Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Moves They Could Make as Buyers or Sellers This July

Alec SnyderContributor IIIJuly 14, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 10 Moves They Could Make as Buyers or Sellers This July

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    Now that the All-Star Break has ended, there is one big thing left to watch for in baseball in July: trades.

    Since Ruben Amaro, Jr. has taken over as Phillies general manager following the team's World Series championship in 2008, he has been the backbone behind many of the team's big splashes near the July 31 trade deadline.

    In 2009, he traded minor league prospects Lou Marson, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Jason Knapp to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for pitcher Cliff Lee and outfielder Ben Francisco.

    Last season, though he himself did not do this deal (Phillies president Dave Montgomery dealt with Houston alone), the Phillies acquired ace Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros for pitcher J.A. Happ and two prospects, outfielder Anthony Gose and shortstop Jonathan Villar (Gose was then traded by the Astros to the Toronto Blue Jays for first baseman Brett Wallace).

    Regardless of who has been behind these big deals that have boosted the team's depth, namely in starting pitching, the Phillies have been a team to reckon with at the trade deadline in July. They have learned how to get a deal done and how to do it right.

    Although the Phillies do not need to acquire another starting pitcher this year, there is always the possibility that they could trade for someone big or small. The Phillies could make a splash by acquiring someone the likes of Jose Reyes of the Mets, or a less notable reliever to strengthen the bullpen.

    Here in July, anything is possible for this Phillies team, although Amaro has said that he doesn't expect to make any big deals this year. Though earlier in the season he hinted that he plans on making a big trade this year, so either way such discussions are arising...

    However, there are also a few players who the Phillies could attempt to sell at the trade deadline.

    Joe Blanton, the Phillies' fifth pitcher and their only "non-ace," could be a very nice option for other teams looking for pitchers. Since Blanton would be a second or third starter on most other teams, his abilities could come in handy to a team looking for a starting pitcher, especially since the upcoming free-agent market is slim in starting pitching depth, with little behind current Texas Rangers lefty C.J. Wilson.

    The problem with Blanton is his salary. According to Cot's, he is expected to make at least $17 million through this season and the next (more than that if Blanton meets incentives).

    But, of course, there's that small problem that he's had a couple of stints on the DL this year, and now that he's out at least through the end of the month, he could lose some trade value if any was left at all.  

    Another option is 39 year-old left-fielder Raul Ibanez.

    Ibanez could provide some power to a club that needs another outfielder or even a DH. Although he has emerged out of his hitting slump, he is getting older and may be reaching the point where he can't play every day anymore. The other problem is that, like Blanton, he's due a good amount of money this season—$11.5 million to be exact—and what's more is that he has no-trade protection.

    If either Blanton, Ibanez, or someone else along those lines were to be dealt, the Phillies might have to eat a good chunk of their remaining salaries in order to get some deals done.

    I should mention that this isn't your average, Joe-Schmoe trade deadline slideshow that names targets the team will acquire or players the team will deal. It's very different.

    This slideshow is an in-depth analysis of 10 possible trades: five in which the Phillies will be acquiring a key player (and/or minor league prospects), and five in which the Phillies will be dealing a key player (and/or minor league prospects).

    This slideshow will present not only the players involved, but if any minor league players and/or cash is involved, player names will be specific and cash will be included. 

    And when I say in-depth, I mean in-depth. These are extremely long slides, and there are 10 deals that are explored, so if you plan on reading all of this, I warn you: it will take a long time.

    Here's how each slide is going to work: it will talk about the key player mentioned in the deal, followed by their appeal to either team involved. Minor league players will also be described in-depth, but they will be described more as how they can/will benefit its receiving organization in the coming years.  

    Some names may be tossed around more than once, though I'll try to keep things to minimal repetition. In addition, some of these possible trades may seem impossible, but as we've seen from Ruben the past two years, anything can happen. And one last thing: not all of the following trades are realistic, but they are just deals that could happen, albeit by a long shot.

    So, without any further ado...

    *Statistics courtesy of any of the following: Yahoo! Sports: MLB, ESPN.com, MLB.com, MiLB.com, FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com. Salaries courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts.

1. Phillies Acquire Jeff Francoeur and Alcides Escobar from Royals

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    Phillies Get: RF Jeff Francoeur, SS Alcides Escobar, RP Blaine Hardy (AA)

    Royals Get: RF Ben Francisco, 2B Cesar Hernandez (AAA)

    Until just over halfway through last season, Jeff Francoeur was an NL East outfielder who always posed a threat against the Phillies.

    In 2009 as a Brave and Met, Francoeur had a .308 average, two home runs and seven RBI against the Phils with an OPS of .800. Through the first half of last season as a Met (he was traded in a waiver deal to the Rangers for Joaquin Arias), he went 8-for-31, hitting .258 with two home runs and four RBI.

    Although he was better against the Phils in 2009, especially since he was in the NL East all year, Francoeur showed he was a good offensive player against the team.

    However, Francoeur isn't the best offensive outfielder available. Over the span of his career, he's posted a .268 batting average and he hasn't hit over 20 home runs in a season since 2006. He also hasn't hit over 100 RBI since 2007. His career fielding percentage as a right fielder, though, has been .984, which is fairly good considering he's only 27.

    The only problem is Domonic Brown, and unless he is demoted back to the minors there wouldn't be any necessity for Francoeur to come to Philly, unless the team wanted depth, which is never a bad option.

    What's even better are a few things: Francoeur will be entering his prime soon (unless it's already passed, which it looks like it may have), and he's cheap. He's due $2.5 million this season plus a maximum $500,000 in incentives. He's also got a 2012 mutual option that's worth somewhere in the $3-4 million range. In addition, he could be a decent right-handed bat—something the Phillies are short on—and if all went well for him, he could be a great long-term investment.

    Alcides Escobar, one of the four players acquired by the Royals in the Zack Greinke deal from the Brewers, is another good player option for the Phillies. Since Jimmy Rollins is getting older and his offensive production is decreasing year by year, the Phillies could soon be in need of another shortstop, especially if they decide to let him go this offseason.

    In his rookie season last year, Escobar was underwhelming. He posted a .235 average in 145 games, along with just four home runs and 41 RBI. Whether he is major league-ready is a question, but if he developed more in the minors for the Phils, and at just 24 years old, he could prove to be a valuable asset in the future.

    After starting out the year in Triple-A Omaha, left-handed reliever Blaine Hardy was demoted to the Royals' Double-A affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

    Although he was used as a starter last year, he is being used as a reliever again this season, and this season at AAA (where he made most of his 23 appearances), in 29.0 innings pitched, he's posted a 7.14 ERA, a 1.97 WHIP, and has struck out 23.

    He could be another player to look out for in the future, and with little left-handed bullpen depth, he could prove to be a valuable asset if he can figure himself out.

    As for the players the Phillies would hypothetically trade, Ben Francisco would probably be the most appealing to the Royals since he's versatile in the outfield, and although the Royals have two other good outfielders in Melky Cabrera and Alex Gordon, they'll need someone to fill the void Francoeur would leave.

    Francisco is a pretty penny for the Royals, too, since he's making only $1.175 million this year, which is cheaper than Francoeur. He's also a little older, and though he's been given less playing time than Francoeur, it's only because the Phillies outfield had been stocked full since he arrived, and he hasn't had an opportunity to start everyday until this year due to Jayson Werth's departure.

    Cesar Hernandez is on the Phillies' 40-man roster and is among the best second baseman prospects in all of baseball, being ranked as the seventh-best in the minors at his position and the Phillies' eleventh-best overall prospect.

    However, with Chase Utley currently blocking Hernandez's way to the majors, the only way he can make it to any team in the next few years is by moving him, and such a trade would do just that.

    This could be a good deal for Ruben to make, but it's probably unnecessary. In terms of valuable players, he can do much better, although he could give the Phillies the most bang for their buck.

1. Phillies Trade Joe Blanton to Yankees

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    Phillies Get: LF Brett Gardner, SS/2B/3B Eduardo Nunez, RP Ryan Pope (AA)

    Yankees Get: SP Joe Blanton, RF/2B Delwyn Young (AAA)

    Joe Blanton, Fat Joe, Heavy B...whatever you call this guy, unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Blanton trade talks have gone through the roof ever since Cliff Lee rejoined the Phillies back in December.

