin’ Hawaiian’s” power numbers are on par with his career averages, but his .246 batting average suggests that this is a player that is in decline. Should the Phillies decide to go the rout that they have with Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard by giving an aging player like Victorino a multi year deal, it will be a mistake. The best move the Phillies can do is to trade him before the deadline and call up Domonic Brown. We have waited long enough to see how much Ruben Amaro’s prized untouchable prospect can bring to the table.

For Detroit, this season also came with high expectations. The defending AL Central champions went out and made a big splash by handing 1B Prince Fielder a long term mega-deal. The deal forced portly power hitter Miguel Cabrera over to third base. Predictably, the Tigers’ defense suffered. But, it is not just Cabrera who has been a butcher in the field. The Tigers’ team defense as a whole is 10th in the American League. Their offense, meanwhile, has been carried by Cabrera, Fielder, and Austin Jackson the whole season. For a team with such high expectations, lagging behind the White Sox and Indians in the Central is unacceptable. Trading a high ceiling pitching prospect like Casey Crosby or Jacob Turner for Victorino would provide the Tigers with a Gold Glove outfielder and a top of the order talent. Imagine a top four of Jackson, Victorino, Fielder, and Cabrera. The pitching staffs in the American League would certainly take notice.

3. Trade Joe Blanton to the Pittsburgh Pirates

Heavy B has had his moments in Philly.

When Joe Blanton arrived in Philadelphia in July, 2008, no one knew what to expect. Four years and a World Series title later, most fans would say that Blanton’s acquisition was a success. Especially considering former top prospect Adrian Cardenas never developed in Oakland after the trade. Blanton has gone 28-22 in the regular season with the Phillies. His three year contract extension that expires this season was unwarranted, but not as bad as many made it out to be. Sure, it is strange to say that the Phillies are sellers and the Pirates are buyers, but this is the reality of 2012.

The Pirates, meanwhile, lost SP Charlie Morton to Tommy John Surgery. Couple this with Eric Bedard’s recent struggles and injury history, and Pittsburgh should be scanning the league for arms this July. Pittsburgh sits in second place, just four games behind Cincinnati for the NL Central lead. Blanton would combine with Bedard, AJ Burnett, Kevin Correia, and James McDonald to provide the Bucs with a very formidable veteran laden staff for the stretch run. If the Phillies could poach a player like Rudy Owens or Starling Marte from Pittsburgh, this would be a win-win situation.

2. Shut Doc down.

Halladay has thrown more innings than anyone the past two seasons.

The definition of workhorse, Roy Halladay has thrown more innings since joining the Phillies than any pitcher in baseball. Sure, he has had a rubber arm in the past. But, this season’s shoulder injury, which will shelve the good doctor for at least 6 weeks, is proof that no one is invincible. The Phillies, should they be out of contention by August, might want to consider shutting Doc down to allow his body to fully recuperate for 2013. Let’s face it, Roy is no spring chicken. The 35 year old only has so many miles left on that superhuman right arm of his. If the Phillies are focused on contending in 2013, they should consider shutting him down and seeing what the younger arms can do when given a chance to pitch at Citizens Bank Park.

1. Trade Cole Hamels to the Los Angeles Dodgers

The farewell tour of Cole Hamels.

When Cole Hamels made his Phillies debut on May 12, 2006, the hype surrounding the 2002 first round pick was deafening. The Phillies had not made the playoffs in thirteen seasons, and had come agonizingly close in 2001, 2003, 2004, and 2005. This home-grown hurler was supposed to put an end to an era of defeat. Unlike most prospects, this young man lived up to expectations. He slayed the Reds with 5 shutout innings en route to a 9-8 rookie season. Two years later, this Southern California boy would go on to win NLCS and World Series MVP honors, as he forever won a place in our hearts with a postseason for the ages. Now, this SoCal boy is primed to go home this offseason. A free agent to be, Hamels is expected to make at least $180 million this offseason. With over $110 million already tied up into six players for 2013, the Phillies seem unlikely to kowtow to Hamels’ demands.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, are the best team in the National League. Their offense has emerged even without Matt Kemp, and adding another ace at the top of the rotation to go along with Clayton Kershaw would be nearly deadly come October. If the Dodgers want to sign Hamels in the offseason, they would have a much better chance if they acquire him in July. This would also allow the Phillies to recoup some of their investment by receiving prospects instead of nothing should he walk in the winter. Hamels is by far the most valuable of any of the players mentioned in this article. Should the Dodgers trade for Hamels, the Phillies would have to demand 2010 first rounder RHP Zach Lee in return. Lee, 20, has great stuff and a high ceiling. The Phillies could also be interested in fellow right hander Nate Eovaldi, who has made a cameo in LA this season, pitching to a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 innings. Giving up on Hamels would be painful. But, like Tom Hanks said in “A League of Their Own,” there’s no crying in baseball.

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