With the offseason now in full swing and the winter meetings having come and gone, the Philadelphia Phillies still have some work to do. They could use a veteran setup man, a starting pitcher and a corner outfielder (or two).
Fortunately, the Phillies have put themselves in a position to obtain all three from outside the organization without any financial distress. After acquiring their center fielder of the future in Ben Revere from the Minnesota Twins and their third baseman for 2013 in Michael Young from the Texas Rangers, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. has, for once, made savvy moves that prevents the club's offseason from ending after one giant splash as it has in previous offseasons under his reign.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb, the Phillies now have $20 million or so to work with before they begin to rub against the $178 million luxury tax threshold.
Compared to recent offseasons, that's excellent news.
Having that much room to acquire three players to fill the three aforementioned remaining needs is always a good thing, and it's fairly doable as well, as long as Amaro continues to make creative moves like he has thus far.
According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Amaro already talked to the Cleveland Indians about acquiring shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to be the Phils' third baseman. We also learned that he's talked to the Chicago Cubs, via CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, about trading Domonic Brown for Alfonso Soriano; so to suggest that something else creative is in store wouldn't be out of the question.
However, there's also been some chatter about the Phillies making one big splash as opposed to a handful of lower-profile moves. Manager Charlie Manuel would like to see one, and as Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan tweeted this past Saturday, a source told him that the Phillies are expected to make one more big, bold move:
Source believes Phillies still primed to do something "big." Anything from pursuing Hamilton to a late Greinke run to trade for outfielder.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 8, 2012
Nevertheless, Amaro and the Phillies have taken the conservative approach to the offseason thus far, which is never a bad thing. However, it doesn't mean that the offseason has been perfect, including the two major moves Amaro has executed.
First of all, the Phillies' offseason started with free-agent center fielder B.J. Upton as their primary target, but that didn't work out when the division-rival Atlanta Braves upped the ante and signed him to a five-year, $75.25 million contract.
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies then tried luring another free-agent center fielder to the City of Brotherly Love, Angel Pagan, though he opted to re-sign with his most recent club, the reigning World Series champion-San Francisco Giants, on a four-year, $40 million deal.
That's when Amaro got creative and pulled the trigger on a couple of trades. Revere came to Philadelphia in exchange for fan-favorite starting pitcher Vance Worley and a top prospect—right-handed starting pitcher Trevor May. Young then was swapped for right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom, whom the Phillies received in exchange for Shane Victorino from the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline, and right-handed pitching prospect Lisalverto Bonilla.
However, these deals don't come without their flaws, and I'm inclined to say that both of them have glaring issues.
In the case of the Revere deal, the Twins acquired two young starting pitchers. Worley has already made his mark in the big leagues, though his sophomore season in 2012 was marred by pesky bone chips in his elbow. His ceiling at best is a No. 3 starter, though it's more likely he'll end up being a No. 4 or 5.
In that regard, the Phillies did well in trading Worley while his value was at what will likely be its highest, and as of now, he is the staff ace for the Twins.
In my opinion, a Worley-for-Revere swap in and of itself would have sufficed. However, including May in the deal seemed to be redundant. Sure, the Twins want young pitching, so on their side it's a bonus. But was it really necessary for the Phillies to include May and Worley?
Coming off his best season yet in 2011, May entered the 2012 season as the Phillies' best prospect and the 69th-best prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America's 2012 Prospect Handbook. Unfortunately for May, 2012 saw him regress. His ERA jumped from 3.63 in 2011 to an ugly 4.87 in 2012 and his walks elevated to a 4/7 BB/9 rate.
In addition, May's K/9 rate plummeted from 12.4 in 2011 to 9.1 in 2012, thus resulting in a 3.10 K/BB rate in 2011 falling to just 1.94 this past season. (Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.)
With May's primary weapon being his ability to miss bats, seeing his strikeout totals dip from 208 to 151 over one season's time is incredibly disconcerting. In that aspect the Phillies, did well to ship him off now before he potentially fell even further.
However, the argument could be made that Revere himself was the product of the Phillies not being crafty enough. Prior to the acquisition of Revere, CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler reported that the Phillies were targeting five center field options: Josh Hamilton and Michael Bourn on the free-agent market, and Curtis Granderson, Dexter Fowler and Revere on the trade front.
The case could be made to pursue any one of the five, but according to Troy Renck of the Denver Post, the Phillies kicked the tires on Fowler before ultimately deciding on Revere.
But was Revere the right choice?
In his major league career, Revere has yet to hit a home run, and though he was acquired for his speed and average more than anything, chances are he won't be utilized in a leadoff role. As MLB.com's Phillies beat writer Todd Zolecki speculates, Revere is more likely to be slotted in the eighth spot of Charlie Manuel's batting lineup, which defeats the purpose of his 40 steals and .294 batting average from 2012 (Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.)
According to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Manuel is apparently not high on the idea of batting three left-handers in a row, assuming he placed Revere in the two-hole in front of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, which is understandable.
Acquiring Revere should be enough motivation to move Jimmy Rollins down in the batting order as he's no longer a leadoff-type hitter and doing so would alleviate the issue. However, Rollins bats worse outside of the leadoff spot than he does in it, so that in itself is a problem as well. Nevertheless, Revere should be hitting leadoff, but unless Manuel is replaced or Rollins shows a willingness to bat elsewhere in the lineup, it's not going to happen.
If Revere's not going to be used correctly, then trading for him is a mistake in itself, and creating another hole in the Phillies starting rotation defeats the purpose.
Even so, trading Worley was forgivable, but even with May's 2012 struggles, giving up a top prospect and a starting pitcher when all the Washington Nationals had to do to get Denard Span from the Twins was trade one top prospect, Alex Meyer.
