10 Fire-Sale Trades the Philadelphia Phillies Could Make at the Deadline
If you haven't yet come to terms with the Philadelphia Phillies' 2012 season, it's time to face the facts. Barring any unforeseen five-game (or more) winning streak, the Phillies will almost surely be sellers by next week's July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The Phillies sit in the basement of the NL East at 43-54, 14 games behind the division-leading Washington Nationals and 10 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot. Almost all hope to win a sixth consecutive NL East title has been lost, and their chances of even making the postseason are bleak, though possible, as I outlined last week.
If the Phillies continue what has become the status quo this year, then they are bound to sell off at least some of their team this season. Rumors have started to come about concerning many of the team's players, ranging from Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre to Shane Victorino and Cole Hamels. Whether or not a deal for each of the team's rumored players will materialize between now and next Tuesday will remain to be seen, but when the deadline comes to pass, what has been solely rumors to this point will or will not be reality.
Last year, when I was a bit less knowledgeable about the state of affairs of the trade deadline, I wrote a slideshow that talked about potential deals should the Phillies buy or sell. None of the deals in that piece made sense, but this year, I promise that the trades in this slideshow will all be at least a little more practical should they have to occur.
Each of the 10 trades in this slideshow will be about one individual player and will give the team he will be traded to as well as the return for him (prospects and/or cash considerations), whether from rumors or just my speculation. Any prospect rankings are from the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which ranked teams' top 30 prospects before the season.
Without further ado, I bring you this year's new-and-improved version of trades the Phillies could make at the deadline, fire-sale style.
Ty Wigginton to the Cleveland Indians
Indians Get: 1B/3B/OF Ty Wigginton
Phillies Get: C/1B Jake Lowery (Single-A), OF Tyler Holt (Double-A)
After bringing back Jim Thome as a pinch-hitter this past offseason, Phillies fans rejoiced. The man was, in essence, the first of many high-profile stars who actually wanted to play for Philadelphia after their many years of doom and gloom in the NL East. They had their left-handed power bat. But what about the right side of the plate?
Not too long afterward, the Phillies acquired Ty Wigginton from the Colorado Rockies for a player to be named later (PTBNL) or cash considerations. While that matter hasn't been settled yet, the Rockies did volunteer to pay half of Wigginton's $4 million due to him this season. However, the Phillies must offer the Rockies another PTBNL or more cash if they pick up his $4 million club option next year.
When he was acquired, Wigginton was excited to play for a contending team. Now that the Phils aren't contending and Wigginton hasn't lived up to expectations, it might be best for both sides that he's traded. His defense at both first base and third base has been...shabby, to say the least, and his offense has been lackluster, batting just .234 with an atrocious .681 OPS.
However, he could be of use to a contender, and not just because he'd be thrilled to play for one for the first time in his career. A team in need of a right-handed utility guy could like Wiggy. That team could be the Cleveland Indians.
The Indians currently sit at .500 with a 48-48 record and are four games behind the newly-division-leading Detroit Tigers. They need starting pitching and a right-handed bat, and while the Phillies might not want to deal the former, they can help with the latter.
Playing first base for the Tribe is Casey Kotchman (and occasionally Carlos Santana) and at third is Jack Hannahan. Neither are high upside players, with Kotchman gone after the year unless he's re-signed or extended. Wigginton could be a good player for the Indians to go after.
Granted, he wouldn't get back too much in a trade, and maybe asking for two players in return is a little much. But hey, the Phillies got two guys back for Thome, so why not do it again?
Lowery, primarily a catcher, was ranked 27th in Cleveland's farm system before the season. His best skill is his plate discipline, and while he's above average at throwing out baserunners, his blocking skills at the plate need work. He also projects to have average power.
Holt missed this year's top 30 cut after being ranked 28th before last season. The organization's fourth-best center field prospect, Holt's best tool is his defense, and he's the organization's best defensive outfielder. His hitting is below average, though he's a very smart baserunner.