    Although in previous interviews Ruben Amaro's said that he's uncomfortable trading Blanton, you've got to think that Amaro will either be making offers to or hearing offers from other teams about Blanton.

    With at least $17 million owed to him over the next two seasons, if the Phillies plan on trading Blanton, almost every interested team would have to ask the Phillies to take on some of the cash. And when I say almost every interested team, I mean that there are some teams that could take on the whole contract.

    What team would come first to your mind if you thought about a team that can easily take on high end contracts?

    I don't know about you, but I'm thinking the New York Yankees.

    This past offseason, the Yankees did almost everything they could to land a dominant pitcher. Whether it was the attempt at signing Cliff Lee or attempting to trade for Twins starter Francisco Liriano, the Yankees were looking at nearly everyone.

    Even their former pitcher Carl Pavano got a call from the Yankees, a team that he performed for so poorly, which is surprising, since based on his past experiences with the team, one would think that they would never even want to see him pitch in their stadium, albeit with another team.

    Anyhow, back to trade specs.

    Joe Blanton, the Phillies' fifth starting pitcher in their rotation (when he's not on the DL), is undoubtedly one of the best back-of-the-rotation pitchers in recent memory thanks to the pitchers ahead of him in the rotation.

    With nearly any other team in baseball, Blanton could easily be a second or third starter. But with the Phillies' four aces—Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels—dominating the first four spots of the rotation (although Oswalt's on the DL), there is no other spot for Joe Blanton in the Phillies' starting pitching order, which is incredible.

    Due to the fact that Blanton is generally a second or third starter, he is attractive to many ball clubs in need of such a pitcher. One of those teams could be the Yankees.

    Currently, the Yankees pitching rotation (assuming nobody is on the DL) is as follows: ace CC Sabathia, followed by Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, Bartolo Colon and Phil Hughes.

    Burnett is rebounding from last year, and Garcia and Colon, two veteran starters who were thought to have little left, are actually doing very well. However, either of them could get injured at any point (as we've seen with Colon's DL stint already), so the Yankees could need to look for outside help if such an issue has a risk of happening again.

    Blanton is 73-62 in his career with a 4.33 ERA, 801 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.35. He's only 30 years old. While he's nothing special, his stats aren't too shabby.

    However, what isn't good is Blanton's overall record against AL East teams. Aside from the Yankees (a team he has never recorded a victory against), Blanton is 10-11 in 33 starts against AL East teams (excluding the Yankees) with a 4.64 ERA and 125 strikeouts in 199.2 innings pitched, amounting to a mediocre 5.63K/9 rate.

    If the Yankees were to pursue Blanton, would he be able to deliver against the teams that matter most?

    As for the centerpiece on the Yankees' side of this deal, Brett Gardner, he's pretty mediocre himself. His career stats in almost three seasons are as follows: .267 batting average, 104 RBI, 12 home runs, and a career OPS of .742. Granted, he is only 27 years old, but even so he should be producing better than this.

    However, if an above-average pitcher is traded for an almost-below average left fielder, I think the team getting the pitcher is the winner.

    If acquired, I would think Gardner would probably platoon the remainder of the season with current Phillies left fielder Raul Ibanez until his contract expires, then take the starting job for the 2012 season.

    Another piece the Yankees would include in this deal is infielder Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is currently second on the Yankees' depth chart for second and third bases, and shortstop. Being a versatile player is great, but what's even better is that he is only 23 years old.

    Having a guy like that around would be great for the Phillies, considering depth in the infield (aside from Wilson Valdez) is average at best. The only problem is that the Yankees could also hold onto him, especially since he showed that he was a decent replacement for shortstop Derek Jeter while he was on the DL.

    Although Nunez has only played in 81 career games, he's got a .279 BA with four home runs, 21 RBI, and an.731. Those stats, especially the batting average, are above average for a backup with the little experience he's got in his MLB career.

    Ryan Pope is a right-handed reliever for the Yankees' Double-A affiliate, the Trenton Thunder who started the year in Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In 14 appearances at Triple-A, he went 2-1 with a 8.14 ERA, a 1.71 WHIP and pitched 20 strikeouts. While that's far from close to the major league level, as I always say, he's got time to develop, and at age 25 as a reliever, he's not rushed to make it to the majors so soon.

    The Phillies' piece in this deal, Delwyn Young, is just as versatile as Nunez is. He can play both right field and second base, and has played third base and left field as well.

    Although he is not a fantastic batter (.258 batting average, 17 home runs and 81 RBI in his career), he's pretty good for a utility player and would be a good player for the Yankees to use for a backup on the right side of the baseball field.

    Overall, I see this as a good deal for both teams. The Phillies, since Blanton's contract is dumped and they get a cheap, young left fielder along with a southpaw reliever; and the Yankees, since they get a decent pitcher who will strengthen their rotation along with a versatile prospect.

2. Phillies Acquire David DeJesus from Athletics

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    Phillies Get: RF David DeJesus, RP Brad Ziegler, cash considerations 

    Athletics Get: RF Ben Francisco, 3B Tagg Bozied (AAA)

    David DeJesus would be a very nice outfielder for the Phillies to acquire from Oakland, depending on who you ask. Others might think that Josh Willingham would be a better player for the Phils to get, and although I agree, I think DeJesus would be an easier target and one who would not demand as much in return.

    DeJesus, 31, had been a Kansas City Royal for seven seasons prior to this year. As a Royal, DeJesus hit .289 with 61 home runs, 390 RBI, and an OPS of .787. While his career stats are far from extraordinary, they would be great stats to have for someone who could possibly be used only as a season rental.

    In addition, he is past his prime (which looks to have been around 2008), in which he hit .307 with 12 home runs, 73 RBI, and an OPS of .818.

    In the case that this deal is completed, the Phillies would most likely be acquiring an outfielder that would set them up for at least two years. However, completing such a deal would block Domonic Brown's way up to the majors, which is not something the Phillies intend to do.

    Although DeJesus' stats are not something the Phillies would look for in a long-term player, acquiring him as a season rental would be a great option for the Phils because he can hit fairly well in hitter's parks.

    Both Kauffman Stadium and the recently-renamed Overstock.com Coliseum are hitter's parks, with right and left field fences in both of the parks extending just to 330 feet, and Citizens Bank Park's fences are 330 feet for left field and 329 feet for right field.

    Seeing that DeJesus has hit home runs in the past at almost identical distances as Citizens Bank Park gives him a great advantage to hit some home runs, especially since he would be playing on a playoff-contending team for the first time in his career.

    The problem with DeJesus is that he is due $6 million (thanks to a club option) over the course of the season, and with the Phillies facing the luxury tax next season, they most likely wouldn't be able to afford him without exceeding the $178 million limit (their current payroll is roughly $175 million).

    Even so, he is a left-handed hitter, and the Phillies are primarily looking for a right-handed bat, notably an outfielder. While DeJesus is an outfielder, he is obviously not someone on the top of the list for the Phillies to acquire.

    If the Phillies were to acquire an outfielder from Oakland, they would probably want to chase after left-fielder Josh Willingham, although Oakland would probably want more for him in return.

    Right-handed reliever Brad Ziegler could be an attractive bullpen option for the Phillies. Although their bullpen has looked fantastic as of late, they could still use some help. I'll put it this way: David Herndon and Danys Baez aren't exactly the most reliable right-handed relievers in the league. Needless to say, neither is Ziegler.

    The 31-year-old Ziegler has pitched in the majors since 2008, mainly as a set-up man, although he has racked up some saves over his career as well. According to baseball-reference.com, his average 162-games stats would be a 3-4 record with a 2.43 ERA and 48 strikeouts, along with six saves. That's not too bad for a reliever, and considering the Phillies could use some decent bullpen help, Ziegler might be a great potential option for them.

    As for the Phils' trade chips, Francisco has been described already as inexpensive and a good player to utilize anywhere in the outfield.

    He would especially be good for the A's because if the A's trade both DeJesus and Willingham, Francisco could play any outfield position he would need to play (in this case, either corner outfield position).

    He also hits fairly well, and even if the A's don't want him after the season's end they can decide what they want to do with him.

