Following today’s non-waiver trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies outfield could have a much different look to it.
And that’s just for the rest of this season.
If the Phillies decide to trade Shane Victorino, who is a free agent-to-be even if he is not traded, and/or Hunter Pence, the team’s outfield could feature three new starters next season.
However, before next season, the Phillies will have an offseason to reload their roster after what is appearing to be a season that does not include a postseason run.
And one player that could be available this offseason just so happens to play the outfield.
Ellsbury, who finished second in last season’s American League MVP voting, is batting .269 while playing in just 23 games this season. However, he is just one season removed from batting .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI.
There are two catches with Ellsbury, however, that could make a trade for the Phils a risky attempt.
First, Ellsbury is set to become a free agent after next season. Second, he’s represented by agent Scott Boras.
Not a cheap combination.
However, the Phillies could make moves prior to making an offer for Ellsbury that would give them payroll flexibility in addition to other trade assets.
For starters, trading Cliff Lee and Hunter Pence at the deadline would save the Phillies nearly $39 million in salary next season. That amount doesn’t include the expiring contracts of Shane Victorino and Joe Blanton, as well as potential buyouts of the contracts of Placido Polanco, Ty Wigginton and Jose Contreras.
And that’s just how much money the Phils could take off their payroll by the time the offseason gets into full swing.
Meanwhile, the Phillies could put an approach on hold that they are rumored to be considering this season.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi on mlbbuzz.yardbarker.com recently wrote that the Phillies may attempt to use prospects that they acquire in trade deadline deals this season to acquire players such as Chase Headley or Shin-Soo Choo.
But what if the Phillies held on to any prospects they acquire at this season’s trade deadline and use them as trade chips during the offseason?
By trading players such as Lee and Pence, the Phillies would not only lower their payroll, but also acquire multiple prospects that could be enticing to other teams in future deals.
As Buster Olney recently tweeted, the Texas Rangers may have interest in Lee, and third baseman Mike Olt could part of a deal. If this deal were to go through at the trade deadline or during the offseason, the Phillies would acquire their third baseman of the future, and not have to spend significant money on a free agent at the position.
The Phillies also have players such as Domonic Brown and Tyler Cloyd currently in Triple-A who still have the potential to reach the major leagues. Between acquisitions and call-ups, the Phillies could have a rotation spot, left field and the bullpen as areas in need of improvement headed into next season following potential trades.
However, by saving money in other areas, the Phillies would have a chance at signing Ellsbury to a long-term contract, especially if Lee’s salary was moved.
The team may also see Roy Halladay hit free agency after next season, which could mean the team’s payroll would decrease even more.
Meanwhile, by the time Ellsbury’s potential extension kicked in, the luxury tax threshold would be set to increase to $189 million, giving the Phils more room before having to pay an additional tax.
Prior to this season, Mark Polishuk on mlbtraderumors.com suggested that Ellsbury could receive a seven-year, $133 million contract extension. However, this also came after Ellsbury finished second in American League MVP voting. This season is the second time in three years that Ellsbury has missed significant time due to injury.
Ellsbury could still command a huge long-term contract by the time his free agency rolls around, but the Phillies may only have two contracts worth over $100 million at that point, as well, in Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels. The team would also be just a few seasons away from signing a new television contract that could also increase their funding.
Depending on the Phillies moves at the trade deadline and in the offseason, as well as their plan going forward, targeting Ellsbury could become an option.