With the Indians needing a righty bat and the Phillies doing whatever they can to improve their farm system, this trade works out for both sides. No, this trade alone is far from an improvement, but it's not a bad start by any means.
Kyle Kendrick to the Minnesota Twins
Twins Get: SP/RP Kyle Kendrick
Phillies Get: SS Niko Goodrum (Rookie League)
At one point in time, Kyle Kendrick was a top pitching prospect in the Phillies' farm system. That time was long ago, though, and as a major leaguer, Kendrick did not live up to any of the hype he generated as a prospect.
In fact, aside from some of 2011, he's barely been effective as a starter, though as a reliever he's been serviceable. He has a 4.43 career ERA, and though his 47-38 gives him some credit, his career WHIP is 1.39. Signed to a two-year, $7.5 million extension before the season, Kendrick is now more appealing to the Phillies as a non-tender candidate than someone under contract next year, but unfortunately for the Fightins, the first option is not available to them because of said extension.
Of late, Kendrick hasn't been bad as a long man in the bullpen for the Phillies, but that's not logically what Kendrick would prefer to do, and it's likely not where the Phillies would prefer him to be. Right now, he's the team's go-to guy if another starter gets hurt or has to skip a start for any reason. But would it be best to send him on his way to a team who could use him every fifth day?
Enter the Minnesota Twins. The Twins, who have an AL-worst 4.90 team ERA that is second-worst in the majors only to the Colorado Rockies, could use a starter like Kendrick. Is he a difference maker? No. But he's not too expensive, and he's a pretty durable pitcher who can be used in two different roles if the Twins so choose.
The Twins don't have the most appealing prospects to the Phillies, as most of their top players are pitchers, and if the Phillies have any depth in the minors, it's pitching. It would be wiser for the Phillies to pursue a position player in a trade with the Twins.
Shortstop prospect Niko Goodrum could work for the Phillies. Only 20 years old, the switch-hitting Goodrum is a solid defensive shortstop and is considered to have the best infield arm in the Twins' system. Prior to the season, Goodrum was considered the Twins' 19th-best prospect before the season, and since he's expected to fill out (apparently his father has a massive build), scouts see him as a center fielder rather than a shortstop in the long run.
The twins acquiring Kendrick for Goodrum would work for all parties involved. For Kendrick, the pressure of Philadelphia gives him the opportunity of pitching with a clean slate as well as getting a change of scenery and playing in Target Field, which is favorable to pitchers. The Twins get a cheap pitcher who is still young and could develop even more. And in Goodrum, the Phillies get a high-risk, high-reward prospect, and the Twins don't have to worry with his development, since their lower-yet-still-higher levels than Goodrum's rookie ball level are relatively full.
Placido Polanco to the Baltimore Orioles
Orioles Get: 3B Placido Polanco, cash considerations
Phillies Get: LHP Tim Berry (High-A)
Placido Polanco is an interesting case. Signed to a three-year, $18 million pact before the 2012 season, Polanco has a $5.5 million mutual option for next year that, should he still be in Philadelphia by then, is certain to be declined by the team.
Polanco has always been a fantastic defender for the Phillies, and in his first year of the deal, he hit .298 and looked like he was going to live up to the contract. Since then, though, it couldn't have gone any worse. Polanco's had a hard time staying on the field due to injury over the last three years, and his hitting has gradually decreased over the years, bringing his career average under .300 for the first time in ages, if at all.
It would be best if Polanco goes out on a high note and is traded. And for once, ladies and gentlemen, we have a rumor that actually links Polanco to a team: the Baltimore Orioles. According to the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly, O's GM Dan Duquette believes that "adding a corner infield bat with the ability to get on base at a high clip is a major priority."
This season, the Orioles have been using a combination of Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, and Wilson Betemit at the hot corner. However, all three are horrible defenders, and Davis has moved to being the Orioles' starting left fielder anyway. Although the O's value a first baseman as well, it appears as though third base is their priority of the two corner infield positions, and Polanco, according to Connolly, makes the most sense in a deal given that he'd be the cheapest to acquire.
