As the Major League Baseball trading deadline approaches, speculation abounds. Every video game player thinks that all trades are possible and that every GM can gauge their potential return on investment instantly through the magic of Playstation. Well, while that may not be true, every GM is burning the proverbial candle at both ends, trying to determine what deals are possible AND whether or not their team is buying or selling. Thanks to the wildcard, there are teams mathematically in the race who will wind up around .500 by season’s end. As a result, about half the teams who think they are buyers really should be sellers.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been to the World Series the past 2 seasons and to postseason three straight years. They have a World Series championship (2008) and put up a strong performance losing the World Series in 2009 to the Yankees. Heading into this season, it was virtually presumed that the Phils were the odds-on favorite to represent the National League in a possible World Series rematch. Injuries (Utley, Rollins, Polanco, Ruiz, Lidge, Madsen) and inconsistency (positive April, poor May, worse June) have created a situation in which the Phillies need to decide whether or not 7 games is an insurmountable lead for a team that has taken on torrid winning streaks in the second half over the past 2 seasons.
Roy Halladay has a perfect game (which he won 1-0) and has been his usual stellar self but sports just a 10-8 record with 2.40 ERA in 150+ innings. Arguably the best pitcher in baseball (don’t tell Ubaldo Jimmenez or Josh Johnson) was not enough to combat the suddenly moribund Phillies offense (ranked 13th in NL this season, 24th in MLB offense overall). Now on a lighter note, the pitching staff (consisting of Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, Kyle Kendrick and Jamie “the Cuatrogenerian” Moyer) is ranked 16th with a 4.13 ERA, 10th in NL. What does this mean? The offense which was once vaunted as the most prolific in the game has struggled while the pitching (largely considered top-heavy with Halladay and Hamels) has done well despite poor performances by Blanton, Happ, Moyer and Kendrick. Meanwhile on offense, Ryan Howard (110 hits, 21 HR, 74 RBI) is among league leaders in most offensive categories.
So trading deadline… what does GM Ruben Amaro do to upgrade his struggling team and improve their chances to make the playoffs? Well that is truly the question. What to do? Raul Ibanez, Joe Blanton, Danys Baez, Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload and JC Romero all have huge, virtually untradeable contracts. 47-year-old Jamie Moyer is done for the season and the walking wounded list still includes Chase Utley. Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz and Placido Polanco have suffered serious stints on that same Disabled List. Considering all of these setbacks and struggles, the Phillies could be considered overachievers or simply too far gone to save in 2010. This is the quandary facing GM Ruben Amaro and team management as they determine finances, contract structure and overall team outlook. To trade or not to trade? That is the question…
Rumor has it that slugging expiring contract Jayson Werth has gone from candidate for Mayor to trade fodder in 3 short months. Should Werth be moved since it is unlikely he will sign a long-term deal and forgo the free agent market? Better to get something than nothing, but at what cost? Considering that the Phils farm system is bereft of tradeable prospects (thanks to Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay deals) they may have to package Werth along with some other players in order to make a deal. Names being tossed about are Kendrick (4.82 ERA, 113 hits in 108 IP), Happ (injured most of 2010 but 12 wins in 2009), Nelson Figueroa (3.46 ERA in 26 innings of mopup, spot starts) and Danys Baez (5.09 ERA in 35 innings). Baez is the only one owed a lot of money and is not likely to be included in a deal. Many teams seeking trades are asking for blue chip prospects of which the Phillies have… ONE playing above AA. Naturally this is Domonic Brown, who is not going to be traded under any cirsumstances. So let’s review… Phils traded 7 blue chip prospects (4 for Cliff Lee and Ben Francsico in 2009, then 3 more for Halladay in 2010 offseason) for two stud starting pitchers then turned around and shipped Cliff Lee to Seattle (with 1 year @ $9 million remaining on his contract) to “re-stock the farm system with “prospects” (Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez). Nice work there Ruben. Wanna trade me your shiny nickel for my dirty old dime? Look the nickel is bigger and shinier. Your dime is so small and dingy!
