The topic of prospective trades to be considered by the Philadelphia Phillies needs to be broken down into two sections, because I can see the season going one of two ways: It can go really, really bad or it can go just good enough to make a run at a playoff spot following some trade-deadline reinforcements.
I’m leaning towards this being a very bad season in Philly, one in which they are well out of the playoff race in July and looking to sell off a few free agents-to-be.
My other scenario has them somewhere within reach of a wild card spot in mid-July, but obviously not good enough to actually get there with the current 25-man roster in place. As opposed to 2012 when they traded off some key pieces (Joe Blanton, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino) despite being down but not out of it, the Phillies should look to add this time around and take one last shot with this veteran group of players.
Here’s whom they’d look to trade if they’re sellers come July…
Carlos Ruiz, C
Once he returns from a 25-game suspension for a positive amphetamine test, Ruiz will have a couple of months to prove to contending teams looking for catching help that his 2012 season wasn’t a fluke.
At 33 years of age, Ruiz had career highs in almost every offensive category (.325 BA, .540 SLB, 16 HR, 64 RBI, 32 2B, 56 R) despite playing in only 114 games because of a season-ending foot injury.
Even if he’s closer to the pre-2012 version offensively, Ruiz still has value as a veteran catcher with terrific defensive skills, leadership and ability to come up with the clutch hit.
The Phillies will be hoping he can continue to rake as he did for most of last season, which would put them in position to ask for a very good prospect in return for two-plus months of Ruiz. He’s currently in the final year of his contract.
Chase Utley, 2B
He’ll fall just short of the 10-5 category (10 years in the majors, five years with the same team) that would allow him full no-trade rights. Therefore, the Phillies can shop him to at least a list of teams not included in his partial no-trade clause.
Of course, Utley can waive those rights in order to go to a contending team in the last year of his contract with the Phillies. The 34-year-old appears fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out until late June in 2012. He had a terrific spring (.875 OPS) and is off to a 4-for-9 start on the season with a homer, double and triple.
Chase Utley is a different person this spring. Last spring, he was hurt and reclusive. This spring, he is healthy, and vibrant—Tim Kurkjian (@Kurkjian_ESPN) February 26, 2013
The Oakland A’s, Los Angeles Angels and Kansas City Royals are just a handful of teams who could be looking for an upgrade at second base in July. A healthy Utley, who is making $15 million in 2013, could fetch the Phillies a top prospect if another team were to take on some of his remaining salary.
Michael Young, 3B
The 36-year-old might be down to his last chance to prove he’s still an everyday player in the big leagues. Teams will have interest whether he is or not. He does still have plenty of believers out there, including old teammates:
He can still play both corner infield spots and would be a terrific option to have coming off the bench late in games during a pennant race.
The Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates are a few of the National League teams that would have a spot for him as a primary pinch-hitter and part-time starter at first and third, while the Cleveland Indians and Baltimore Orioles are two American League teams that could give him regular at-bats against left-handed pitching.
Roy Halladay, SP
Major concerns surround Halladay right now after the 35-year-old veteran struggled in spring training and was knocked out in the fourth inning of his regular season debut on Wednesday.
According to many, he just doesn’t look like the same guy. Here’s an ESPN recap on his first start, which includes some quotes from an unimpressed scout.
So who is going to trade for Halladay if he continues to struggle? That’s easy. Any team looking for pitching help and hoping to get a huge discount on a future Hall of Famer. So most contending teams will at least be asking about him.
The question is how much of his remaining salary will the Phillies take on and what level of prospect will they seek in return? Halladay also has a $20 million option for 2014 that will vest with 225 innings.
For him to reach that mark, he’d have to be pitching very well, so it shouldn’t be a huge hurdle in trade talks since his value would be much higher.
And here’s whom the Phillies could potentially target if playoff hopes are still alive at midseason:
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
With a decent option in place at the hot corner in Michael Young, and solid depth behind him in Freddy Galvis and Kevin Frandsen, it doesn’t make sense to look for an upgrade unless it’s an elite player.
Headley is an elite third baseman who might be available.
Acquiring Headley would be costly, but the Padres could be intrigued by a package that included Galvis, who would likely be their starting shortstop with Everth Cabrera possibly moving to second and Jedd Gyorko replacing Headley at third. The deal would be centered around one of their top pitching prospects (Jesse Biddle or Adam Morgan) and could also include one of their third base prospects (Maikel Franco or Cody Asche) and another high-ceiling prospect in the low minors.
For one-and-a-half years of Headley, that might be a bit much, but it could also mean another run at the playoffs if the 28-year-old switch-hitter can repeat his second-half performance of 2012 (.978 OPS).
Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners
He won’t offer much defensively, but the right-handed slugger would fit nicely in the middle of a lineup that is currently left-handed heavy. The 31-year-old had nine homers in 20 spring games and has already hit three in his first 13 plate appearances of the regular season.
If the Mariners are out of the playoff race, they’ll look to deal Morse, who will be a free agent after the season. Don’t think the Phillies aren’t aware of his career success at their home ballpark (18-for-51, 5 HR, 13 RBI).
Acquiring Morse in late July would make their lineup down the stretch look something like this:
1) Ben Revere, CF 2) Jimmy Rollins, SS 3) Chase Utley, 2B 4) Ryan Howard, 1B 5) Michael Morse, LF 6) Domonic Brown, RF 7) Carlos Ruiz, C 8) Michael Young, 3B
The Phillies might have to give up their best pitching prospect not named Biddle or Morgan. That would likely be Ethan Martin (3.48 ERA, 8.4 K/9 in 27 Double-A starts in 2012) or Jonathan Pettibone (3.10 ERA, 6.4 K/9 in 26 starts between Triple-A and Double-A in 2012).
Giving up one of those two prospects would be totally worth it, though, if the team is playing well and within striking distance of a playoff spot.
Lucas Harrell, Houston Astros
If the Phils are in buying mode, there’s a good chance Halladay has turned things around and the back-of-the-rotation duo of Kyle Kendrick and John Lannan are doing well.
Just in case they’re hanging in there despite that not happening, Harrell could be a good candidate to succeed in the Phillies rotation.
The 27-year-old was third in the majors with ground ball ratio of 57.2 percent, which is important since fly balls often have a good chance of departing Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
He was at it again in his 2013 debut, holding the Rangers to one run in six innings while inducing nine ground ball outs. It won’t take a top-10 prospect to land him, so he could be an intriguing option. A potential late-inning reliever like Jake Diekman or Justin De Fratus, along with a mid-level prospect, might be enough to land a solid workhorse like Harrell down the stretch.