Having made a deal with the Orioles earlier this year when Jim Thome was traded to Baltimore, the Phillies might have taken a good look at some of the Orioles' prospects already. While that information wouldn't be public, it could mean that a Polanco deal to Baltimore could be more likely. My speculation, of course.
Nevertheless, a prospect who could be of interest to Philadelphia is southpaw Tim Berry, who sat at the 20th position in the organization's preseason prospect rankings. Berry, who had Tommy John surgery in 2009, has a fastball that ranges from 88-92 mph and has a decent curveball and changeup. The biggest problem, though, is his command, and he'll need to harness it in order to make it to the big leagues.
In this deal, the Phillies would be able to acquire a left-handed starter who has good potential. They'd also be able to get Polanco off the roster, and he'd be going to a team that desperately needs his defense more than anything. It's a win-win for both teams.
Juan Pierre to the Cincinnati Reds
Reds Get: LF Juan Pierre
Phillies Get: 2B Ryan Wright (Single-A)
Juan Pierre may very well be the best signing of the 2011-2012 offseason. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but he's undoubtedly the best minor league signing of the offseason.
Garnering no interest on the free agent market, the Phillies gave him a call, and since he had no leverage, the Phils inked him to a minor league contract that would pay him $800,000 if he made the Opening Day roster. He did, albeit with some controversy—some believed that Scott Podsednik deserved the fourth outfielder roster spot over Pierre, myself included.
All talk of Pierre undeservingly making the roster vanished when he began to post offensive numbers that haven't been seen from him since 2004. At this point in the season, Pierre is batting .305 with 23 steals, and he's second on the team in hitting to Carlos Ruiz.
Since he's unexpectedly been producing, Pierre's taken the starting left field job from John Mayberry, Jr., who has heavily disappointed this season after having a semi-breakout year in 2011. Along with gaining the starting job, Pierre's also received some trade interest, notably from the Cincinnati Reds. Per ESPN's Buster Olney:
As the Phillies prepare for possible sell-off, Juan Pierre drawing interest, including from the Cincinnati Reds.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 7, 2012
Among the prospects who could interest the Phillies is second baseman Ryan Wright. Before the season, Wright was considered the Reds' 23rd-best prospect, but that has likely since improved due to the Reds' offseason trade for Mat Latos. Wright needs to improve his consistency at the plate to fully develop, but he's got marginal power and speed. His defense is considered to be above average as well.
This trade would be ideal for both teams because Pierre gets the chance to play for a contender with the Reds and the Reds get the leadoff hitter they covet. As for the Phillies, they get a much-needed second base prospect who could develop into a solid major league player if all goes well.
Joe Blanton to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Angels Get: SP Joe Blanton, cash considerations
Phillies Get: RHP Cam Bedrosian (Single-A)
Joe Blanton has been an extremely solid starting pitcher for the Phillies since they acquired him from the Oakland Athletics back in 2008. He was the missing piece this team needed to make a postseason run, and his memorable home run is one of the top moments of the Phillies' magical 2008 World Series run.
Since then, Blanton's still hung around and has been up and down. When he's pitching, he's not terrible. But in 2011, he missed most of the season, hitting the DL in mid-May and not returning until early September.
Blanton's biggest issue this season has been the long ball—he's given up more than everyone in the National League, except for Jeremy Guthrie, and now that Guthrie's in the American League with the Kansas City Royals, Blanton holds this distinction. In games that he's pitched seven or more innings, though, Blanton has a 2.21 ERA. Not bad.
For that reason, Blanton could receive some trade interest. There were some scouts watching his start Sunday, including one from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Of the teams who kept tabs on Blanton on Sunday, the Angels are the best fit.
