News that the Philadelphia Phillies had extended homegrown ace Cole Hamels' contract spread quickly around the baseball world. Six years and $144 million dollars was the deal the Phillies and Hamels agreed to. Hamels will remain a Phillie through at least 2018, too.
Following the press conference, the Phillies played the final game of a three-game set against the Milwaukee Brewers, sending Vance Worley to the mound against Marco Estrada. Although the Phils quickly broke out to a 5-1 lead, the Brew Crew tied it up in the eighth inning on a two-run Ryan Braun home run. After going into extras and seeing the Brewers take a 6-5 lead courtesy of a Ty Wigginton error, the Phils came back in the bottom of the 10th and won 7-6 on a Jimmy Rollins walk-off single.
The win yesterday gave the Phils their first three-game series sweep of the season and their third win on a walk-off hit in four games. In addition, the Phillies have gone into extra innings in three of those four games, and are currently embarked on a four-game winning streak.
As a result of all of these events, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. still isn't sure whether to buy or sell at this year's trade deadline. Just five days away, the fact that Amaro believes that the Phillies can still win creates an interesting discussion, but who the Phillies would acquire should they choose to buy is an even bigger question mark. Don't believe me? Bob Nightengale of USA Today opined this yesterday morning:
The way the #Phillies have played of late, Amaro certainly waiting to see whether they are buyers or sellers at the deadline.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 25, 2012
Given their current position in the standings—the 45-54 Phillies still sit in last place in the NL East, 14 games back of the Washington Nationals and 9.5 games out of the Wild Card—one would assume that the Phillies wouldn't consider anything but selling.
But, if the Phillies do choose to buy, who should they pursue?
An intriguing option could be third baseman Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres. The Friars, who sit in fourth in the NL West at 42-58 and are also 14 games out of first in their division, are expected to field offers for Headley, who, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, is "all but sure to be dealt."
It's not like this is total speculation. Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported back on June 29 that the Phillies had asked the Padres about Headley. Granted, the Phillies were 36-43 and only 10 games out of first place compared to 14 now, but their need for a replacement for Placido Polanco, whose mutual option is likely to be declined by the Phillies after the season, exists whether the Phillies go to the playoffs or go home after the regular season.
Headley, only 28 years old, would be a great replacement for Polanco. He's durable, having played in 98 games this season, which leads all third basemen. Polanco, on the other hand, is tied for last in that category with Ryan Zimmerman of the Nationals, having played in only 82 contests.
Also, Headley's third among hot corner players with a 3.6 WAR (per FanGraphs) and his UZR/150 is 10.2, fourth among third basemen and ahead of Polanco, who won a Gold Glove at the position last season.
Headley's no slugger, hitting .267 with a .787 OPS. However, Headley's had the misfortune of playing his entire career at Petco Park, which is known around the league as one of, if not the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in the majors. Yet despite this, Headley still has 12 home runs on the season, though only three of them have come at home.
The biggest perk in acquiring Headley, though, is assurance. Headley's a Super Two player, meaning that he will receive a fourth year of arbitration eligibility as opposed to the standard three. And, Headley's only up for his third bout of arbitration this coming offseason, meaning that if the Phillies acquired him, he'd be under team control through the 2014 season.
That means two and a half years of Headley until free agency. That's fantastic.
But who would the Phillies give up in a Headley trade? Thanks in part to their trade with the Cincinnati Reds in the offseason, the Padres have a fairly deep farm system and are poised to have a good team in four or five years.
Before the Latos trade that saw the Padres nab Edinson Volquez and three of the Reds' top 10 prospects, including two of their top four, Baseball America already had the Padres ranked with the eighth-best system in the majors. It undoubtedly only increased after the trade.
The Phillies, on the other hand, were ranked 27th. That could make a deal difficult to strike between the two clubs. Since the Padres are an extremely low revenue team, they'll likely want only prospects, and the Phillies don't have many to spare. However, there are a few spots where the Padres could use some depth.
One is first base. Yes, they have Yonder Alonso entrenched at first base for the long haul, but after dealing Anthony Rizzo to the Chicago Cubs and promoting Alonso as a major leaguer, the Padres have absolutely no prospects in their preseason top 30 prospects (according to Baseball America) who play first base.
Although arguably not a "prospect" anymore, first baseman Darin Ruf could work for the Padres. He's made strides this year and could very well be one of the Phillies' top offensive players in their minor league system this season. He's also got a lifetime average of over .300 throughout his career in the minors. Pretty impressive.
Another option could be right-handed starter Jonathan Pettibone, ranked fourth-best prospect by Baseball America in the Phillies' system. Promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley after his start yesterday for the Reading Phillies, Pettibone has put together a solid season, going 9-7 with a 3.30 ERA. The Padres could also consider the Phillies' Triple-A ace this year, Tyler Cloyd, who has a 9-1 record and 2.11 ERA at Lehigh Valley this year.
It may be a stretch to call the 25-year-old Cloyd a prospect anymore, though he is closer to being major-league ready than Pettibone. But, if the Padres decide they'd prefer to go the prospect route, Pettibone would be a better fit.
That's something worth thinking about, too—despite having the 13th-best team ERA in the majors at 3.82, the Padres are sending out major league castoffs Jason Marquis, Kip Wells, and occasionally Ross Ohlendorf to the mound on a regular basis. Even though Marquis has won three straight starts, that's a pretty pathetic rotation, and Cloyd could bolster it sooner than Pettibone.
It's up to both the Padres and the Phillies if they want to strike a deal. Headley's a perfect fit in Philly, But given that he's a hot commodity, the chances of the still-possibly selling Phillies picking him up are slim.
And, while a Ruf and Pettibone/Cloyd trade for Headley could work out for both sides, maybe the Padres get better offers out there and don't take the deal. Or, the Phillies could offer different pieces, too, which is an even likelier possibility.
Headley can help the Phillies retool, and Ruf and Pettibone or Cloyd could help the Padres do the same. All that remains to be seen is whether both sides have enough interest in getting a deal done with each other. There's no way to know that until it happens, if it does at all.
Maybe the Padres want a third prospect in a deal, and that's not something that should be unexpected.
Maybe the Phillies decide to look elsewhere and trade Cliff Lee to Texas for a package headlined by third base prospect Mike Olt.
Maybe a deal doesn't go through. But if it does, it'll be a great trade for both teams.
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