Exploring the Phillies’ Trade Potential

Posted: July 7, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Washington Nationals v Philadelphia Phillies

As the All-Star Game approaches, the Philadelphia Phillies’ season inches closer to its tipping point. Gone are the days when Ruben Amaro Jr. was the most active buyer on the market. Instead, the 37-51 Phillies and their GM need to prepare for D-Day. That moment will come on July 31st, when the MLB non-waiver trade deadline expires.

It’s unlikely that the Phillies will part ways with either Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels. The former because of arm trouble that has crippled his value. The latter due in large part to his gargantuan contract, as well as his role as one of the few home grown aces in team history. But, Philadelphia still has plenty of bargaining chips, and they’ll have to utilize them wisely if they hope to avoid the same mistakes that have set them down this path.

Remember Hunter Pence? The former Philadelphia right fielder is heading to another Midsummer Classic this month. He’s also a prime example of how not to operate at the trade deadline. Pence was acquired in July, 2011 in exchange for a collection of celebrated prospects, including RHP Jarred Cosart, 1B Jonathan Singleton, and OF Domingo Santana. All three of those youngsters are currently contributing on a surprisingly successful Houston Astros ballclub. A year after Pence arrived in the City of Brotherly Love, he was unceremoniously shipped to San Francisco for pennies on the dollar.

For a player that has won a World Series and been to an All-Star Game in orange-and-black, Amaro landed nothing of substance. Nate Schierholtz lasted all of two months with the club before being released. He’s now one of the best hitters on a mediocre Chicago Cubs team. Meanwhile, the two prospects that Amaro acquired from the Giants, Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin, have yet to find success above the AA-level.

For Amaro to avoid another catastrophic fire sale, he’ll need to determine what the team’s philosophy is. Should they be willing to deal their veterans for measly returns so long as it means one less catastrophic contract on the books? This is the method that they took with Pence. Or, should Amaro hold off and wait for the perfect deal, even if it means paying a portion of the future contracts due to players like Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins?

From this pundits’ perspective, here are the most likely Phillies to be dealt by the end of this month:

1. RHP Jonathan Papelbon

For a guy who everyone thought was done, “Paps” sure has done well for himself in 2014. The All-Star caliber closer may have lost a few MPH on his heater. But, that doesn’t mean that he can’t still provide top-notch relief at the back end of a bullpen. Having allowed just 1 ER in his last 10 appearances, Papelbon is hot at the right time. His contract ($13 million guaranteed for 2015 with a vesting option at the same price for 2016) might give some contenders pause. But, a team in need of a playoff proven closer should be willing to give the Phillies something of value, especially if Philadelphia eats a chunk of that salary. RHP Kenneth Giles’ emergence also gives the Phillies a young replacement in the likely event that Papelbon is no longer in red pinstripes come August.

2. RHP AJ Burnett

One of Amaro’s prime free agent acquisitions from last winter, Burnett has pitched just about as one would expect the veteran to. At 5-8, 3.92, his classic numbers aren’t beautiful. But, a lack of run support and a brutal bullpen early in April hurt the 37-year old righthander. Burnett has a modified no trade clause, so he’d be able to at least partially dictate where he ended up. But, a playoff proven, power pitcher who can go 7 innings nearly every start is something that contending teams would love to have. Add to that the fact that Burnett is unlikely to cost what an ace like David Price will, and Amaro should have teams lining up for a guy who still has some gas left in the tank.

3. OF Marlon Byrd

Another one of Amaro’s offseason signings, Byrd has had a mostly up-and-down campaign. But, on the surface, his power numbers are intriguing enough that if Philadelphia wanted to get out of the second guaranteed year of his contract, they probably could. It’s unlikely that the Phillies would get much short of salary relief for unloading the veteran. But, his .266-18-52 line coupled with an impressive .814 OPS (.982 vs. LHP) should make him an enticing acquisition for a contending team searching for a right handed power bat.

4. SS Jimmy Rollins

The franchise’s all-time hits leader is very unlikely to be dealt. But, he still makes this list for a couple of reasons. First, there’s a dearth of solid two-way shortstops in the National League right now. Outside of Colorado’s Troy Tulowitzki, the NL is a barren wasteland of offensive talent at that position. While Rollins is far from the player that he was from 2005-2009, he still brings Gold Glove quality handiwork to the diamond and a professional approach to the dish. Rollins was apprehensive when asked if he’d waive his 10 and 5 no-trade provision prior to breaking the team’s hits record. But, when asked again after that achievement, the 35-year old appeared much more willing to oblige. His name and reputation would also help sell tickets at his new destination.

5. OF John Mayberry Jr.

I suppose that if the Phillies were ever going to get anything for Mayberry, they already would have. Amaro has had this veteran outfielder on the market for the better part of two years now, with nobody dumb enough to take a nibble on the bait. Let’s face it, Mayberry will never be more than a fourth outfielder at best (and more fittingly a AAAA depth outfielder). He’s no longer young (30-years old) and has never hit for average (career .242 hitter). Even worse, Mayberry is enduring one of the worst slumps of his career right now, as the former Texas Rangers prospect is 3 for his last 24. I could see the Phillies just cutting bait on this guy, but for what?

Don’t count on seeing Ben Revere or Domonic Brown dealt. The latter is at the valley of his value, and trading him now would be a new low for Amaro when it comes to timely decisions. Revere, meanwhile, is still relatively young and playing at an above-average level. Unless the Phillies can get something of significant value for him, I see Big Ben staying put for now. Pitchers like Kyle Kendrick and Antonio Bastardo are also possible candidates to be traded. But, the return on either would be so miniscule, that even mentioning them here seems like a waste of time.

Regardless, a lot is about to change at Citizens Bank Park. A month from now, many of the familiar faces that we grew up cheering for will be playing in other venues. For Ruben Amaro, the semester is almost over and the final exams are fast approaching. It’s time for the Phillies’ GM to prove that he’s the man for the job. If he doesn’t, then it might not be his job to perform for much longer.

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