After Angels owner Arte Moreno emptied his bank account to sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to combined deals worth $328 million or so, the Angels still sit five games behind the division-leading Texas Rangers. But it's not only the Rangers in their way—their division-mates, the Athletics, are only half a game behind them, and that's only because they had yesterday off.
The Angels and A's currently hold down the two AL Wild Card spots. If the Angels want to hold on to theirs, or even win the AL West for that matter, they'll need a difference maker. And, believe it or not, Blanton could be that guy.
While C.J. Wilson and staff ace Jered Weaver have been tremendous for the Angels and their rotation, fellow ace Dan Haren has been hurt and has struggled when he hasn't been. In fact, his stint on the DL this season was the first in his 10-year career. Talk about durable.
Ervin Santana has been even worse. He's allowed the most home runs in baseball this season and though he was successful last season, he's now being limited to a "15-out start" his next time out. In short, he's only getting five innings to show that he can stay in the rotation. Ouch.
Lastly, there's the Angels' fifth spot. Currently held by prospect Garrett Richards, he's likely to be sent down when Jerome Williams returns, which isn't too far off. Williams and Santana don't have what it takes this year. Blanton could.
In a Blanton deal, the Phillies would almost certainly have to eat all of Blanton's contract to receive a prospect in return. In such a deal, that prospect could be Cam Bedrosian.
Cam Bedrosian? Yes, you read right. He's former Phillies pitcher and 1987 NL Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian's son. He was ranked as the Angels' 18th-best prospect before the season.
The younger Bedrosian has had some issues staying on the mound, however. Shortly after being drafted in 2010, he had some elbow soreness that led to Tommy John surgery. However, he possesses a fastball that hits 96 mph and a nasty slider, along with a changeup that needs some tweaking. Nevertheless, the Angels have him on the road to be a starter rather than a reliever.
The Angels would get the back-end starter they need in Blanton and the Phillies would receive a high upside prospect in Bedrosian. If the Phillies can get Blanton off the books, it could also benefit Triple-A starter Tyler Cloyd, who's been fantastic for the Lehigh Valley IronPigs and is only in the minors now because there's no roster spot for him. With a Blanton trade, Cloyd can finally get his chance.
Jimmy Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers
Dodgers Get: SS Jimmy Rollins, cash considerations
Phillies Get: OF James Baldwin III (Single-A), 3B Alex Santana (Rookie League)
Jimmy Rollins is the face of the Phillies. You could argue that Chase Utley and Ryan Howard own the title, but no, J-Roll is the face of the franchise, the team's "spark-plug."
He's been around since 2000. He predicted that the Phillies were "the team to beat" before the 2007 season, and he won the NL MVP that year en route to the Phillies' first playoff appearance in 14 years. His gap-toothed smile and smooth defense are his trademarks, and his coming back to Philly as a free agent only further endeared him in the hearts of Phillies fans. He's the only guy who can say he's been through the best of times and the worst of times with the Phillies.
And now, he's the subject of trade rumors. Rollins has struggled in the first year of his three-year contract, and he's disappointed the Phillies' brass to the point that they're listening on the trade market. Count the Los Angeles Dodgers as one of the more interested teams.
The Dodgers starting shortstop, Dee Gordon, has been terrible this year, hitting .227 with a .586 OPS. While Gordon does lead the NL in steals with 30, he's sitting on the DL with a torn ligament in his thumb at the moment, and that combination of catastrophes has the Dodgers interested.
The biggest issue that could hold up a Rollins trade is his contract. It's not the three years at $33 million that's so problematic; rather, it's his $11 million vesting option for 2015 that's scaring other teams off. J-Roll also has 10-and-5 rights, meaning that he can veto any trade, but he'll only accept trades to West coast contenders. The Dodgers fit the bill here.
But who would the Phillies get in return? The Dodgers have money, but they're relatively thin on impact prospects. Since Rollins is on the wrong side of 30 and the Phillies would likely have to pay the Dodgers some of his contract, I don't think the Phillies would get more than two prospects back.
