With the trade deadline just hours away, if deals are going to happen for the Philadelphia Phillies, they're going to happen today.
The thought that the Phillies will sell surely wasn't one that came into fans' minds before the season. The Phils had gone out and signed Jonathan Papelbon to give themselves a bona fide closer. They bolstered their bench by bringing in Jim Thome, Ty Wigginton and Laynce Nix. The bullpen also saw Chad Qualls come to town. With a better bench and bullpen, everything should have gone according to plan. Right?
Wrong. The Phillies, with a record of 45-57, sit in dead last in the NL East by a 16.5 game margin. And after being swept by the Atlanta Braves this past weekend, the Phils' chances of making the Wild Card diminished as well, and with the sweep the Phillies sit 13 games out of the playoffs.
Simply put, all hope for a postseason run and a chance to defend their five consecutive NL East division titles has vanished. The Phillies are sellers this year, no getting around it.
Among the Phillies players on the block are Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence, Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre, Ty Wigginton and possibly Cliff Lee. Some of those names will be playing for different teams come 4 p.m. tomorrow, whereas others will be remaining in Philly for the remainder of the season.
Who the Phillies ship out of town will all depend on the return the Phillies can get in said trades. They'll obviously only do what benefits them. If a trade betters the other team, fine, but if it doesn't improve the Phillies, you can bet that the trade won't get done. That's logical, of course.
A week ago I wrote a slideshow that gave trades the Phillies could make should they go into all-out sell mode. Since then, however, rumors have changed, and this slideshow will reflect the newest, updated rumors. Additionally, the slideshow will also focus on the Phillies making "value trades," or trades that will be worthwhile for the Phillies. They'll be fair to the other team as well so the deal would logically get done, but the Phillies will obviously rake the benefits, too.
Enjoy the read and the trade deadline!
*Prospect rankings are from the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which ranked teams' top prospects before the season.
Reds Get: CF Shane Victorino
Phillies Get: RHP J.C. Sulbaran (Double-A), OF Ryan LaMarre (Double-A)
Of any Phillies player who is likely to be dealt by today's deadline, Shane Victorino is arguably the most probable to be dealt. He's a player in a contract year who should be performing, yet has massively disappointed. On the season, Victorino's hitting just .261 with 40 RBI and has an OPS of .724. He's got nine home runs on the year, but he hit his first home run in almost two months Sunday.
The Phillies, though, may not be receiving calls about Victorino because other clubs like his offense. His defensive abilities in center field are matched by few in the majors, and his speed on the basepaths is a plus to his trade value as well.
Though the Phillies have been asking for relief help in exchange for Victorino, the Phils' asking price for him is reportedly ridiculous. Per CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman:
asking price said "outrageous'' by 1 team on victorino. #phillies are making things interesting— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 30, 2012
It begs the question as to what the Phillies are really asking for the Flyin' Hawaiian. However, one team still interested in Victorino despite the Phillies' high asking price for him is the Cincinnati Reds. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reports that the Reds consider Victorino their "top target" and could pursue him aggressively.
If the Phillies traded with the Reds, a package that could work would be one consisting of right-handed pitching prospect J.C. Sulbaran and outfielding prospect Ryan LaMarre. Sulbaran, the Reds' 12th-best prospect heading into the 2012 season, has the Reds organization's best curveball and could develop into a solid number three starter in the majors. LaMarre, the team's 14th-best prospect, is the Reds' farm system's best defensive outfielder and the only thing holding him back is whether or not he'll be able to hit on a consistent basis. Fortunately, both have high upside.
This trade would be ideal for both teams, as the Phillies get prospects rather than a reliever and get a decent return for Victorino. The Reds get the player they most covet at the deadline and don't have to part with too much to get him.
12:00 p.m. EDT UPDATE: The deal is official: Victorino has been traded to the Dodgers for Lindblom and pitching prospect Ethan Martin.
Giants Get: RF Hunter Pence
Phillies Get: C Tommy Joseph (Double-A), SS Joe Panik (High-A), OF Francisco Peguero (Triple-A)
Hunter Pence is another player who the Phillies have had success with in the past but is struggling a bit this year. Although only a Phillie for just over a year, Pence has been well received by Phillies fans for his awkward mechanics both at the plate and in the field.
Acquired from the Houston Astros by the Phillies at last year's deadline in exchange for top prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton, and prospects Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana, the Pence trade delivered a severe blow to the Phillies' farm system. While Pence has been average for the Phillies this year, hitting .271 on the season with 17 home runs, 59 RBI, and a .784 OPS, he hasn't been nearly as successful as his breakout year last season when he hit over .300 and hit 11 home runs in two months with Philadelphia.