    Tagg Bozied has floated around the minor leagues for years now. He was drafted three times, most recently in 2001, and played for the minor league affiliates of the Padres, Mets, Cardinals, Marlins, Pirates and the Phillies since 2010.

    He was close to reaching the majors back in 2004 when he injured his knee after hitting a walk-off grand-slam in a minor league game. Since then, he hasn't had the same ability nor the same reputation, and he's been trying to make it back to the majors since.

    In light of Oakland's acquisition of Scott Sizemore from Detroit, they are going to try and make him their everyday third baseman.

    However, it would be just as easy to take Tagg Bozied and use him at third base. He's 31 years old, a decent hitter, and has yet to make his major-league debut. With Placido Polanco blocking his way up to the Phils, I say give the guy a chance and trade him to a team who could use him.

    Like the Francoeur deal, this is another one that is not as likely to happen. However, I would think it has a much smaller likelihood than the deal with Kansas City. 

2. Phillies Trade Raul Ibanez to Royals

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    Phillies Get: RP Tim Collins, RP Louis Coleman

    Royals Get: LF Raul Ibanez, cash considerations

    Rauuuuul!

    Yes, our left fielder is indeed getting up there in age...he's 39 years old and still going strong. He's also making $11.5 million, which is a bit pricey for the team considering his age and production.

    This season, Ibanez is hitting .241 with 12 home runs and 47 RBI. While his home runs are good for second on the team and his RBI count is second only to Ryan Howard. In addition, his batting average is eighth for Phillies starters and 10th overall on the team. 

    Ibanez, who had an awful April, an awesome May and an awful June, has started to rebound again here in July. He's batting .286 in the month with three homers, 13 RBI, and an OPS of .906, and he was even awarded NL Player of the Week this past week.

    The only problem is that he seems to be up and down from month to month, and a player with inconsistency like that doesn't help at all. 

    The thing about Raul Ibanez is that he played most of his 16-year career in the American League. Having played in the AL for 13 seasons isn't anything to laugh at. He began as a member of the Seattle Mariners, but it wasn't until 2001 when Raul began to shine.

    He was given the opportunity to play every day by the Kansas City Royals, and in 2001, his first year in which he played over 100 games (he played 104), he hit .280 with 13 home runs, 54 RBI, and had an OPS of .847. That's pretty good considering he didn't become an everyday player until the age of 30 in the 2002 season.

    Ibanez eventually made it back to Seattle and after deciding to leave them for the Phillies in the 2008 offseason, he's been average at best.

    While he was off to a smoking-hot start in his debut year with the Phils, a start which notched him his first All-Star Game appearance, he suffered a groin injury and since then he hasn't been the same

    At the time of the signing—Ruben Amaro, Jr.'s first as the Phillies' GM—it looked like we got him at a good price, but seeing as he's deteriorated since the injury, he isn't thought of anything anymore but overpaid.

    What's even worse is Ibanez's fielding woes. While his fielding percentage is at a respectable .992, his range factor per nine innings is at 1.56, and with the average range factor for left fielders this season being around the 2.15 area, this is pretty dismal.

    So, with Raul Ibanez's stats showing that he can't field as well as he used to, why not trade him to a team where he can solely hit? Even better, why not trade him to a team that could use a decent DH? Without having the burden of fielding, Ibanez could focus solely on hitting, and if he improved his hitting by doing so, then he would be a great fit for an AL team.

    Such a team could be the team that gave him a chance in the first place: Kansas City.

    Although Kansas City is practically out of contention (having a 37-54 record, good for dead last in the AL Central) and they will most likely be considered sellers at the deadline this year (hence Francoeur), they could always surprise the league and go out for someone, although this would be highly unlikely.

    If the Phillies would want a deal along these lines done, they would have to be the ones who pick up the phone and call.

    However, the Royals, who have the majors' lowest payroll at just over $36 million, would need some cash compensation from the Phillies in order to take on Ibanez. Then again, aside from the Red Sox and Yankees, what team wouldn't?

    Now for the Royals' chips in such a deal.

    Tim Collins is a lefty reliever for the Royals. He's also very young, being just 21 years old (he'll be 22 in August). He also hasn't been too bad: this season—his rookie season—he's gone 3-4 with a 3.74 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 40 appearances. In those appearances, he's pitched 43.1 innings, has an opposing batting average of .189, and has struck out 36 batters.

    However, he still needs work, since he's walked a not-so-modest 32 batters and has a WHIP of 1.43. Aside from his walks, ERA, and WHIP, he's a guy who could have a good career as a reliever in the majors, and the Phillies should go for him, especially since he's a lefty, something the Phillies need in the bullpen.

    The other chip for the Royals in this deal would be righty reliever Louis Coleman.

    Also a rookie, Coleman has made 27 appearances this year, in which he's pitched 31.1 innings and has gone 0-2 with a very good 2.01 ERA. In addition, he's rung up 38 batters, and his WHIP is also very good at 1.05.

    Since Collins has pitched 12 more innings than Coleman, it's difficult to compare them, but seeing as their stats are decent for rookies, they could both prove to be good options in the bullpen in the future, especially since one's a lefty and the other is a righty.

    While Billy Butler is a decent DH for the Royals this year, why not take Ibanez and let him split outfield and DH duties to give some of the Royals' current players rest? Especially if the Phillies give the Royals some cash considerations, Ibanez would prove to be a great re-addition to the Royals, and the Phillies could always use some more bullpen depth, especially since a handful of their relievers are off the books at the end of the season.

    If this deal were done, Ibanez would return to his comfort zone in the AL and could potentially hit better there as well. As an AL player, he hit .286. As an NL player, he's hit .266.

    While his age might have tampered him down a bit over the last few years, he's shown he's a better hitter in the AL, and sending him back there would benefit him greatly. 

3. Phillies Acquire Michael Cuddyer from Twins

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    Phillies Get: RF/1B Michael Cuddyer, cash considerations

    Twins Get: RF Ben Francisco, SP/RP Kyle Kendrick

    Among the many rumors swimming around as to right-handed bats the Phillies should acquire, one such player is the Minnesota Twins' utility-man Michael Cuddyer. Cuddyer is undoubtedly one of the faces of the franchise, and most likely was considered the Twins' face before Joe Mauer entered the picture.

    The 32-year-old Cuddyer, drafted ninth overall in the 1997 MLB Draft by the Twins, has been a member of the team since 2001 and has played in over 100 games in six of the 10 seasons he's been on the team (seven if all goes well this year).

    During his 10-year tenure, Cuddyer has batted .272 with 134 home runs and 553 RBI. He's also got an OPS of .797. That's pretty good.

    However, lifetime against the National League (i.e. lifetime Interleague Play), Cuddyer has hit .273 with 11 home runs and 66 RBI in 127 inter-league games (123 started). While his batting average isn't great, his inter-league career OPS is .831. That's very good.

    What do those stats mean? They show that Michael Cuddyer has the potential to be an effective hitter in the National League. And get this: lifetime against left-handed pitchers, Cuddyer hits .293 with an OPS of .877. Fantastic.

    Why are his stats against left-handed pitchers relevant? Because the Phillies are batting .250 as a team against lefties, which is tied for 19th in baseball.

    Which is why Cuddyer would be a great fit for the Phillies.

    Cuddyer has played almost all of his career at right field, having started 612 games at the position (he's played 643 at right field in his career) of his 1084 career games played.

    This is relevant because Cuddyer's batting average against lefties in his career is better than occasional right fielder Ben Francisco, who has hit .208 against left-handed pitchers, and Domonic Brown, who, although he hasn't had much major league experience, has hit .286 against southpaws this season.

    But Cuddyer has hit .293 in his career. That says something.

    In short, Cuddyer would be a significant upgrade in right field, even if he doesn't start every day.

    Now let's take a look at defense. In his career at right field, Cuddyer's fielding percentage is .986 and his range factor is 2.01. Both are decent, and if the Phils only held onto Cuddyer through the rest of the season, it's not that big of a deal.

    Now let's look at the Phillies' right field options' defensive stats. Brown, who's played less than a season in his career, has a fielding percentage of .946 and a range factor per nine innings of 1.70 in his short career. To be blunt, that's awful.