One player who could work for the Phillies is James Baldwin III. The Dodgers' 11th-best prospect prior to the season, Baldwin has incredible athletic ability. As a left-handed batter, he doesn't hit lefties well at all, but aside from that he's incredible. His defense is spectacular, he's fast on the basepaths, and is expected to have 20-plus homer potential as he fills out. In fact, he's considered the team's fastest baserunner, best defensive outfielder, and best overall athlete. Nice resume he's got there.
Third baseman Alex Santana ranked as the Dodgers' 18th-best prospect heading into 2012. He's got above-average power potential, but he hasn't quite developed into his body yet. His speed isn't great, but he's athletic enough to stick at third, though his fielding is a bit sloppy at times. Fortunately, he's only 19 in August, so he's got plenty of time to develop.
Rollins has been here for it all, but considering how J-Roll is playing and that another team is interested in his services, it may be time to say goodbye to the face of the franchise. He'll be a nice improvement over Gordon in Los Angeles, and he should enjoy playing both for a contender and a team closer to his Oakland home. The Phillies would receive two prospects who could make an impact for them in the years to come, and the end of the Jimmy Rollins era could come on a high note rather than a sour one.
Shane Victorino to the Pittsburgh Pirates
Pirates Get: CF Shane Victorino, cash considerations
Phillies Get: OF Starling Marte (Triple-A), LHP Justin Wilson (Triple-A), SS/2B Alen Hanson (Single-A)
Shane Victorino has been one of the Phillies' biggest steals in recent years. A Rule 5 Draft pick from the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2005 season, Victorino has since gone on to be a defensive star, winning three Gold Gloves, and a speed demon on the basepaths. Is he the smartest baserunner? No. But he's fast, hence his nickname, the Flyin' Hawaiian.
On the verge of free agency, it was expected that Victorino would have a monster year to score a big contract. However, the opposite couldn't be any more true. Victorino is hitting just .253 on the season with eight home runs and 38 RBI. His OBP is .316 and his SLG is .386, good for a lousy .702 OPS. While he does have 21 swiped bags, all of his other applicable stats are well below his career marks.
With little indication that the team is interested in re-signing him after the season, it might be best for the Phillies to trade Victorino to get any prospects they can in return. He's not helping the team right now, and it might be better for him to play for a contender. And believe it or not, this year, in 2012, the Pittsburgh Pirates are contenders. However, there may be an obstacle blocking an intrastate trade. From Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
— Rob Biertempfel (@BiertempfelTrib) July 22, 2012
This could mean that the Phillies would need to drive an incentive to get a deal done. And now that the New York Yankees are off the board after acquiring Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners last night, there's one less suitor for Victorino and more leverage for his receptor. And Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports believes that if the Phillies plan on trading Victorino, they may need to include money not only to get a better prospect haul, but even to strike a deal at all.
The Phillies could seek a number of prospects from the Pirates. Among them is the team's top outfield prospect, Starling Marte. Marte, who was ranked as the Pirates' fourth-best prospect entering the season, has been absolutely fantastic in every stage of the minor leagues he has encountered. Considered to be similar to the Detroit Tigers' Austin Jackson, Marte's got everything going for him except power, but the Bucs believe that it's in his future.
Marte is also too eager on the basepaths at times and needs to improve his plate discipline, but his defense is absolutely spectacular, and it's been said that he could push Andrew McCutchen over to left field if he remains with the club to that point. He's considered the organization's best hitter for average, the best outfield arm, and best athlete. In short, Marte's got it all going for him.
Another prospect who could intrigue the Phils is left-handed pitcher Justin Wilson, pre-ranked as the team's 17th-best prospect. His fastball sits in the mid 90s as a starter and hits the high 90s as a reliever. He also throws a curveball with a huge break and a nice changeup. Although he projects to be a starting pitcher, he's struggled in that role, whereas he's shown more success in the bullpen. If he wants to get to the majors sooner than later, a relief role is in the cards.
