To the surprise of few around baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies have become the biggest story of the first day of the winter meetings. Under the regime of Ruben Amaro, Philadelphia has routinely been a high-profile, headline-grabbing franchise during the winter months.
Today, the morning announcement of Roy Halladay's retirement signaled the end of a potential Hall of Fame career. Now, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Philadelphia is actively shopping outfielder Domonic Brown.
The hope, per Passan, is to receive back a controllable starting pitcher to slot behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in the rotation. Coincidentally, Halladay's retirement opened up that slot on the pitching staff.
Brown, 26, emerged in 2013 as a National League All-Star. By smashing 27 home runs and posting an OPS-plus 23 percent higher than league average, the corner outfielder has become a valuable commodity. Although he isn't eligible for free agency until 2018, the Phillies are interested in using him as a trade chip due to his sky-high value stemming from last season.
If the team does move him, a substantial arm must be brought back in return.
Here are the best potential trade packages, scenarios and landing spots for a Domonic Brown trade.
Although trading David Price remains the most realistic option for the perennially retooling Rays, imagining a middle of the order with Evan Longoria, Wil Myers and Domonic Brown would be very, very enticing for the small-market contenders.
If Tampa simply held onto Price for one more year, dealing him next winter before his walk year, the Rays could load up for a run at a World Series championship in 2014 with their ace and a new power-hitting outfielder.
Hellickson, not eligible for free agency until 2017, would suffice in Philadelphia. Despite a poor 2013 (5.17 ERA), the right-handed starter owns a 3.70 ERA in the American League East since debuting in 2010. With three straight seasons of at least 174 innings under his belt, Hellickson is poised to take the leap to the 200-inning plateau in 2014.
Along with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, the Phillies could block off over 600 innings from their top three starters as they look to assemble a 2014 rotation without Roy Halladay.
In the moment, this deal would be a victory for Tampa, allowing them to acquire a potential 30-homer outfielder for the second straight offseason.
Yet, if Ruben Amaro believed Hellickson could return to his 2010-2012 form (3.02 ERA, 126 ERA+), the Phillies could land a starter who profiles as dominant in the National League.
Intra-division trades are rare, especially between the Mets and Phillies. The last one of merit: Juan Samuel for Roger McDowell and Lenny Dykstra all the way back in 1989. Despite the bad blood between the rivals and 18 or 19 dates per year between the teams on the field, there's a trade match here in 2013 worth visiting.
New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson currently owns the most precious commodity in baseball: young, high-upside starting pitching.
On the major league staff, Matt Harvey (out for 2014 after Tommy John surgery) is surrounded by Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Jon Niese. That quartet, all 27 or younger, can be good enough to compete in 2015 and beyond.
Yet, there's more. Behind the major league staff, the Mets have prospects like Noah Syndergaard, Rafael Montero and Jacob deGrom. Projecting any of the prospects to catch or surpass young, proven big league arms like Niese and Gee is purely guesswork, but the possibility exists.
If the Mets feel their farm system can adequately replace a current rotation member, Niese would be very attractive to the Phillies in a deal for Domonic Brown. At the age of 27, Niese is entering his prime but, unlike many pitchers his age, won't see free agency for years.
Wisely, the Mets locked up their young lefty to a long-term pact that will delay his free agency for five more seasons, assuming his two option years are picked up. In total, Niese could cost up to $42 million over the next five years, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, assuring cost certainty for his club. Slotting him behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would give Philadelphia three top-tier lefties to anchor their rotation.
Adding to the bonus for the Phillies: Niese owns a 3.13 ERA in 95 career innings against Philadelphia. If a trade commenced, Philadelphia's schedule would contain one less headache.
From the Mets' perspective, subtracting young pitching to add offense is the right strategy. After signing Chris Young and Curtis Granderson, the Mets could trot out a brand new outfield in 2014 in which each member is capable of 20-plus home runs.
New York needs offense and has young pitching to sacrifice. Philadelphia is willing to sacrifice a young, All-Star outfielder for controllable pitching.
Remove the names and cities, folks. There's a match here.
Admittedly, this one comes with the least appeal. Despite a very successful run since becoming an expansion team in 1998, the Arizona Diamondbacks won't fire up the national baseball conversation.
In this instance, they match the Phillies, but won't be sending back a big name in a potential deal.
Wade Miley for Domonic Brown is fair. It's also almost certain to peak Arizona's interest.
One year after allowing Justin Upton to depart via trade, the Diamondbacks are interested in adding a power-hitting corner outfielder. According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Arizona came close to landing Carlos Beltran. Now, they are interested in trading for Angles outfielder/first baseman Mark Trumbo.
If Trumbo entices Arizona, Domonic Brown should be enough to land left-handed starter Wade Miley in Philadelphia. In 2013, Trumbo posted an OPS+ (109 vs. 123) significantly lower than Brown last season.
Miley, 27, isn't eligible for free agency until 2018. More importantly, he's been one of the National League's most underrated arms for the last two years. Despite posting a K/9 rate of less than 7.0, Miley has pitched to a 3.44 ERA since the start of 2012. His 4.8 WAR over that span ranks 20th among National League pitchers.
From Philadelphia's perspective, this nugget could start a Phillies-Diamondbacks conversation: Over the last two years, Miley has compiled a higher WAR than fellow young starters like A.J. Griffin, Ivan Nova and Mike Minor.
During the winter meetings, rumors are everywhere. Sorting fact from fiction is an acquired skill, sometimes taking years to master. Yet, when something juicy hits the rumor mill, take notice of the possibilities.
According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf would not go so far as to calling 24-year-old ace Chris Sale "untouchable." If Sale isn't untouchable, every general manager in baseball, including Ruben Amaro in Philadelphia, should make a call to Chicago's front office.
Sale isn't just great, he's cheap and great. Since debuting in 2010, the White Sox ace owns the second-best ERA+ in baseball, trailing only Clayton Kershaw. After signing a team-friendly contract, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, with option years attached, Sale is under club control through at least 2017. If very reasonable option years ($26 million combined in 2018-2019) are exercised, one of the best pitchers in the sport can't escape until before the 2020 season.
Clearly, it would take a franchise-altering package for the White Sox to part with Sale. Considering how poor the team was in 2013 (63-99) with him, anything should be considered in Chicago.
Philadelphia doesn't feature a stellar farm system, but dangling their top two prospects, Jesse Biddle and Maikel Franco, per Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com, along with Domonic Brown, could be enough to start dialogue with the White Sox.
The Phillies should be rebuilding, not surrendering prospects for stars. But Sale is an exception. Due to his age, dominance in the American League and team-friendly extension, he's worth almost anything the White Sox request.
If Ruben Amaro Jr. could slot Sale into a rotation that includes Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, those three could be great enough to carry a below-average Phillies roster into contention.