As the baseball world surpasses 72 hours until the trade deadline at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, July 31, more and more rumors will arise and materialize into trades. Some of the most heated rumors involve two of the Philadelphia Phillies' starting outfielders, Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence.
Given the team's current last-place standing in the NL East by a 14.5-game margin, the Phillies are best suited to sell rather than buy this year.
In need of prospects to rebuild their thin farm system, the Phillies' only chances of doing that are trading away their proven talent to acquire multiple prospects who could make the team younger as well as help out the club in the future.
It makes sense for the Phillies to at least consider trading away their center and right fielder. Maybe they want to trade one of them rather than both, or maybe none at all. It's up to GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and the rest of the Phillies front office to make that decision, and it'll be based upon who they could get in return for each of the two former All-Stars.
In trading Victorino, any team acquiring the Flyin' Hawaiian would get a speedy center fielder who's a spectacular defender and an above-average hitter when he's hot. Unfortunately for the Phillies, he hasn't been hot this season.
In fact, he's hitting just .256 on the season, and the last time he hit a home run was almost two months ago, on June 8 against the Baltimore Orioles. Last night he hit a double that gave Victorino his first RBI since July 14. He simply doesn't have it this year. At least he's stealing bases...when he gets on base, that is.
The Phillies have dangled Victorino into the open waters and have tried to get a sense of which teams are nibbling on him and what they'd be willing to offer.
So far, according to CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, the Phillies have received interest in Victorino, but whether the Phillies are interested in what they can get in return for him is a different story. The Phils have asked for relievers (via Stark) in return for Victorino, including Tampa Bay's Wade Davis, Pittsburgh's Brad Lincoln, Cincinnati's Logan Ondrusek and the Dodgers' Josh Lindblom, among others.
But considering that the team has been rebuffed on every offer, it makes it worth wondering whether the Phillies should even trade Victorino for that small a return.
Not that the Phillies don't need the bullpen help, though. Their relief ERA this year is 4.59, good for fourth-worst in the majors. Besides closer Jonathan Papelbon and long reliever Kyle Kendrick, the Phillies lack a reliable veteran arm who they can turn to in the seventh or eighth innings.
Victorino could net them that veteran presence in the bullpen, and even if that's all they can get for him, it might be a worthwhile investment. Might be.
Victorino's ineffective offense has lowered his trade stock, and for a Phillies team who needs to rebuild their farm system more than anything, he's not the best option to do that. Hunter Pence, on the other hand, would net the Phillies some more prospects in a trade.
Pence was acquired by the Phillies at the deadline last year for a massive prospect package consisting of right-handed starter Jarred Cosart, first baseman Jonathan Singleton, outfielder Domingo Santana and reliever Josh Zeid. All four of those pieces would have bolstered the Phillies' farm system, with Cosart and Singleton considered top-50 prospects before the season by Baseball America.
Now that the Phillies may consider trading Pence only a year later, it makes no sense that Pence was acquired to begin with.
But that's in the past and can't be reversed. Sure, the Phillies have a depleted farm system that ranks in the bottom of the league rather than the top half, but hey, what are you going to do?
Pence has been hitting the ball much better than Victorino this season, hitting .267 on the year, but he was hitting as high as .288 as recently as July 8. He's been in the midst of a slump of late, but Pence is a second-half player and should be able to bring it back up. Unlike Victorino, who's got less than 10 home runs to his name this season, Pence has hit 17 and has 59 RBI.
Also unlike Victorino, Pence isn't a speedster nor a valuable defensive asset. In fact, his UZR/150 this year is minus-14.2, currently the worst mark of his career, and it isn't even close to his second-worst mark, which was minus-5.3 last year. He's not just bad defensively. He's a liability.
However, Pence's biggest upside for the Phillies is the potential prospect haul he could bring in if dealt. Victorino's an impending free agent, and since the new CBA doesn't allot draft-pick compensation to teams that acquire mid-season rentals, his value has dropped even more immensely than his stats suggest.
But with Pence, who's got another year under team control before free agency, that's not an issue. That's where the prospect return comes in.
If Pence was traded, he could easily bring in two top prospects and a mid-level prospect. He's by far the best right fielder potentially available in a trade this summer, and his right-handedness makes him even more valuable to some specific teams like the San Francisco Giants, according to FOX Sports' Jon Morosi, who tweeted this yesterday:
The other benefit in trading Pence for the Phillies is that they don't have to spend as much money next year. Sounds cheap? Maybe. But hear me out.
Pence is arbitration eligible for the fourth and final time next year (as a Super Two player, he gets a fourth year of arbitration). He's expected to make somewhere around $14-15 million next year alone, and if he's retained, not only is his salary more a deterrent next year if they decided to trade him then, but other teams won't like his impending free agency, as is the case with Victorino.
And of course, there are luxury tax ramifications. Pence's estimated $15 million salary is another $15 million on the books for the Phillies if they keep him. If not, they're $15 million further from the surpassing the $178 million luxury tax.
That also impacts them this year. The Phillies sit on, or slightly over, the luxury tax threshold. If they deal Pence, they don't have to worry about being the first National League team to surpass the threshold in history, nor paying 17.5 percent on every dollar over $178 million in payroll. And when we're talking millions over, than can amount to big bills to pay.
There are pros and cons to trading Victorino and Pence. Maybe both should be traded to give Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr. more playing time. Maybe only one should be dealt. Maybe neither one.
I'm for trading Pence AND Victorino, but if I had to choose one, I'd trade Pence.
If you can get three or four top prospects for him who can contribute in the near (and somewhat distant) future and also bolster your farm system rankings to make future moves, why don't you?
You save money in the process and recoup the benefits. As much as it's disappointing to trade away a player you just acquired a year ago, maybe it's best for Amaro to restock the farm system this time.
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