The final player in this deal would be shortstop Alen Hanson, considered the organization's 27th-best prospect before the season began. Possibly destined for second base, his best ability is speed, and while he struggles on defense, he's a good line drive and gap power hitter. Don't let that 27th ranking fool you, though—Baseball America ranked him 40th on its Midseason Top 50 Prospects list, and that goes for the entire minor leagues.
This would be a nice deal for the Phillies and Pirates to make. The Pirates see Victorino as a "perfect fit" for their club, and the Phillies would get an excellent yet fair prospect package in return. And with the Phillies tossing in some salary to get the deal done, everyone's happy at the end of the day.
Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants
Giants Get: RF Hunter Pence
Phillies Get: OF Nate Schierholtz, SS Joe Panik (High-A), C/1B Tommy Joseph (Double-A), 3B Conor Gillaspie (Triple-A)
When the Phillies traded away four of their top 30 prospects and three of their top nine for Hunter Pence last year, the immediate reaction was that Pence was the piece needed to bring the Phillies another World Series title. And Pence did his job well. But there's no 2011 Commissioner's Trophy sitting in the Phillies' mantel, and it still leaves a bitter taste in the back of fans' mouths.
In no way is the lack of a World Series Pence's fault. But it makes you wonder whether acquiring him was really worth it in the long run. Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana, and Josh Zeid were all dealt to Houston in Ed Wade's final trade with the Phillies as the Astros' GM. All of those prospects could make the barren system better than it is, and all could have been future pieces. Instead, they belong to Houston, and with Pence's contract up after next season yet no solution to it having been settled, it leaves the Phillies in a state of limbo.
Should the team wait on extending Pence after the season, or should he even be extended at all? Should he be retained until he becomes a free agent, or should he be traded now to get the best possible prospect package in return?
Well, in the event that he is traded, Pence would likely bring the team the best possible prospect haul of any player on the team. The fact that he's under contract for 2013 makes him attractive to teams who aren't looking for rental players, since the new CBA prevents teams that acquire impending free agents midseason from receiving draft pick compensation if they're lost in free agency.
A team who could use Hunter Pence is the San Francisco Giants. The Giants, who are looking to maintain their lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers for first place in the NL West, could use an offensive piece like Pence. He'd be the perfect fit.
The Giants do possess one of the top hitters in the majors in Melky Cabrera. But with the so-so Angel Pagan in center and a flux of outfielders in right, the Giants need consistency in right field. Not only would Pence provide that consistency, he's an upgrade over almost any of their other position players, and has hit well at AT&T Park in his career, posting a .329 average with a .932 OPS, five home runs, 10 RBI, and three doubles in only 20 games played there. That's impressive.
In a monster package the Phillies would receive, the player who they'd get to take over right field could be Nate Schierholtz. Although he hasn't formally asked to be dealt, Schierholtz told Hank Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle that he's "ready to move on if another team wants to give him a larger role." With Pence gone in said trade, Schierholtz would immediately take his spot.
As for the prospects, headlining the deal would be catcher Tommy Joseph, the team's second-best prospect. He's able to throw out baserunners with ease and can hit with power all over the diamond. The biggest thing he needs to work on is plate discipline and he isn't too fast, but Joseph, who scouts once thought was headed towards becoming a first baseman, has improved defensively as a catcher to the point that he could stick behind the plate.
Shortstop Joe Panik, the Giants' fourth-best prospect, would also be included in this deal. His bat is what makes him stand out, but he's a very smart all-around player. Although he's overly aggressive at times early in the count, he's a fantastic two-strike hitter and has decent gap power. If he remains for that long, the Giants hope to see him starting in the majors by 2013, except possibly as a second baseman.
Lastly, third base prospect Conor Gillaspie would round out this trade. Gillaspie, ranked as the 13th-best prospect heading into the season, specializes in plate discipline, ranking as the team's best prospect in that regard. He's also an above-average contact hitter and can hit for average with gap power as well. Gillaspie's defense has also significantly improved and he has lowered his errors count every season to date.