Granted, Meyer is better than May as a prospect and has a higher ceiling than both May and Worley, but with Span being arguably the better of the two (himself and Revere), it should have either taken more to acquire him or less for the Phillies to nab Revere.
On to the Young trade. As was mentioned, Lindblom and Bonilla were traded to Texas in exchange for Young to be the Phillies third baseman for the 2013 season. Young, who will earn $16 million in the final year of a five-year, $80 million contract extension he signed with the Rangers before the 2007 season, will still be receiving $10 million of that from Texas.
As for the Phillies, they will be on the hook for the remaining $6 million in addition to a $1.2 million incentive Young earned for waiving his 10-and-5 rights (contract information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts).
My issue with this trade is not who the Phillies gave up for Young.
As a primarily flyball pitcher, Lindblom struggled immensely upon moving out of the pitcher-friendly confines of Dodger Stadium into the hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Consequently, Lindblom endured a horrible August, as his flyball rate climbed to a season-high 55.2 percent and his ERA for the month stood at 5.68.
In addition, three of the four home runs he allowed as a Phillie came in August, and while his September saw him settle in a bit more, it was still far from fantastic (stats courtesy FanGraphs.com).
Bonilla, the Phillies' 12th-best prospect heading into the season according to the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, doesn''t appear as someone who would be a game-changer, either. The prospect handbook suggests that while he could end up being a mid-rotation starter, a late-inning relieving job could also be in his future. Either way, he's expendable for the Phillies, who have incredible young pitching depth throughout their organization, both in the rotation and bullpen.
Rather, I'm on the fence about this trade because of what Young is currently bringing to the table.
His 2011 season was sensational as he batted a career-high .338 with another career-high of 106 RBI and posted a .380 OBP and .474 SLG that equated to an .854 OPS. Although his home run count dropped from 21 in 2010 to 11 in 2011, he led the league in hits with 213. Young made the All-Star team for the seventh time in his career in 2011 and placed eighth in the AL MVP voting (stats courtesy Baseball-Reference.com).
However, 2012 was a different story.
This past season, Young batted just .277, though what's worse is that his OBP dropped to .312 and his SLG was .370, topping (or should I say bottoming) out to a career-worst .682 OPS. He only hit eight home runs last year, and while he hit 27 doubles, it was a far cry from the 41 two-baggers he slugged in 2011.
My biggest concern, though, isn't even Young's hitting regression. Yes, the odds may be that his hitting will decline even more in 2013 to the point that it's barely serviceable. On a one-year deal, I'm actually willing to take that chance.
But what scares me most is Young's defense, or rather lack thereof. Despite a Gold Glove at shortstop in 2008, Young has never been known for his defense. In fact, in that Gold Glove year, Young's fielding percentage at the position was just .984 and he committed 11 errors.
It was 2009 when Young first starting manning the hot corner for Texas. After Elvis Andrus was promoted to the major leagues, Young moved over to third base where he'd be unseated once again by free-agent signing Adrian Beltre two years later.
Nonetheless, his fielding percentages in those two years were .969 and .950, respectively, far from noteworthy (at least for a good reason). His UZR/150 those seasons? Minus-9.6 and minus-5.9, respectively.
Once again, not even close to being major-league caliber.
Perhaps the biggest indicator of Young's uselessness in the field at the hot corner is his DRS, or total defensive runs saved. In Young's case, those values in 2009 and 2010 came in at minus-15 and minus-11, respectively, indicating that Young actually allowed 15 and 11 runs to cross the plate as opposed to preventing them.
Offensively regressing or not, his defense is clearly not an upgrade over a Kevin Frandsen/Freddy Galvis platoon that otherwise would have been the case (stats courtesy FanGraphs.com).
As for the dumber of the two moves, it's a tough call because both of these trades, though beneficial, have significant drawbacks. Revere is an above-average defender and should be a great, young, speedy presence in the Phillies lineup. Sacrificing a maxed-out Worley and a regressing May for him doesn't bother me, though it would have been better if one of the two could have been saved for another potential deal in the future.
Which of the Phillies' two trades was worse?
Young was not an overpay by any means, and if I had to have chosen any of the Phillies' major league relievers to give up, Lindblom would have been near the top of my list.
My fear was that one of Justin De Fratus or Phillippe Aumont could have been the guy shipped off, but if it wasn't Michael Schwimer, B.J. Rosenberg or Joe Savery destined to be traded, Lindblom would have been my next choice. However, Young's declining offense and already-terrible defense do give me some concerns.
Decisions, decisions. Prior to writing this article, I thought it was a foregone conclusion that I would have dubbed the Revere trade the bigger bust of the two due to the gross overpay the Phillies handed over to Minnesota.
However, I've since had a change of heart, and I do believe that the Young trade will ultimately be the deal that is the bigger detriment to the Phillies by the end of the 2013 season.
As the lone right-handed bat in the lineup that is semi-reliable, I'm just not comfortable enough relying on Young at the plate despite a fresh start. His defense will allow runs galore to score, which is a huge issue for me. Without a half-decent bat or glove, what's Young's worth to the Phillies aside from being a veteran and clubhouse presence?
He's certainly not worth $7.2 million for that—let alone $16 million. The Phillies certainly could have done worse, I'll give them that, but if third base is as big of a waste as it was in 2011 before Kevin Frandsen was promoted, I'm not going to be a happy camper.
Let Young prove me wrong. If he does, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't give him enough credit before the season began. The key aspect here, though, is that because of these two deals, Ruben Amaro isn't quite finished. And the move he ends up making in light of that could be his stupidest one yet.