The potential trading market offers VERY slim pickings in terms of starting pitching. Cliff Lee has already been dealt (to Texas) so he is off the table. Most teams looking to deal are far out of the running and want a bunch of young (inexpensive future blue chippers) players to re-stock their roster. Roy Oswalt (Houston) is out there, with $15MM demanding $16MM in 2011, $2MM buyout or $16MM option in 2012. Oswalt won’t come cheap, as the Astros still are asking for salary relief and prospects. Why even consider him? Oswalt’s 3.08 ERA, 8.4 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9 probably have a lot to do with it. Few starters are more proven and few are having better seasons and it would offer the Phils a solid compliment to Halladay and Hamels through 2012. Is this the same team who wouldn’t pay Cliff Lee $9M for one season? Danny Haren (Arizona) is another option. Haren has a 4.60 ERA this season, with 8.9 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9. He is set to earn $12.75MM in each of the next two seasons, and his team will have the option of paying him $15.5MM in 2013 or buying him out for $3.5MM. Again, a team like the Phillies looking to contend in 2010, 2011 and 2012 would find this appealing, but can’t offer the prospects. So it would seem that a third trading partner is required – preferably one who is seeking some veteran pitching help or a slugging OF named Werth and who can also send some viable prospects to Arizona or Houston. Potential options might also include the likes of Ted Lilly (Chicago Cubs, $12M free agent after 2010), Ben Sheets (Oakland A’s, $10M free agent after 2010) or Jake Westbrook ($11M, free agent after 2010)/Fausto Carmona (Cleveland Indians, $4.9M, $6.1M for 2011 with three options on contract). Another team that no one seems to be discussing is Kansas City, a perennial also-ran who sports Zack Greinke and reliever Joakim Soria. Kansas City has not been an active negotiator but what about a deal including Happ (young lefty), Kendrick (still a viable, young future major league starter), Baez (laden contract) or Madsen ($4M potential closer for KC), David Herndon (Rule 5 inexpensive bullpener) and their pick of low minors Phillies prospects. Now if they’d throw in Billy Butler or even Jose Guillen (for Werth), this would be a sweet deal, but that is not as likely! However, Kansas City could afford to take on some extra salary in expiring contracts and would welcome avoiding Greinke’s 2011 salary, though they’d hate to lose him! Yet another option is to San Diego in exchange for Kyle Blanks and Matt Latos. San Diego is in first place and could use a veteran run producer like Werth. The deal could be made even better if San Diego would send injured veteran starting pitcher Chris Young, which would add depth for 2011. What about Anahein for the likes of Joe Saunders & Jered Weaver with some prospects? Free agents including Pedro Martinez, Braden Looper and Jarrod Washburn are still available. We could speculate until the trading deadline but for now I will digress…
Jayson Werth is going to be gone – either via trade this week or via free agency come season’s end. If those are the options then you decide what the best return is for Werth. Possibly Werth directly nets the Phils some combination of prospects or a three team deal is needed. If the Phils are throwing in the proverbial towel on 2010, then you want to get some help for 2011. Free agency will net compensatory draft picks but a trade will bring back young talent. I suggest that GM Amaro has scoured the deals available and wants to make two separate moves. The next 48 hours will tell us what happens but clearly SOMETHING has to happen quickly or we’ll be paying much closer attention to Eagles training camp!
About the Author
Written by Christopher Rowe
Contributing writer Comcast Sports, NY Times contributing stringer 1996-2000, Contributing writer Yahoo Sports (2001 World Series). Contributing writer Newsday Long Island (1992-1994, Jets Training Camp) and Newak Star Ledger. Freelance Copywriter, Editor/Founder Atlantic Times Weekly (1993-2003) fantasy football magazine, produced screenwriter and general humorist. Hofstra University grad, Marist College honorary alum, Salesian; Purveyor of the Value and Valor of Philadelphia Eagles 1960 NFL Championship; Adrent believer that Eagles could have won Super Bowl XV...and Super Bowl XXXIX...plus modern decade of Eagles 5 NFC Championships... Believer in the Broad Street Bullies and the 1983 Sixers... Witness to Philadelphia Phillies World Series championships 1980 & 2008, Suffered Phillies first pro sports team to reach 10,000 losses,witnessed "1980 Cardiac Kids," 1983 "Wheeze Kids," 1993 "Macho Row" and many, many, many not-so-memorable seasons in-between... until the Philadelphia Baseball Renaissance of 21st Century, Five NL East division titles 2007-2011, 3 NLCS appearances 2008-2010, 2 consecutive World Series berths 2008 & 2009. 2008 World Champions of baseball [miss ya Harry and Richie]; "collector" of MLB ballparks (42 stadiums including 15 which are gone); Fantasy Football & Baseball player since 1992. Always a sports fan... Tenui Nec Dimittam Contact me firstname.lastname@example.org