    As for Francisco, in right field, his fielding percentage is .980 and his range factor per nine innings is 1.93. While Francisco has a little more experience under his belt, both of their defensive stats are awful. Brown, who's a rookie, is understandably not there yet, but regardless an upgrade is necessary.

    The problem with Cuddyer is that he's due a total of $10.5 million this season, which is just over the Phillies' payroll budget this year (that's sarcastic, of course). In order for the Phillies to take Cuddyer, the Twins would have to eat most of his salary for this season.

    As for the Phillies' trade chips in this deal, they would be the aforementioned Ben Francisco and starter-turned-reliever Kyle Kendrick.

    In an article I wrote a few weeks ago, I wrote about how Cuddyer was willing to be traded to a team and would waive his very limited no-trade clause in order for the Twins to rebuild so they could contend again. Talk about a team player!

    In that same article, I also explored the idea of Cuddyer being dealt to the Phillies for their fifth (and currently injured) starter, Joe Blanton.

    Since Blanton's due at least $17 million through the end of the 2012 season, there would be little cash exchanged between the teams, if any at all. I stated this because Blanton can eat innings and would help a staff that needs pitching, and with a healthy Blanton, such a thought could happen.

    However, after rethinking this idea, I realized that Kyle Kendrick would be a much better fit for the Twins than Joe Blanton.

    Why?

    Well, as a Phillies fan, I'd like to see Blanton gone so the team can free up his salary and maybe sign some better bench guys this offseason, but I see Kyle Kendrick as more expendable and more appealing to more teams.

    Here's my thinking: Kendrick can serve as a starting pitcher or as a long reliever.

    On a team that lacks starting pitching depth behind Francisco Liriano (when he's good) and surprisingly Scott Baker (who's now injured), Kyle Kendrick would be an ideal fit—one, because he's cheap, and two, because he's versatile in the pitching department.

    If the Twins decided they would rather have Kendrick in the bullpen, that's possible as well, so they're really getting two pitchers for one.

    While Kendrick does make a total of $2.45 million this season and is eligible for arbitration three more times before he's eligible for free agency (being a Super Two player), I don't see his salary surpassing $6-7 million a season until at least free agency unless he becomes the next Jair Jurrjens and has a breakout season sometime until then.

    As a starter, Kendrick is 35-25 in his career (he's started 90 games). That's not bad at all, but his ERA is a bit high at 4.72, and his WHIP is decent at best, standing at 1.42. However, his K/9 ratio is respectable at 4.1, although he has only pitched one complete game in his career.

    As a reliever, in 24 appearances Kendrick is 4-3 and has a 2.84 ERA throughout his career. His relief career WHIP is 1.33 and K/9 ratio in relief is 3.7. This means that as a reliever, Kyle Kendrick has been much more effective than he has as a starter, although I don't imagine it would be too difficult for him to lower his stats as a starter.

    Although I've basically torn Ben Francisco to pieces, he's not as bad as I make him sound.

    He can hit when necessary and he's learning how to field balls more and more, and with two more arbitration-eligible years before free agency, Francisco's got time to develop into a great player. Look at what he did in April this year.

    Through April, Ben Francisco had a batting average of .266 and a BABIP of .276. His OPS was .793 and he also hit four home runs and 18 RBI. Ben Francisco's got the potential, but he has to figure out how to reach it.

    In short, Cuddyer is a fit for Philadelphia.

    He's versatile in the field and is a righty bat who can hit for average, especially against left-handed pitchers, something the Phillies desperately need.

    As for the Twins, they would get a decent return, too: Kyle Kendrick and Ben Francisco are young and both are valuable options to have, whether on or off the bench, and the Twins would get a return on a player who's in the last year of his contract.

    I don't think either side would complain if this deal were to be made. 

3. Phillies Trade Brad Lidge to Cardinals

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    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Phillies Get: CF Colby Rasmus

    Cardinals Get: RP Brad Lidge, SS Brian Bocock (AAA), cash considerations

    "What more can you say about Brad Lidge? He's lights-out and he went perfect on the season. This is definitely one of the best decisions Pat Gillick has made here in Philly! We wouldn't have won the World Series without him."

    While such a quote might be something mentioned immediately after the 2008 season, one would consider it tomfoolery if heard now.

    After a fantastic 2008 season in which Lidge went a perfect 41-for-41 in save situations and a perfect 7-for-7 in save opportunities in the postseason, Lidge was nowhere close to what he was in prior years. In fact, in 2009 Lidge went 31-for-42 in save situations. In other words, he blew 11 saves, the first coming on April 19, his first as a Phillie.

    So much for perfect.

    2010 was considerably better for Brad Lidge. Although he had elbow surgery in January of that year and had to miss spring training, Lidge pitched for the first time on April 30.

    It did take a little while for Lidge to readjust after his surgery—he went 6-for-9 in save opportunities and posted a 4.60 ERA in the first half of the season—Lidge pulled himself together in the second half, going 21-for-23 in save situations and posting a 2.10 ERA.

    Things were finally beginning to look up for Lidge after taking such a harsh tumble in the 2009 season.

    After the Phillies lost the 2010 NLCS to the eventual-champion San Francisco Giants, Lidge was raring to go in spring training before this season, especially since he hadn't pitched in spring training since 2009.

    However, spring training wasn't good for Brad Lidge.

    In just six appearances consisting of 5.2 innings pitched, Lidge had an 0-1 record with a 9.53 ERA, a WHIP of 2.47, and an opposing batting average of .370.

    Ouch.

    Unfortunately for Lidge, he wasn't able to better these statistics due to a right rotator cuff strain (and eventually right elbow discomfort). He hasn't pitched this season, although he is scheduled to start a rehab assignment sometime this week.

    Assuming his rehab assignment goes to plan, Lidge could be back as soon as after the All-Star Break. While it would take a lot for Lidge to become a trade target at all, it is possible that he could be traded.

    Here's the deal with Lidge: If he pitched in 10 appearances or so after the Break and doesn't allow too many runs and/or didn't blow any saves (if he takes over closer duties if Madson and/or Contreras are still on the DL), then he could gain some trade value if the Phillies consumed most or all of his remaining salary this year.

    There are many teams in need of bullpen pitchers this season, namely the Yankees, Rangers, and especially the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been eyeing a number of relievers, notably San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell. However, Bell will most likely command a few prospects, and if the Cardinals are unable to resign Bell after the season (especially since their focus is keeping Albert Pujols), Bell might not be worth it for the Cards.

    Meanwhile, Lidge could come at a relatively good price for St. Louis. However, knowing Ruben Amaro, Jr., he'll want a decent return if he trades Lidge, especially if he includes another player and pays for Lidge for the Cardinals. Such a return could be Cardinals center fielder Colby Rasmus.

    Rasmus, who will be 25 in August, could prove to be a great option for the Phillies. While most of you might be thinking, "But Shane [Victorino]'s playing in center! We can't bench him!"

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, you'd be right, but there is some logic behind acquiring Rasmus.

    One of Rasmus' perks is that he's young. Victorino was the last Phillies starter under the age of 30 last season (this stat includes Jayson Werth and excludes Domonic Brown). After turning 30 last December, the only Phillies starter under the age of 30 on Opening Day was Ben Francisco (as is Domonic Brown, who was injured at the time).

    Rasmus, as previously stated, will be 25 in just over a month, and even though he's young, he's currently in his third year in the majors.

    This is an especially important point when you consider that Victorino is a free agent after the 2012 season.

    While his Gold Gloves will surely pocket him some additional money, he'll be 32 at the start of the 2013 season, and even though he's having a fantastic season this year, hitting .303 with nine homers, 34 RBI, and he has an OPS of .900.

    Granted, this is his prime, but as with all players, this can only go on for so long. Eventually Victorino will go on a downward spiral, and that could be sometime soon.

    Finding a suitable replacement for Victorino now will pay off in the long run, especially if he becomes a target at next year's trade deadline.

    Although Rasmus is a left-handed hitter, one other plus for the Phillies is that he's able to play right field. If the Phillies want to give Domonic Brown more time to develop in the minors, which might not be a bad idea considering his dismal production, Rasmus could fill the hole that Brown would leave.

