With the market for free-agent outfielders dwindling, it seems as though Michael Bourn represents the Philadelphia Phillies' last chance at landing an impact player. Rumored to have been interested in Josh Hamilton until he signed with the Angels, all signs suggest that they’ll also be one of the final teams in pursuit of Bourn.
If such a trade were to transpire, then Boston would surely be looking for a loaded prospect package in return—one the Phillies may not be able to offer.
If the late-season trade with the Dodgers was any indication of the Red Sox’s needs, they will seek mostly high-level (Double-A or higher) pitching prospects. Although their system has some impressive offensive prospects, including Jackie Bradley, who could be big league ready in late-2013, it also lacks impact pitching prospects capable of contributing next season.
The Phillies may not be able to meet Boston’s needs in that regard.
But if the Red Sox are willing to focus on the 2014 season—which may not be a terrible idea, given the increasing strength of their American Least East foes—then they should have their pick from a host of the Phillies’ young arms.
Acquiring Ellsbury would mean that the Phillies would have to trade their No. 1 prospect, 21-year-old left-hander Jesse Biddle, who registered a 3.22 ERA and 9.5 K/9 last year at High-A Clearwater. The Philadelphia-area native has a highly projectable frame and an impressive three-pitch mix that lend to his profile as a No. 2 starter.
Philadelphia would also have to part with the recently acquired Ethan Martin, who was acquired from the Dodgers at the trade deadline in exchange for Shane Victorino. The 23-year-old right-hander spent the entire 2012 season at Double-A (for both teams), registering a 3.48 ERA and a .212 batting average against in 157.2 innings.
Once he further refines his command, Martin should be able to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 or 3 starting pitcher.
The Red Sox would also likely require the inclusion of a pitching prospect capable of contributing in 2013. The logical choice would be 6’5” right-hander John Pettibone, who lacks the big stuff his size suggests and instead relies on command.
After posting a 3.30 ERA last season in 19 starts for Double-A Reading, Pettibone was promoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in late July and responded with a 2.55 ERA and .204 batting average against over seven starts.
Rounding out the prospect package would be a reliever, most likely, in this case Justin De Fratus. After reaching the major leagues in late 2011, the 25-year-old right-hander missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury.
However, he returned late in the season to post a 2.49 ERA with 22/3 K/BB at Triple-A Lehigh Valley before reaching the major leagues once again as a September call-up. Used primarily in a late-inning role, De Fratus registered a 3.38 ERA with the Phillies over 13 appearances and appears poised for a full season in their bullpen next season.
If the Phillies decide to go all in and believe they can sign Ellsbury to an extension, then the trade makes plenty of sense, even though they’ll be depleting their farm system. For the Red Sox, though, it’s more risky, given the inherent risk involved with pitching prospects. At the moment, Ellbury’s availability will depend on the market for Bourn and his imminent signing.