Now that the Phillies are considering trading Pence only a year after acquiring him, it begs the question as to whether he should have been traded for at all. But that's a different issue. In the meantime, Pence could be dealt sometime today, and rumors place the San Francisco Giants as the frontrunners for his services.
If Pence was traded to the Giants, the Phillies could pursue catcher Tommy Joseph. The Giants' second-best prospect before the season, Joseph's defense has made huge progress and he has a fantastic arm and throwing accuracy. His calling skills at the plate are great as well and hitting-wise, he's got solid power.
Panik came in as the Giants' fourth-best prospect and is a great two-strike hitter. His bat speed is above average and he has gap power. Panik's got a slick glove as well but not great arm strength nor throwing mechanics. He could be a second baseman in the future, but he's also more than adequate as a shortstop.
Peguero was ranked as the fifth-best prospect in the Giants' system before the season. The team's farm system's best defensive outfielder, he's got huge power potential and after moving from center field to right, his stock rose even higher. He's not afraid to be aggressive at the plate, yet has great plate discipline as well. He's expected to be a pretty good all-around hitter if everything goes well.
In this trade, the Phillies get more than their money's worth. They trade Pence and take his 2011 and 2012 salary off the luxury tax and get three mid to top prospects. The Giants get the right-handed outfield bat they need and add the final piece they need to make a push for the NL West title.
12:25 p.m. EDT UPDATE: The Giants have acquired Pence. Who the Phillies will get in return is uncertain. More to come.
Yankees Get: UTIL Ty Wigginton
Phillies Get: OF Zoilo Almonte (Double-A)
Ty Wigginton has had an interesting season, to say the least. Acquired by the Phillies in the offseason from the Colorado Rockies, Wigginton has the ability to play first, second and third base, and both the corner outfield spots. His defense is terrible, but as a right-handed bat with flashes of power, he's got value for his handedness, strength and versatility.
This season, Wigginton's been below average, hitting just .230 with a .666 OPS. He does have the same amount of home runs (nine) as Shane Victorino, though and is only four RBI short of his season total with 36, compared to Victorino's 40.
Enter the New York Yankees. The Yankees, who lost their overpaid third baseman Alex Rodriguez after Seattle Mariners ace Felix Hernandez broke his hand on a pitch, are in need of an interim replacement. They've been linked to not only the San Diego Padres' third baseman Chase Headley, but to Wigginton as well, though they're rightfully skeptical of his defense.
If a trade did go through, the Phillies could be interested in outfield prospect Zoilo Almonte. The Yankees' 19th-best prospect before the season, Almonte had a breakout season last year. Not a prospect with one standout tool, he's still got a lot of potential and should be a well-rounded player with decent ability in every department. Almonte's power potential has increased as he's gained muscle mass, his defense is above-average and his plate discipline continues to get better.
The Yankees and Phillies both win in this trade. The Phillies get a decent outfield prospect back for Wigginton, and the Yankees get a very versatile player who can fill in for A-Rod and for other starters as well if necessary. His defense may be sketchy, but he's definitely cheaper and more attainable than the Padres' Headley, something that could be what gets a deal done between these two teams.
Orioles Get: SP Joe Blanton, cash considerations
Phillies Get: 3B Nicky Delmonico (Single-A)
Joe Blanton has been a very solid, sturdy option for the Phillies since they acquired him from the Oakland Athletics at the 2008 trade deadline. He helped get the Phils to the World Series that year and has been a dependable innings eater since.
This season, Blanton's got a 4.59 ERA with an 8-9 record. But don't let that fool you. Yes, he's allowed 22 home runs this year, but his 115/18 K/BB ratio is extremely impressive. His 1.19 WHIP is also satisfactory.
However, with free agency looming for Blanton, the chances that he's re-signed by the Phillies are slim. Don't get me wrong, he's been good, but not that good. The Phillies also have internal options to use for starting pitching next year, so unfortunately for Blanton, his time remaining as a Phillie isn't much. Whether he'll be traded or retained through the end of the season is unclear, but the Phillies will look to trade him today to recoup anything they can and not lose him without gaining anything in return.
In terms of trade rumors, Blanton's been most heavily connected to the Baltimore Orioles. The biggest question isn't whether the Orioles want Blanton—they do, as they like his ability to pitch deep into games—but rather what to give the Phillies for him and how much money the Phillies should eat in a deal. The Phillies would like to get rid of all of Blanton's remaining salary, which is just over $3 million, but they also want the Orioles' third-best prospect Jonathan Schoop. Not only is Schoop practically off-limits for a player of Blanton's caliber, but he's certainly untouchable if the Phillies refuse to eat salary.