    Additionally, Rasmus could platoon the remainder of the season with Victorino and/or Brown, allowing them to get some rest. This could prove to be even more important, especially if Victorino has to spend some decent time on the DL for his thumb.

    There are some disadvantages to Rasmus. One, he's young and has only two and a half years under his belt in the bigs. Signing Victorino to a one or two-year deal after next season could prove to be a bargain, especially if he still produces offensively and defensively and comes at a cheap price. His experience at center field could show to be an advantage for the Phillies over Rasmus.

    There's also the thing that Rasmus doesn't hit as well as Victorino. This season, Rasmus is .246 with nine homers and 36 RBI and an OPS of .742. While Rasmus' home runs and RBI are very similar to Victorino's, his OPS and batting average are both significantly lower than his Phillies counterpart.

    However, with even more experience and age, Rasmus very likely could develop into an All-Star outfielder.

    One last issue at hand is that Rasmus bats left-handed, something the Phillies have enough of and need to have less. However, with left fielder Raul Ibanez off the books this offseason, assuming the Phillies choose a right-handed bat to replace him in left field, such an issue will not be a factor.

    Of course, if the Cardinals plan on giving up their former first-round pick, they'll want someone else in return in addition to Lidge. Such a candidate could be Phillies minor-league shortstop Brian Bocock.

    Bocock, who's only played 38 games at the major league level, doesn't have much to show, but he's a guy who can develop into a decent infielder.

    In addition to being able to play shortstop, he can also play second base, and with the Cardinals having gaps at both positions (Skip Schumaker and Ryan Theriot at second and short, respectively), Bocock could prove to be a great future option for the Cards.

    To sum this up, the Cardinals get a veteran closer in Brad Lidge that's paid for and they don't have to keep after the season or can if they want to retain him. They also get a minor-league infielder who is just one step below the major leagues.

    As for the Phillies, they get an heir to Victorino and a guy who can play for him or with him in right field when needed. And with the Phillies moving Brad Lidge, this could give them room for... 

4. Phillies Acquire Heath Bell from Padres

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Phillies Get: RP Heath Bell, cash considerations

    Padres Get: OF John Mayberry, Jr., 1B Matt Rizzotti (AA), SP Brian Bass (AAA)

    ...Heath Bell. One of the best closers in baseball, Bell is thought to be among the most desired players this year at the trade deadline.

    And who's to argue?

    He's been an All-Star each of the last three seasons (including this one) and has been in the top two in saves recorded in each of the last two years. He is also tied for second in saves with Giants closer Brian Wilson, Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan, and Rockies closer Huston Street.

    He's also recorded 115 saves since taking over for all-time saves leader and former Padre Trevor Hoffman when he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers before the 2009 season.

    In addition, he also has a 2.34 ERA and a win-loss record of 14-8, and he's averaged 64 strikeouts in each of the last three seasons, once again including the current season. His WHIP is 1.16 and his K/9 ratio is 9.8.

    In short, those stats are very impressive.

    Bell, who is set to become a free agent after the season, makes a total of $7.5 million this year, meaning he's got just about $2.5 million still due to him by the end of July. For most teams, this won't be much money at all, but for a team like the Phillies, it could be just over what they can handle.

    Bleacher Report's Phillies Featured Columnist Greg Pinto also explored a trade scenario in which the Phillies would acquire both Bell and Padres right-handed batting outfielder Ryan Ludwick.

    However, while he makes a good case, I don't see the Phillies being able afford the salary of both players (at least without exceeding the luxury tax threshold, which stands at $178 million), and either way I don't see him getting two guys from the same team without giving up quite a bit in return.

    However, that doesn't mean that the Phillies can't get a right-handed bat (see Michael Cuddyer slide), so the Phillies have one other option at this point: a veteran bullpen pitcher.

    Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has repeatedly said that he wants a right-handed batter at this year's trade deadline, whereas the team's GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. believes the team's most important need is a veteran reliever. Unless Amaro decides to compromise and trade for both options, he'll win this battle, meaning a reliever could be in his sights.

    And knowing Ruben Amaro, Jr., he'll go for the biggest name on the market, which we've already discussed, and that is none other than Heath Bell.

    However, acquiring such a name as Bell from a team in need of so much help (the Padres) and being supplied his remaining salary—which the Phillies will probably ask for if they were to acquire him—would cost the team some key players and/or prospects.

    If the Phillies don't want to give up a top 50 prospect for him (i.e. Jonathan Singleton and/or Jarred Cosart), then the Phillies will have to give up a top prospect within the organization, among others, including a player on the Phillies' 40-man roster at a position at which they need more depth.

    A few thoughts come to mind when considering players who could potentially be involved in a deal like this. Behind center fielder Cameron Maybin, the Padres lack decent outfield depth.

    Although they do have Ryan Ludwick in left, he's struggled offensively for the Friars, so an upgrade would probably be considered, especially since Ludwick's off the books next season and he'll probably sign elsewhere.

    Even if they manage to resign Ludwick, it'll probably be for a smaller amount given his age (he'll be 33 this week) and production.

    If they want to avoid another fiasco year with Ludwick, they'll want to look outside the organization for a youthful player who's got potential. A player the Phillies have that qualifies for this is their utility outfielder, John Mayberry, Jr.

    Mayberry was acquired by the Phillies in a direct trade with the Texas Rangers that sent speedy outfielder Greg Golson to the latter on November 20, 2008.

    As a member of the Phillies, he's played 100 games in which he's hit .240, 11 home runs, 33 RBI, and has an OPS of .782. These stats would equate to the following if he played a full season: .2406, 18 home runs, 53 RBI and an OPS of .782, though batting average and OPS don't change when projected over the course of time.

    The 27-year-old Mayberry, who stands at 6'6" and weighs 230 pounds, is a capable power hitter who has been the guy the Phillies have called on in times of need, and he has delivered for the most part.

    In fact, he played for the injured Shane Victorino last week on Wednesday and hit two home runs in a game against the Marlins. The Phillies eventually lost in the bottom of the 10th inning on a Mike Stanton walk-off home run, the final score being 7-6.

    Mayberry is also a right-handed bat, which is good for the Phillies, but the problem is his offensive production. He was acquired for power and he hasn't gotten the job done in that department, though this could very likely be as a result of inconsistent play at the major league level.

    On a team that's loaded with outfielders—the Phillies have Ibanez, Victorino, Brown, Mayberry, Francisco, Gload (on occasion) and Rule 5 pick Michael Martinez—there just might not be room for him on the Phillies, which might mean the best option for both the team and Mayberry himself is a trade to a team that can start him close to everyday.

    The Padres will also want a decent prospect somewhere in or close to a team's top 10, and in this case, that prospect is Double-A Reading's starting first baseman, Matt Rizzotti. Rizzotti, who was ranked as the Phillies' 20th-best prospect before the season, has exceeded expectations. This year, he's batting .296 in Double-A Reading with 17 homers, 55 RBI, and an OPS of .903 (SLG is .525) through 88 games this season.

    Although he's not a top 10 prospect, he's pretty darn close, and he'll provide depth at first base behind rookie Anthony Rizzo in the future if traded to San Diego.

    Although Rizzo currently holds the position at first after being traded as a prospect to the team by the Boston Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, their Opening Day starter Brad Hawpe is currently on the DL and has a mutual option after the season worth a hefty $6 million.

    If the Padres decline the option, there won't be any depth behind Rizzo at first base, but if Rizzotti were to be traded from a team whose first baseman is signed through at least 2016 in Ryan Howard, he'd be used at least as a backup, if not as a starter if he proves to be more efficient.

    And here's the thing: Rizzotti has had experience at Triple-A before. In fact, he was there last year at the end of the season, but struggled after being promoted partway through the season last year. He's excelled at Double-A, and he'd probably continue that trend since he'd most likely be motivated to avoid demotion a second time.

    If he were to be promoted to Double-A again this season (by either the Phillies or Padres), he could be major-league ready sometime next season, and at age 25, he's not getting any younger.

    Lastly, the Padres will want a player at a position at which they lack depth. Currently, their starting rotation is very poor and injured as well: starters Clayton Richard and Aaron Harang are on the DL at the moment.

