As the trade deadline looms just four days away, more and more rumors will surface, with some of them resulting in players finding new homes. And over the last few weeks, the Philadelphia Phillies have been involved in many a rumor.
The Phillies, who are in last place in the NL East with a 45-54 record, look to defend their five consecutive division titles. But when you're 14.5 games out of first place, that can be difficult to overcome.
Due to the Phillies' last-place woes yet their recent winning ways (the team is on a four-game winning streak), it's unclear whether they will buy or sell.
Aside from dealing Jim Thome to the Baltimore Orioles and Chad Qualls to the New York Yankees, the Phils have not made a trade this month. With four days away, it's worth wondering whether they will acquire a player for help, trade one away for prospects or both.
In light of Hamels' new contract, the Phillies may need to clear payroll if they still intend on remaining under the luxury-tax threshold of $178 million. That in itself may be impossible even with trades, but the chances of the Phillies remaining under it are better with every player dealt.
One of the players the team is having a hard time with is Shane Victorino. Victorino, who will be a free agent after the season, has struggled this year and may not help the team if they want to try to make a playoff push. He's hitting just .253 on the season with eight home runs (none in over a month), 38 RBI and a .706 OPS. Consequently, the Phillies want to acquire any help they can for Victorino, and it's been rumored that they're seeking a reliever in any Victorino trade.
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Phillies have asked about the Los Angeles Dodgers' Josh Lindblom, the Tampa Bay Rays' Wade Davis, the Pittsburgh Pirates' Brad Lincoln and the Cincinnati Reds' Logan Ondrusek. No deal has materialized yet nor has moved through the initial kicking-the-tires stages for Davis, but the Phillies have been rebuffed by the latter two teams.
However, with news coming out that the Phillies have made these offers for relievers for Victorino and have not had a single offer accepted, it makes it worth thinking: At this point, is it even worth trading Victorino if the Phillies are only getting a reliever, if not less, back in return?
Earlier in the season, Victorino was expected to be worth a return of two, if not three upper-tier prospects. Since he'll be one of the top center fielders in a free-agent class stocked with them, it was thought that he'd be able to net a considerably large haul in return. No longer does that seem to be the case.
With Victorino's struggles this year, the most that they could receive is a reliever and maybe a middle-tier prospect, though even that could be too much to expect in a trade. And if the Phillies can't get anything more, is it even worth dealing their three-time Gold Glove center fielder?
The Phillies need bullpen help, no doubt about that. Their bullpen ERA is fourth-worst in the majors at 4.64, and with little veteran presence behind closer Jonathan Papelbon and swingman Kyle Kendrick, a reliever with more experience than a season or two would be useful to the Phillies if they want solidification and reliability from their relief corps.
But with Victorino, he's a former All-Star center fielder. While he's not producing this season, he could pick it up in the coming weeks. He's a much better second-half player in his career than first-half, posting a .282 batting average and .782 OPS throughout his career after the All-Star break. He could very well heat up in the last two months of the season.
And if the Phillies do trade Victorino, who takes his place as the starting center fielder? John Mayberry, Jr. has shown that he's not an everyday player, Juan Pierre's a left fielder and Laynce Nix doesn't play center field when he is playing.
Domonic Brown could play center field and would likely be brought up to do so, but if that doesn't work out, do the Phillies pursue a free agent after the season with their strapped budget, or go with minimal impact players?
The Phillies have their work cut out for them and have many pros and cons in trading the Flyin' Hawaiian. He's a fan favorite and was a piece that helped carry the Phillies to the World Series in 2008. But is it time for him to be on his way?
It very well may not be worth it for the Phillies to deal Shane Victorino for just a reliever.
Yet could just a reliever be the missing link from last place and first? Highly unlikely.
But the Phillies could make a wild-card push, and maybe it truly is a reliever that separates the Phillies from the rest of the pack.
Whether or not Victorino will be traded, let alone retained after the season, is still a mystery and will continue to be until it happens or until July 31 at 4:00 p.m. EDT.
If the Phillies want to get anything for Victorino, maybe a reliever is their best shot—both in terms of return and help to the team. It could be the final piece of the puzzle in making a run to the playoffs.
We'll have to wait and see.