This trade could be one that would be fantastic for both parties. The Giants, who need a right-handed bat, get one of the better bats potentially available in Pence at a position they need help with most and for longer than two months. The Phillies get an interim right fielder who's looking for a better opportunity along with a package of quality prospects, including a third baseman who could start for them for 2013. Another win-win trade.
Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers
Rangers Get: SP Cole Hamels
Phillies Get: CF Leonys Martin, RHP Tanner Scheppers, 3B Mike Olt (Double-A)
Cole Hamels has taken the brunt of the Phillies' woes in previous years. Until Cliff Lee came along, Hamels was the guy who received no run support in almost any of his starts. However, the former NLCS and World Series MVP finally got his due last year when he placed fifth in the NL Cy Young Award voting after posting a 14-9 record and pitching to the tune of a 2.79 ERA and 0.99 WHIP.
At the end of the season, the Phillies proceeded to offer Hamels a contract extension modeled after the one that Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ace Jered Weaver had signed two months earlier. Hamels refused, and since then little traction had been made towards a contract extension. All hope seemed to be lost that Hamels would stay in a Phillies uniform past this year.
That is, until recently. Talks between Hamels and the Phillies have picked up over the last few weeks, even to the point that someone familiar with the negotiations stated, “I think it happens.” Considering that the Phillies were willing to break team policy and offer Hamels a six-year deal, the chances of a Hamels deal very well may be increasing rather than dwindling, though it's still difficult to tell.
However, for all we know, a fallout could occur between now and the July 31st trade deadline, and the negotiations could go out the window. If an extension isn't agreed to by then, it's believed that Hamels will almost certainly be dealt.
In the event that a trade does happen, it would almost certainly be with the Texas Rangers. The Rangers may be more desperate than before now that they've lost starting pitcher Colby Lewis for the season and Roy Oswalt has back issues again. Hamels has interested the Rangers for quite some time now, and according to ESPN's Buster Olney, he might be the only pitcher of interest to Texas:
If Hamels signs a long-term deal with the Phillies, Texas might be out of the pitching market. It's a very small list that interests them.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 19, 2012
Then again, that was tweeted before Lewis' season-ending elbow injury was announced. Could the Rangers have since changed their stance? Possibly. But if the Phillies elect to trade Hamels, they sure would hope not.
In a Hamels deal, center fielder Leonys Martin, the team's fourth-best prospect entering the season, would almost surely interest the Phillies. Projected to be a leadoff hitter, he's not naturally fast but can turn the burners on when in the heat of the moment. His plate discipline and bat speed are good and he has shown that he has gap power. Martin's defense is great, and while it's not the best in the system, not every team has a system as deep as the Rangers.
Also an intriguing piece would be righty reliever Tanner Scheppers, the Rangers' 16th-best prospect before his call-up. His fastball regularly sits at 95-98 and can even hit 100, but since it's so straight, hitters can often make contact with it. His curveball is a nice complimentary pitch to his fastball and can break in two different ways. Scheppers also has a slider and changeup in his repertoire, though both are average at best. Scheppers most needs to work on his mechanics, and if he perfects them, he could be a set-up man or closer in the bigs.
And, of course, there's some guy named Mike Olt who plays third base that the Phillies might consider. He's the Rangers' third-best prospect going into 2012 and is the team's best power-hitting prospect. Olt's defense is also spectacular, as is his bat speed, but Olt's Achilles heel may very well be that he can be fooled by offspeed pitches and strikes out more than he should. The Rangers are hesitant to deal Olt for any rental player, but with Adrian Beltre locked up for now, Olt's best opportunity may come elsewhere.
If Hamels fetches enough in a deal that his talent suggests he should, this would be the ideal trade to make. The Rangers would get the piece they've needed to win the World Series this time around, and the Phillies would receive three players who are all ready to make an impact at the major league level sooner rather than later. It doesn't get any better than this, folks. But the Rangers may have someone else in mind if Hamels is in fact extended...
Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers
Rangers Get: SP Cliff Lee, cash considerations
Phillies Get: LHP Martin Perez, 3B Christian Villanueva (Single-A), 2B Rougned Odor (Single-A)
After pitching the Texas Rangers to their first-ever World Series in 2010, Lee left the team after the season as the premier free agent on the market still in search of his ring and the team who could best give him that opportunity. At the time, it was only between the Rangers and the New York Yankees. Yet the Phillies infamously swooped in and signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract—significantly less than the offers from the other two teams.
Unfortunate as it may be, Lee may have made the wrong choice. While all three teams made the playoffs last year, both the Phillies and Yankees lost in the first round, and the Rangers lost the World Series after being one strike away from victory in Game 6. The Yankees and certainly the Rangers have a good chance at making another run this season. The Phillies don't.
Right now, the Phillies' priority isn't necessarily winning; rather, it's locking up Cole Hamels to an extension and then "retooling" the team for next year, whether by trades or allowing other free agents to walk. Lee still seeks his World Series ring, and at least this year, the Phillies aren't the team slated to get one.
Lee has a 21-team no-trade list as part of his contract he signed with the Phillies after the 2010 season. However, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman has said that the Rangers aren't part of that list, meaning that a trade to Texas wouldn't require Lee's approval. And, sure enough, if a Hamels or Zack Greinke (the Milwaukee Brewers' ace and the other top free agent pitcher this year) trade isn't possible, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports that the Rangers' fallback option is...who else? Cliff Lee.
Before I go over the prospects in said deal, I want to make clear that if a Hamels trade isn't doable due to an extension, I'd still suggest the same prospects in a Lee trade. However, to mix things up a bit, I'll fabricate a different prospects package for this slide.
In a Lee deal, the Phillies' top target would probably be left-handed pitcher Martin Perez, the Rangers' second-best prospect. Perez, who has been compared to Johan Santana, is said to have a "picture-perfect delivery" and has three stellar pitches: a fastball that ranges from 90-96 mph and sinks at times, an 80-82 mph "fading" changeup, and a sharp-breaking curveball that ranges from 73-77 mph, and he's also working on a slider as well. With the Rangers system's best curveball, Perez projects as a number two starter in the majors, if not higher.
After Perez would come Christian Villanueva, a third baseman and the eighth-best Rangers prospect before the season. His swing is short and he has good bat control, though he does pull the ball at times. Villanueva's power potential is uncertain, as some scouts see it differently from others, but there is some power potential in Villanueva nonetheless. And though he isn't incredibly fast, he stole 32 bases last year and has a good defensive range, yet with both Adrian Beltre and Mike Olt ranked ahead of Villanueva, it may behoove the Rangers to consider trading him.
The final piece of a Lee deal would be Rougned Odor, a second baseman and the Rangers' ninth-best prospect prior to the season. Although Odor doesn't have a standout skill, he's able to adjust at the plate very quickly, and he does have some gap power. He's a great bunter as well and has a great arm for either second base or shortstop, where he had played until he was moved to second. What will determine Odor's future as a major leaguer is his development into an all-around hitter, something he currently lacks, but the possibilities lie within his reach.
If the Phillies had to trade Cliff Lee—something I wouldn't do, even if Hamels is retained—aside from the package mentioned on the Hamels slide and/or a package without the Rangers' untouchable top prospect, shortstop Jurickson Profar, this would be the deal to make.
The Rangers win out on Cliff Lee in the end and have their bona fide ace to pitch them to a World Series title. Lee would be able to take his inexplicable and non-telling 1-6 record out of Philly and to a contender now and in the future. And the Phillies would get a package of prospects that wouldn't be bad at all—maybe not as major-league ready as the package mentioned for Hamels, but nevertheless a stellar haul. A win-win-win situation for everyone.