    Although acquiring a Triple-A pitcher at the deadline wouldn't necessarily impact them this season, if he's ready next season, he would be a good addition to a rotation that's lacking depth.

    I'm talking about Phillies right-handed Triple-A starter Brian Bass.

    Bass, who has had major league experience (although little) as a reliever, has gone 9-7 with 104 strikeouts and a 5.16 ERA in the bigs in 101 games (four starts).

    In those four starts—all in 2008 with the Baltimore Orioles—Bass went 1-0 with 13 strikeouts, posting an ERA of 4.19 and a WHIP of 1.09 in 19.1 innings pitched. That's not bad at all.

    On the other hand, as a reliever in his career, Bass has gone 8-7 and has posted an ERA of 5.28 and a WHIP of 1.69 in 162.1 innings pitched. That's terrible.

    This shows that, if Bass ever plans on making it to the bigs in a permanent role, he should probably stick to starting. Lucky for him, that's something the Padres need more of, so if he's sent to San Diego this summer, he could be a terrific addition for them in the long run, especially since he's not getting any younger either—he's 29 years old.

    This is an extremely beneficial trade for both the Phillies and Padres.

    The Phillies get an experienced closer in Heath Bell and his salary taken care of. The Padres get three players—an outfielder with potential, a first baseman who's tearing it up in the minors, and a starter who's close to major-league ready—and they get to improve their team over the next year or two with these players.

    With the Phillies having three closers on the DL in Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson, and Jose Contreras, anything is helpful, but acquiring Bell would seal the deal for the Phillies and their bullpen. If they get Bell, they will be practically unstoppable throughout August, September, and October. 

4. Phillies Trade Ryan Madson to Brewers

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    Drew Hallowell/Getty Images

    Phillies Get: RP Zach Braddock, 3B/SS Zelous Wheeler (AAA)

    Brewers Get: RP Ryan Madson

    Ryan Madson, who has been one of the Phillies' two closers (himself and Jose Contreras) this season (of three total, including Lidge), has been absolutely dynamic this year.

    After originally being beaten out as the closer out of spring training by Contreras, Madson took over after Contreras hit the DL in the first of two stints so far this year on April 24.

    After Contreras wasn't used prior to being placed on the DL, Madson took over on April 22 and recorded 15 saves in 16 opportunities through June 18.

    However, he was apparently hurt after being struck on his pitching hand by a line drive on May 20 against the Texas Rangers. While he continued to pitch, he kept his injury under the radar until he decided it had reached a point where he couldn't play.

    Although Madson and Lidge will be back shortly after the All-Star Break and Contreras isn't far behind, rookie set-up man Michael Stutes and interim closer Antonio Bastardo have shined in their respective roles.

    Stutes, age 24 and Bastardo, age 25, have been symbols of the Phillies' young bullpen talent in their system. Problem is the the Phillies' bullpen—especially their closers—hasn't been getting any younger. In fact, Madson is 30, Lidge is 34, and Contreras is 39.

    In short, the only way the Phillies' bullpen will decrease in age is by increasing the amount of young arms in the bullpen.

    And the only way the Phillies' bullpen will increase the amount of young arms in their bullpen is by cutting ties with older players.

    One such player could in fact be Ryan Madson.

    While the Phillies have intentions to keep Madson, it might not be the smartest or best move for the team.

    Let me explain: the Phillies have a couple of young arms in Triple-A Lehigh Valley who are almost ready to come up to the major league level. Those two guys are Justin De Fratus and Phillippe Aumont.

    The 23-year-old De Fratus, who was drafted by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2007 MLB Draft, is expected to make the team in September as a member of the team's 40-man roster. He's been pretty good this year, too, having been promoted from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

    At Double-A over the course of a season and a half, De Fratus posted a 5-0 record with a 2.14 ERA with 71 strikeouts and 14 saves in 59.0 innings pitched and 38 games finished (out of 43 total appearances).

    However, at Triple-A, he hasn't fared as well. Although his win-loss record and K/9 ratio are both decent (2-0 and 11.9, respectively), in nine appearances, his ERA is 4.61 and his WHIP is an ugly 1.54. He does have 18 strikeouts in 13.2 innings, which is good. He's starting to pull himself together and he's still confident in himself, so that's always a good thing.

    As for Aumont, the 22-year-old Quebec native was drafted 11th overall by the Seattle Mariners in the 2007 MLB Draft. However, as many Phillies fans may recall, he was part of a three-player package that was sent to Philadelphia in exchange for Cliff Lee in the 2009 offseason.

    While it did bring Roy Halladay to Philly, fans' hearts were still broken at the loss of Lee. Luckily for the fans, Lee ended up re-signing with Philly this past year, and we still have the prospects. So in the end everything is good, especially since Baseball America says he's got the best control of any Phillies minor-league pitcher.

    Aumont, who was rated by Baseball America as the 93rd best overall prospect prior to this season, hasn't been as fortunate as De Fratus.

    This season, Aumont is 1-5, but his ERA is fantastic at 2.56. His WHIP is decent at 1.29 and his K/9 rate is 12.6 (in 30 appearances this season—25 at AA and 5 at AAA—in 38.2 innings pitched, he's fanned 54 batters, which is awesome).

    Aumont is on track to become a good reliever for the Phillies, especially since he's got the best curveball of any Phillies prospect, according to Baseball America (see link above).

    With De Fratus and Aumont potentially being called up within the next year or so, there just might not be any room for Ryan Madson.

    But that might be a good thing. Why?

    Two words: Scott Boras.

    Ryan Madson's agent is none other than the infamous Scott Boras, the agent known for scoring big deals for players.

    While Madson does deserve a raise from $4.5 million, Boras will look to at least double that salary, something the Phillies might not be able to do since they're on the brink of surpassing the $178 million luxury tax. Not to mention Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard see serious spikes in their salaries ($21.5 million and $20 million, respectively) next season.

    I have no problem with Madson receiving around $10 million a year as a closer, and I'd assume the Phillies wouldn't have a problem with that either. It's just the question whether the Phillies can pay him that much.

    If Madson and Boras can't wrap their minds around the fact that the Phillies might not be able to afford Madson at a price he wants, he just might not be in a Phillies uniform come spring training next year.

    If the Phillies see that Madson's price range is out of theirs, then they might shop him this season in order to get something in return for him.

    However, if the Phillies decide not to shop for him, he does project as a Type-A free agent, meaning if he signs anywhere but Philadelphia (assuming he is offered arbitration), the Phillies get a top draft pick from the eventual team he signs with and a supplemental round pick.

    Since this is a trade speculation slideshow, we're going to go with the instance that the first option there happens. Teams in need of bullpen help include the New York Yankees, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers.

    In the case that Madson were to be traded to the Brewers, the Phillies would probably want another reliever in return (especially a lefty reliever since they lack depth there behind Antonio Bastardo) and a prospect of some sort. In this case, that would be reliever Zach Braddock and prospect Zelous Wheeler.

    Braddock, a 23-year-old lefty reliever from Mount Holly, New Jersey, a suburb of Philadelphia, is in the midst of his second year in the bigs. This season, he hasn't been anywhere close to fantastic.

    In 24 games and 17.1 innings pitched, he's 0-1 with a 5.19 ERA and has 18 strikeouts. His WHIP, though, is decent at 1.27 and his BAA is .215, but in one save opportunity this year, he blew the save. His career stats aren't great either—he's 1-3 lifetime with a 3.71 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and three blown saves in as many opportunities.

    So why would the Phillies want a guy like Braddock? Two reasons: One, because he's young, and two, because he's a lefty. He could most likely develop as he matures in the majors, so unless his stats continue on this trend, he could be a valuable asset to the Phillies in the future.

    Zelous Wheeler, the minor league prospect in this deal, is a third baseman, although he can play shortstop as well.

    While he isn't anything extraordinary—he's batting .228 with one home run, eight RBI and has an OPS of .762 in 17 games at Double-A Huntsville—he has played at Triple-A. In fact, in 17 games played at Triple-A this year, he hit .275 with a homer and six RBI and an OPS of .815.

    Why he was demoted is a mystery to me, but it shows that he can hit fairly well at a higher level and he could be the kind of player who could be a suitable backup for Placido Polanco or Jimmy Rollins (if he stays through this year).

