The Philadelphia Phillies have a payroll bordering on the obscene: They owe tens of millions of dollars in guaranteed contracts to players who are unlikely to ever live up to them, have a rapidly aging roster and a rabid fanbase thirsty for another parade.
With all that going on—and a front office determined to continue filling seats at Citizens Bank Park—will the Phillies be able to significantly overhaul their roster while not missing a beat on the field?
The odds say no, but if the events of the 2012 baseball season are any indication, nothing is impossible. Would anyone have believed the Red Sox could have moved as much payroll as they did?
In this piece, I will examine a few outside-the-box trade ideas that will probably never occur, but that could dramatically reshape the Phillies’ roster for years to come.
It’s an open secret that Arizona GM Kevin Towers is on the hunt for starting pitching this offseason. With a surplus of outfielders on his roster, he may even dangle Justin Upton in the right deal.
While the Phillies have the pieces to pry Upton away from the Diamondbacks, it would cost them too much. However, center fielder Chris Young has seemingly fallen out of favor in Arizona and could be had much cheaper.
Would a package built around Vance Worley and some young pitching be enough? Towers has a penchant for stockpiling relievers with live arms, and the Phillies have a few.
Phillies Receive: Chris Young
Diamondbacks Receive: Vance Worley, Justin DeFratus, Tyler Cloyd
Moving into their new downtown ballpark was supposed to turn the Marlins franchise around. They went out and spent big bucks on the free-agent market and believed they had built a winner.
However, things soured quickly in Little Havana, and like usual, the Marlins are looking to dump salary. When they splurged in free agency last winter, they also back-loaded all the contracts and offered zero no-trade protection.
While Jose Reyes has been the best of their signings thus far, he also holds the most value. Would Miami want to get out from under that contract—which explodes to $22 million per season—soon?
And they could get nearly equal production—both at the plate and in the field—from Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins. The Phillies would get a younger, more athletic and more dynamic player, while not losing anything offensively (except maybe a little power, but Rollins never should have been the Phillies source of power) or defensively.
The one snag in the deal is Rollin' veto power over any and all trades. I doubt he’d leave Philadelphia for anything other than a trip home to the West Coast.
Phillies Receive: Jose Reyes
Marlins Receive: Jimmy Rollins
A decade ago the Twins stunned the baseball world when they passed over sure-thing Mark Prior in the draft and selected hometown star Joe Mauer first overall.
The move worked out well for them, as Prior hasn’t thrown a major league pitch in seven years and Mauer’s earned a few batting titles and an MVP plaque.
However, after signing a franchise-crippling eight-year, $184 million extension that pays him through the 2018 season, Mauer’s production has fallen dramatically (possibly as a result of the team’s move to Target Field).
The Twins may be entering a full-scale rebuilding mode, and despite playing for his hometown fans, rumors are that Mauer may be willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to a contender.
And the Phillies could be that team.
Unless Minnesota finds another version of the Dodgers—a team freshly sold, with billions on the line and nothing to lose—they are going to have to take some painful steps in order to shed the remaining years on Mauer’s deal.
Ryan Howard would give them a solid first-base/DH power hitter to play alongside Justin Morneau, and even with his limited skills, he could still launch balls out of spacious Target Field.
With the Phillies taking on a longer commitment than Minnesota, the deal would become more complicated, but could be worked out by adding other pieces to the puzzle.
Phillies Receive: Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham
Twins Receive: Ryan Howard, Domonic Brown, Sebastian Valle
Nolan Ryan is one of baseball's all-time best pitchers and has been running the Texas Rangers as a first-class organization ever since becoming team president under Tom Hicks.
He has crafted a plan to build the club around pitching from the minor leagues up, and while the offensive side has been leading the charge the past few years, the team has lacked a major league ace on the mound.
He already traded for Cliff Lee once, and then made valiant attempts to keep him in Texas. There were no burned bridges along the way, and a reuniting of Lee and the Rangers is not out of the question.
With youngster Mike Olt on his way to being an everyday player in the major leagues, veteran third baseman Adrian Beltre may be available: With his glove, the Phillies would solve their third-base problems overnight, and with his bat, they would gain a respectable force in the middle of their lineup.
The Phillies could sweeten the package by offering up one of their young catching prospects—something the Rangers may need with Mike Napoli, their part-time catcher/DH/first baseman headed for free agency.
In a deal that solves a lot of problems for both teams...
Phillies Receive: Adrian Beltre, Neftali Feliz,
Rangers Receive: Cliff Lee, Sebastian Valle
The Yankees are currently participating in the American League Championship Series and have as good a chance as anyone to capture another World Series Championship.
However, frustration has been brewing in Yankee-land throughout the season, and people wonder if they fail to win it all this year, will they blow up their roster?
It has been downright painful at times watching certain players (not) perform—Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher have all been no-shows in the postseason.
And behind CC Sabathia the Yankees don’t have an arm they can truly count on in a big spot (Andy Pettitte is forty, pitching on a recently healed broken leg and definitely not the pitcher who leads all of baseball in postseason wins).
Could the Phillies and Yankees get together on a blockbuster?
Ryan Howard’s powerful stroke and the short right-field porch at new-new Yankee Stadium could do wonders. The Phillies and Yankees could solve each other’s problems, moving a lot of money and players back and forth.
Phillies Receive: Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Ivan Nova, Joba Chamberlain
Yankees Receive: Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Tyson Gilles