Philadelphia Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. and Toronto Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos have followed two very similar career paths. Both held the position of assistant general manager with their respective teams before being promoted to their current GM roles. Both dealt together in making the Roy Halladay trade become a reality before 2010. And both of them, though with some slight variations, are nifty in their dealings—Amaro in acquiring top-tier talent, and Anthopoulos in successfully dealing with a low budget.
Okay, maybe the comparison is a stretch, but it's no secret that these two men have dealt with one another many a time in transactions.
The aforementioned Halladay trade saw Doc come to Philadelphia and Phillies prospects Kyle Drabek, Travis d'Arnaud and Michael Taylor get sent north (though Taylor was then flipped to Oakland for Brett Wallace). Even though this was indirect, when the Phillies acquired Roy Oswalt at the 2010 non-waiver trade deadline, Phillies prospect Anthony Gose was swapped for Wallace with the Houston Astros.
Since then, no trades of major significance have occurred between the Phillies and Blue Jays. Ben Francisco was sent to Toronto before the 2012 season. September call-up Tyson Brummett was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays almost two weeks ago, only to see that he would be outrighted off the 40-man roster and sent to Triple-A in favor of the Phillies' 2010 Rule 5 draft pick, David Herndon, who is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
Additionally, the Houston Astros have had a great relationship with both teams as well. Brad Lidge and Eric Bruntlett were traded to Philadelphia for a package headlined by now-free agent Michael Bourn. Oswalt came to Philadelphia in 2010 for a package centered around J.A. Happ. And now Happ is a Blue Jay and Francisco is an Astro after a 10-player trade that was among the first major trades to occur at this past year's trade deadline.
Lastly, there was of course Hunter Pence, whom the Phillies acquired at the 2011 trade deadline in exchange for four prospects, three considered to be among the Phillies' top 10 at the time. Pence has since been dealt to the now-World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
Aside from this past year, though, it was former Phillies GM Ed Wade at the helm in Houston. Since he's not there any longer, a relationship between the Phillies and Astros may not be as strong as it once was. But with both GMs in Philadelphia and Toronto still intact, maybe another trade could be in the works?
Toronto has a strong need for pitching. Their bullpen, though decent in 2012, needs some work. And after the collapse of Ricky Romero and an overwhelmingly strong injury bug, their starting rotation could use some reinforcements as well.
The Phillies, on the other hand, have some pitching to spare. Their bullpen depth, both at the major league level and in the high minors, is excellent. And if there's any prospect department the Phillies have some depth in, it's starting pitching.
That's good news.
Perhaps I'm overshooting this in light of recent minor activity, but if Toronto has been looking at Brummett and Herndon, two relatively insignificant players, who else could they be eyeing on Philadelphia's roster?
With a need for starting pitching evident, the Blue Jays could very well be taking a look at Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, Tyler Cloyd or even top pitching prospects Jonathan Pettibone and Trevor May. Jesse Biddle is also a hot commodity, but I have a hard time seeing him traded unless it's for a superstar.
Worley, though highly regarded as a Phillie and admired by fans, is not nearly as untouchable as he was in 2011. Coming off of an ill-fated 2012 season that saw him struggle through bone chips in his elbow, Worley was ultimately shut down at the end of August to correct the problem. The potential still exists, though, and Worley could make a nice three or four starter over the border.
Kendrick, who's under contract in 2013 for $4.5 million, will have one additional year of arbitration eligibility in 2014 before he hits the market after that season. He's been a solid option to have as a long man out of the bullpen and as an occasional fifth starter, but the issue in Philadelphia is that there's no obvious role for him between the two. Although he's slated to have the fifth starter role as of now, perhaps a Cloyd or Pettibone could spell him from it in spring training.
To avoid any complications, one of Worley or Kendrick could appeal to Toronto. In Worley's case, the Blue Jays would receive a starter who's under team control through the 2018 season, and in Kendrick's case, a versatile pitcher who's under contract for two more seasons. Neither player would be a terrible acquisition, though Worley obviously has higher value on the trade market.
So who would appeal to the Phillies on Toronto's roster? Well, they share an issue with the Phillies in that they don't have a cemented left fielder, as Rajai Davis has had his struggles in left field. Even center fielder Colby Rasmus has shown a lack of consistency. The outfield isn't a match, unless the Blue Jays want Phillies center field prospect, Canadian Tyson Gillies. No way Jose Bautista changes hands, either.
Unless third baseman Brett Lawrie becomes available, he's off the table, as are Edwin Encarnacion and Adam Lind. Yunel Escober has had his fair share of off the field issues, and the Phillies don't exactly have a need at shortstop, either. And then there's J.P. Arencibia, who's got the catcher's job under his belt, but again, that's not a need for the Phillies, who have Carlos Ruiz.
With no apparent major league fits, who do the Blue Jays have in the minors? Since they have an incredibly strong farm system, it would not be surprising to see Toronto possibly delve within their organization to make a deal happen. After all, the Phillies do need prospects.
Among the most desired prospects of all is former Phillies prospect, catcher Travis d'Arnaud. d'Arnaud, a former supplemental first-round pick, was traded for Roy Halladay before the 2010 season. Since then, he's emerged as one of the best catching prospects in the minors, and even won his league MVP in 2011. As for 2012, d'Arnaud started off strong, though he ended the season on the disabled list with a torn PCL.
Since Toronto has Arencibia entrenched as the starting catcher for the foreseeable future, what sense does it make for them to keep d'Arnaud in the minors? If they're not going to use him as a full-time catcher, the best option would be to deal him while his value is high, and it certainly is just that.
With d'Arnaud coveted by the Phillies and considered to be Toronto's top prospect, maybe a Worley-d'Arnaud straight-up swap would be all that it takes.
My guess is that Worley holds slightly more value than that, however. Having said that, perhaps Christian Lopes would be a viable option to include.
Lopes, the 29th-best prospect in the Jays' system according to Baseball America's 2012 Prospect Handbook, has both second base and shortstop potential. However, with the huge trade with Houston in addition to the 2012 season having ended, MLB's Prospect Watch now has Lopes as the Jays' 17th-best prospect. He's still in the low minors, though he's got great bat speed.
If it took more than Worley to make a d'Arnaud/Lopes return possible, maybe one of the Phillies' bullpen pitchers would be attractive to Toronto.
Yes, they did just take two of them off the Phillies' hands, though neither one has as high a ceiling as a, say, Josh Lindblom, Michael Schwimer or even Michael Stutes. It would certainly free up a bullpen spot for the Phillies, and would make the inevitable spring training bullpen fight a little less challenging for management to decide. Even if it also took Tyler Cloyd, that wouldn't be the worst thing, either.
If I had to make a guess, I'd say that such a trade would involve Worley and Schwimer being sent to Toronto for d'Arnaud and Lopes. I would guess Schwimer only because of Stutes's uncertainty after coming off shoulder surgery, though Stutes probably has the higher ceiling of the two.
It's anyone's guess as to what sort of package the Phillies could receive in a Worley trade, especially with Toronto. And keeping in mind that this is also all speculation, who knows if a trade's going to occur at all?
Regardless, this offseason will be a creative one for the Phillies, one that could involve trading Vance Worley, And if the Blue Jays want to get a decent, controllable pitcher, Worley's a fantastic option for them. Though not nearly close to the blockbuster involving Halladay almost three years ago, this trade would be a nice deal for both sides, as it fills their needs. The Blue Jays get pitching, and the Phillies, though now possessing Tommy Joseph, get one of the best catching and overall prospects in the minor leagues back in their system.
What do you think? Share your thoughts, predictions and suggestions in the comments below.