    This kind of trade would be key for both teams. For the Phillies, they get a lefty reliever and a decent potential backup player or even starter if he can play better than he does now. In addition, the Phillies get something in return for Madson, who has the possibility of leaving the Phillies this offseason, and they can avoid a whole fiasco with Scott Boras. The Brewers, on the other hand, get a closer who can help lower their bullpen-ERA of 3.92, whether he closes or sets up for John Axford.

    Although the Brewers acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez this week, Madson could be an even more attractive option for the Brewers and a long-term solution if K-Rod isn't given the opportunity to meet his vesting option requirements (which is extremely likely to happen). Madson could close or set up, as could Axford or K-Rod (if K-rod is willing to deal with that).

    But a bullpen with all three of those guys? That would be scary, and seeing as Brewers GM Doug Melvin isn't afraid to go out and get players at weaker positions (Greinke and Marcum, and now K-Rod) on his team's roster, it is entirely possible.  

    While it would be disappointing for Phillies fans if Ruben Amaro, Jr. decided to trade Ryan Madson, baseball is a business, and if trading Madson helps the team in the future, so be it.

5. Phillies Acquire Hunter Pence from Astros

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Phillies Get: OF Hunter Pence

    Astros Get: OF Domonic Brown, SP Trevor May (A Adv.), SP Ryan Feierabend (AAA)

    Hunter Pence. The key to solving the Phillies' problems.

    If only it were that easy.

    Pence, currently the face of the franchise since Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman have left, has been fantastic for the Astros.

    He's hitting .323—good for third in the NL—with 11 home runs and 60 RBI, and he has an OPS of .860. While his fielding is mediocre at best—his fielding percentage is at .979 and his UZR is -2.5—he's an overall great player and would be a great option for any team who has him.

    Unfortunately, the Astros, who are the worst team in the majors this year at 30-62, can't seem to put his hitting to good use.

    The Astros, a team that won't be anything but sellers at the deadline this year, are going to need a few years to rebuild before they have a chance at a deep playoff push.

    Unless Hunter Pence has the patience to wait until 2014 when he becomes a free agent, I'd assume he wants to play for a contender.

    One contender Pence might want to play for could be the Philadelphia Phillies.

    The Phillies, who have the majors' best record at 57-34, are 3.5 games up on the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. On the contrary, The Astros are 19 games behind the first-place Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals and are good for dead last in the NL Central.

    Ultimately, it wouldn't be Pence's decision as to whether he's traded, but a guy who always loves to see his Phillies win is none other than the Astros' infamous GM Ed Wade.

    Wade, who was once the GM for the Phillies, was fired after the 2005 season, yet he somehow still has much admiration for the Phils. In fact, he traded Brad Lidge to the team in 2007, and who could forget Roy Oswalt and almost half his remaining salary last July?

    If Ed Wade sees that the Phillies want Hunter Pence, then he would almost surely give him to us if the price is right.

    As mentioned earlier, the Astros will be huge sellers this year at the deadline and are in rebuilding mode right now. Trading away a guy like Pence, who could become the next Lance Berkman and become the leader of the franchise, could be a bad idea.

    But if the Astros don't see that as a possibility, then they could always trade him.

    Teams in the hunt for a corner outfielder include the Red Sox, Braves and Phillies. If Wade sees the Phillies on the list of buyers and he has what they need, he'll get the job done for them.

    The only problem with the Phillies is their payroll. They're just around $3 million shy of surpassing the luxury tax threshold of $178 million, and unless Ed Wade chips in some of Pence's $6.9 million salary, the Phillies will surpass that threshold more and more since Pence is still up for arbitration two more times before being eligible for free agency.

    If Pence were to be traded to Philadelphia, the Astros would most likely ask for a young outfielder (preferably right fielder) to replace Pence, plus a starting pitcher or two due to their lack of depth at the position.

    For an immediate need to replace Pence at the position, a guy Ed Wade might consider pursuing is Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown.

    Brown, who is just 23 years old, is in his rookie season and hasn't been overwhelming in the majors.

    Although Baseball America ranked him as the fourth best prospect in the majors prior to this season, he hasn't lived up to the hype. This season, he's posted a slash line of .252/.327/.408 (with an OPS of .735) with five home runs but only 16 RBI.

    However, he is just a rookie, so he's got time to develop in the majors and become a star right fielder.

    However, Brown's fielding has been an issue: his fielding percentage this year is .937, his range factor per nine innings is 1.50, and his UZR is -2.6.

    To be blunt, that's awful.

    However, as I've said before, he still has time to develop himself into a good player. He wasn't ranked the fourth overall prospect for nothing.

    If Hunter Pence were to be acquired by the Phillies, there would be no need for Brown anymore, especially since Pence is a righty batter and Brown is a left-handed hitter.

    In a lineup where only two of the eight starting batters are left-handed, Brown would be a nice addition to a team lacking left-handed hitters. What's more is that if he can reach his full potential, he could become the Ryan Howard of the Phillies in terms of power (this is not a declarative statement, just speculation, folks).

    As for the Astros' starting pitching, their starters' combined ERA is 4.69, which is second-to-last in the NL (the Cubs' starters' combined 5.29 ERA is dead last in the majors) and the fourth-worst in all of baseball. In addition, their rotation WHIP is fifth-to-last in the majors at 1.41, and their BAA is sixth-worst in all of baseball at .262.

    Talk about a team in need of starting pitching help.

    Now, while Ed Wade is a generous guy to the Phillies, he's also a guy who's very crafty. He'll want two good starting pitchers, and if Ruben Amaro wants Hunter Pence enough, he'll oblige.

    Those two pitchers are right-hander Trevor May and left-hander Ryan Feierabend.

    May, who was one of four pitchers I discussed in a previous article about the Phillies' minor-league aces, isn't necessarily the most major-league ready pitcher the Phillies have, but he's one of the pitchers with the most potential.

    Currently ranked by MLB.com as the Phillies' sixth-best prospect, in his 17 starts this season he's gone 6-5 with a 3.32 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP, a .209 BAA and has fanned 23 batters in just 95.0 innings pitched at Single A-Advanced Clearwater.

    While the 21-year-old's ERA needs some work, he's a strikeout machine and he keeps his opponents at bay with his BAA and WHIP. He's a guy who's going to have a great career in the major leagues.

    The other pitcher the Phillies would give up in this trade scenario is Ryan Feierabend.

    Feierabend, who was drafted back in the 2003 MLB Draft in the third round by the Seattle Mariners, is 2-11 with a 7.22 ERA in his time in the majors. This season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Feierabend is 8-5 with a 5.52 ERA, a WHIP of 1.42, a BAA of .276 and 62 strikeouts in 89.2 innings pitched in 17 starts.

    While that's only decent, he's 25 years old and needs a shot at the major league level again, whether as a starter or reliever. That decision would be up to the Astros.

    However, he is at Triple-A, meaning that he has shown enough potential that he can be at the minors' highest level. If he can just do a little more (the win-loss record is a start), then he could easily be major league ready, especially since he's a lefty, and if the Astros deal Wandy Rodriguez this season, there just could be an opening for the southpaw.

    If the Astros plan on giving up Hunter Pence, which they may not, he'll come at a price.

    Taking some of the top prospects in the Phillies' system, especially a left-handed young outfielder, might just be what they're looking for. They would also get a young starting pitcher with tons of potential and a southpaw who's close to reaching the majors if he can get his stats under control.

    The Phillies would get a right-handed hitting right fielder who has put up the numbers as part of a struggling club, but he'd be a part of the club for at least two and a half years. Coming to Philadelphia could motivate him more.

    Imagine that. 

5. Phillies Trade Cole Hamels to Rangers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Phillies Get: SP C.J. Wilson, SP Martin Perez (AA), SS Jurickson Profar (A) 

    Rangers Get: SP Cole Hamels

    Surprising, yet possible.

    Cole Hamels has been one of the Phillies' most reliable players this season. The southpaw has posted a 11-4 record with a 2.32 ERA (which is third in the NL), a 5.04 K/BB ratio, 121 strikeouts and a league-leading 0.93 WHIP.

    He has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this season and the best left-handed pitcher in the NL, if not the majors this season.

