As the trade deadline nears, the Philadelphia Phillies have yet to buy or sell any roster pieces to either improve on this season’s standings or prepare for next year.
However, the Phillies best move may be to wait until the offseason to fully get the team back on track for a postseason run.
A three game losing streak leading up to the trade deadline certainly doesn’t help the Phils case to be buyers, while being just one season removed from winning a franchise record number of games and a fifth consecutive National League East title make trading away key players difficult to see happening.
Following Cole Hamels’ long-term contract, the team could move both Lee and Pence in order to gain back payroll for other moves. As of now, the Phils payroll is likely to exceed the luxury tax threshold this season and next. Trading Lee and his contract and avoiding paying Pence an increased salary after this season would help the Phillies spend money on other positions before exceeding the tax threshold.
However, trading either player days before the trade deadline would not help the Phillies find the right deals for improving the team in future seasons.
A recent article by Bob Brookover on philly.com contains a quote from Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., on the effects of trade deadline deals on next season.
“I don’t think we’re going to do anything before July 31 to fill all the holes that we might have in 2013,” Amaro said. “That’s not going to happen. We’ve got plenty of time to try to work through that.”
With potential replacements or improvements needed in the starting rotation, left field, center field, third base and the bullpen, the Phillies are going to need all of that time.
The Phillies don’t have to trade players such as Lee and Pence at the deadline simply to avoid paying the luxury tax this season, as players with lesser salaries can be moved to accomplish that.
But trading Lee and Pence could provide the Phillies with a combination of a lowered payroll, minor league additions and/or major league contributors.
Moving players like Lee and Pence could be the Phillies best chance to have next season resemble 2011 more so than the current season. This is why the Phils must wait until the offseason if they are going to make major moves.
Trading Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton would allow the Phillies to obtain either current major league players or minor league prospects, which would help the team obtain value since both players are set to become free agents anyway.
Trading Lee would mean that the Phillies will have to replace 40 percent of their starting rotation for next season, while trading Pence could mean that the team needs three new starters in the outfield. Trades involving both of these players could still prove to be good moves, but not this close to the trade deadline.
Furthermore, the trade deadline could primarily consist of non-contending teams trading away talent to contending teams for either average major league talent or minor league prospects.
During the offseason, however, the Phillies could have far more teams interested in acquiring talent in order to improve next season after missing the postseason this year.
At the deadline, a player such as Chase Headley of the San Diego Padres could be a third base option that is available. However, as Jerry Crasnick recently tweeted, the Padres appear willing to hold on to Headley if trade offers don’t improve. The Phillies shouldn’t give up high ranking prospects once again, and a deal involving Pence for Headley doesn’t make much sense.
Not to mention, it could be difficult to trade away players while also acquiring a third baseman for the future.
But what about in the offseason?
But the Rangers also have Josh Hamilton who is set to become a free agent after this season. If the team doesn’t sign him to a long-term deal, would they be interested in acquiring an outfielder? Would they have interest in Pence at that point?
These types of scenarios can take place during the offseason and provide the Phillies with many more opportunities to find the right deals for improving the team both currently and in the future.
If the Phils are going to move Lee, Pence or any other player who is signed past next season and who has made major contributions to the team, they must make sure that any deal allows them to cement their status as perennial contenders.
When it comes to making major moves, the Phillies must wait until the offseason.