A better alternative the Phillies could pursue if they gave up enough cash to the Orioles is third base prospect Nicky Delmonico. The Orioles' sixth-best prospect prior to the 2012 campaign, Delmonico is one of two third basemen at Single-A along with fellow third base prospect Jason Esposito, which could make one of the two expendable.
Delmonico's got plus power potential, and though his bat speed isn't good by any stretch of the imagination, his swing itself has great form. He's not a great runner either, which could rule out third base in the future, but he's still likely to stick there nevertheless and his arm is perfect for the position.
In this trade, the Orioles get the starter they need after losing Jason Hammel to knee surgery. Blanton will be able to eat innings as he always had, and though with mixed results, he's more reliable than some of the Orioles' other options. As for the Phillies, they get someone for Blanton (and they get to shed his salary as well), someone the Orioles can afford to lose due to organizational depth. A win-win for both clubs.
Rangers Get: SP Cliff Lee, cash considerations
Phillies Get: 3B Mike Olt (Double-A), OF Leonys Martin (Triple-A)
It's been discussed many a time now...should the Phillies trade Cliff Lee to his former team, the Texas Rangers?
Lee, who spurned the Rangers and Yankees to come back to Philadelphia in the 2010 offseason, came back to the City of Brotherly Love to settle down after being traded three times in four years. He enjoyed his time here after spending the second half of the 2009 season with the Phillies, taking them to their second consecutive World Series, but falling just short, though by no means was it Lee's fault.
Yet the question has been brought up once more...should Lee, after coming back to Philadelphia to stay in Philadelphia, be traded back to Texas?
It's been a rough season for Cliff. He's 1-6 with a 3.95 ERA, 112 strikeouts, and a 1.20 WHIP. It's far from being his best season, and though some of Lee's struggles have been his own, many of his starts (especially his good ones) have resulted in losses due to lack of run support.
However, I'm far from fabricating the Rangers' interest in Lee. After the Phillies made it known on Friday that Lee was off the market, today he came back into the fold in trade talks. The Rangers were part of those discussions, and though said discussions have since deteriorated, it doesn't mean that all chances of a Lee trade are gone.
So you're telling me there's a chance? Yes, Lloyd, I am. But not a good one. I'd say something like one in a million.
Okay, enough with the Dumb and Dumber references. But you get my point. The chances are slim.
But if the Phillies somehow do strike a deal with the Rangers to trade Lee, maybe at the 11th (or in this case, three o'clock) hour, how would it be structured?
Well, first off, the Phillies would have to offer salary relief. And I don't mean five, ten million dollars. I mean closer to $30 million, maybe even more if the Phillies are that desperate to get prospects, of which the Rangers have an abundance. But the Phillies could also be turned off if they had to offer too much salary relief to trade Lee. That would defeat the purpose.
So let's say they agree to $25 million in salary relief. Great. What prospects are involved?
Any Lee conversation would automatically start with third base prospect Mike Olt, the Rangers' third-best prospect. Olt, one of baseball's top prospects, has great defense, great power, and great everything, really—except strikeout percentages. Despite somehow great plate discipline, Olt cannot read a breaking ball and has a strikeout rate that approaches 33 percent. He needs some help with the Ks, but aside from that there's little he has left to prove.
The Phillies would also want outfielder Leonys Martin, the Rangers' fourth-best prospect. Martin's an exceptional defender with plus speed and gap power and he projects as a future leadoff hitter. His plate discipline and bat speed are also fantastic. Martin would be ideal for the Phillies' impending center field situation, and would be a great option to take over for Victorino after his contract runs out.
If the Phillies got really greedy and the Rangers somehow complied, the Phils could ask for any of Martin Perez, Cody Buckel, Jorge Alfaro, and maybe even Jurickson Profar. But any of those are a stretch, and Leonys Martin may even be a reach as well.
Regardless, if this deal gets done, it solves problems for both teams. For the Rangers, they don't have to worry about transforming Olt into a first baseman and with Adrian Beltre blocking Olt's way up anyhow, Olt would have to wait longer to get his shot at the bigs. They also get Lee back, the free agent starter they wanted so much after 2010, and he can anchor the Rangers' rotation and lead them once again to the World Series, this time to a title.
The Phillies get to take Lee's contract off the books, which alone would take them below the luxury tax, even with paying the Rangers some of his contract. The Phillies also get their third baseman and center fielder of the future, killing two birds with one stone, and both would be inexpensive yet theoretically effective. There would be no complaints.
This is the epitome of win-win trades. But will it get done today?
We'll have to wait and see.