    However, there is also a conflicting issue with Cole Hamels that is on many Phillies fans' minds. Cole Hamels, who is eligible for his final arbitration hearing this offseason before being eligible for free agency, makes $9.5 million this season in the final year of his three-year, $20.5 million contract he signed back before the 2009 season.

    While that contract initially covered Hamels' three arbitration years, as a Super Two player (see Michael Cuddyer slide), he is eligible for a fourth year of arbitration.

    Although Hamels is under team control through next season regardless of what happens this offseason, this could prove to be an issue for the Phillies.

    Hamels, who is the youngest and only farm-raised pitcher of the Phillies' rotation at the start of the season (Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Hamels and Blanton), is due for a huge payday when his time comes after the season.

    Due to the fact that he remains under team control through next season, Hamels has only three options this coming offseason: sign a one-year deal before going to arbitration that would make him a free agent at the end of the year; sign a multi-year deal before going to arbitration that would keep him a member of the Phillies until the end of its duration; or go to arbitration and sign for whatever price is determined from the hearing.

    The most likely scenario to occur would be that Hamels goes to arbitration and signs a one-year deal for the value bestowed upon him at arbitration. At this point, his value could be in excess of $15 million.

    Now the question that should be asked is this: can the Phillies afford Cole Hamels?

    If Hamels does not sign a multi-year extension with the Phillies sometime before the final out of the 2012 World Series, that means he'll become a free agent. If he pitches as well as, if not better than, he has this year at the same time next season, then Hamels' value could exceed $20 million a season.

    That could be too pricey for the Phillies. Granted, while Hamels would deserve such a salary, it might be out of the Phillies' price range, given that they are within $3 million of exceeding the luxury tax threshold.

    At this rate, Hamels will arguably be one of the best starters on the market in the 2012 offseason and undoubtedly the best available southpaw, which means he'll be in for a big payday regardless of whomever it is from.

    Unless the Phillies can lock him up for a few years at a price of roughly $15-16 million a season, Hamels could very likely not be in a Phillies uniform come Opening Day of 2013.

    That would be a huge shame if Hamels left the team after next season. He's a fan favorite in Philly and as previously stated, he's the last remaining homegrown starter of the Phillies' Opening Day starting rotation.

    However, baseball is a business, so if Hamels decides to take the Jayson Werth route and sign for money rather than comfort like Cliff Lee did, it could be very interesting to see how this whole thing plays out.

    And if the Phillies get the indication that Cole Hamels does not intend on returning to Philly for less money, they could do something very significant: trade him.

    While this might be something the Phillies would more likely do next season, Ruben Amaro, Jr. could be thinking about keeping guys like Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson over Hamels, which would surprise me, especially since pitching has shown to become Amaro's priority as Phillies GM.

    If he sees more of a value in bringing up guys like Jarred Cosart and Brody Colvin in the upcoming years, then he could trade Hamels now.

    Hamels wouldn't come at a cheap price either: the Phillies would probably demand a current major-league pitcher to fill Hamels' role and one or two top prospects in the other team's system.

    In this case, the other team would be the Texas Rangers.

    The Rangers, who were one of the frontrunners of the Cliff Lee sweepstakes this past offseason until the Phillies swooped in and signed him, have since been looking for ways to fill the hole Lee left. Although converted-reliever Alexi Ogando has posted an All-Star season and has been pretty good for the Rangers, they are still on the lookout for pitching.

    And although Rangers manager Ron Washington chose his southpaw starter C.J. Wilson as a member of his All-Star squad this season, he comes nowhere close to the caliber of Cliff Lee.

    However, if Cole Hamels were to be traded, C.J. Wilson could be an attractive option for the Phillies.

    Wilson, who is set to be one of the top free-agent pitchers on a relatively weak market this coming offseason, has been pretty good this year. In 19 starts (132.0 IP) this season, Wilson is 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 117 strikeouts (good for a 8.0 K/9 rate).

    While that's nowhere close to Cole Hamels' stats this season, it is still fairly good.

    Wilson also makes $7 million this season, meaning he'd have roughly $2.3 million owed to him come the trade deadline. In comparison, Hamels has around $3.1 million due to him through the rest of the season. While that's not extremely significant, it could be the difference between avoiding and surpassing the luxury tax in the future.

    If a deal like this were to be made, there would most likely have to be some sort of contract extension set in place, at least on the Phillies' side. I don't think Ruben Amaro would pursue a lefty starter just to let him walk at the end of the year.

    My guess is that each side would have to lock up their respective pitcher for at least three years, Hamels being worth at least $16 million a year and Wilson's average annual value hovering around $11 million a season.

    The Phils would also want a few top prospects in return. The Rangers happen to have an above-average farm system (ranked 14th best at the beginning of the season by Baseball America; in comparison, the Phillies were ranked 10th best).

    Two of their top three prospects—starting pitcher Martin Perez (Rangers' best prospect) and shortstop Jurickson Profar (Rangers' third-best prospect)—are currently within Baseball America's Top 50 overall prospects: Perez is the sixth-best prospect in the league and Profar is the 12th-best.

    And both would prove to be great future options for the Phillies.

    Why?

    Perez, who is 20 years old, is a left-handed starter and a pretty good one, too. He's not star-caliber just yet, though, but he's on his way.

    This season, in 17 appearances (16 starts) and 88.1 innings pitched, Perez has gone 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA, a WHIP of 1.31, a BAA of .245, and 83 strikeouts. That's decent, and at his rate he will only get better. They wouldn't rank him the best prospect in the system if he weren't good.

    Profar is by far the most controversial player in this trade scenario. At a position where the Phillies have an aging and deteriorating shortstop in Jimmy Rollins (who is off the books after this year), a guy will be needed to fill his role if he signs elsewhere.

    Profar could be that guy.

    Profar, a switch hitter like Rollins, has hit .272 with nine dingers and 37 RBI in 70 games this season. His OPS is .879, including a slugging percentage at .498. He's also hit 20 doubles, six triples and has stolen 11 bags.

    But the best part? These stats are coming from a player who's only 18 years old. He can only get better from here, and getting a player like Profar would be huge for the Phillies. He would essentially take over Rollins' role (if he does re-sign for around three years) at the perfect time, and he would be young enough that he would continue to grow more and more as a player, regardless of which level he would be playing.

    At the end of the day, both teams would fare pretty well after this deal. The Rangers would acquire a left-handed ace to replace the ace they coveted in Cliff Lee, and the Phillies would get an above-average left-handed starter in return as well in C.J. Wilson. While he's no Hamels, he would be a suitable replacement for him, considering he's the best one available.

    In addition, the Phillies would acquire some key prospects who could significantly impact their future in Martin Perez and Jurickson Profar.

    Perez is a southpaw who could take the place of C.J. Wilson should he not remain in Philadelphia following the season if this deal was done, although that would take a few years.

    However, Perez is the No. 2 left-handed pitching prospect in the minors right now, so having a guy like him in the system to compliment their other minor league aces of Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Trevor May and Jesse Biddle would be fantastic.

    As for Profar, he could be the guy who gets Jimmy Rollins' job in a few years should he re-sign, although he would probably get the job either way in the future for the Phillies (i.e. whether Rollins re-signs). He's not major-league ready just yet, but he's put up incredible stats for his first year in the minors. And it can only get better from there.

    Although the Phillies would lose a quality ace in Cole Hamels, baseball is a business, and if Cole Hamels doesn't see himself in a Phillies uniform in 2013, there's no reason that Ruben Amaro, Jr. should try to make him.

    Then again, this whole deal could just be nonsensical if Hamels intends to stay here in Philly.

Conclusion

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    Ruben Amaro, Jr. will have quite a bit to think about in the ensuing weeks.

    When your manager asks for a right-handed bat (preferably an outfielder) but you want to focus on upgrading the bullpen, as a general manager you generally win out, but in order to make changes that make everyone happy, sometimes you aren't the one who ends up the happiest person, and that might be something Ruben Amaro, Jr. will have to consider about himself.

    He'll have to consider how to upgrade the Phillies' offense and their defense. With an injury-prone infield and an outfield not producing much offense (except for Shane Victorino, though he's on the DL right now), Amaro will need to consider all options, even if it means making some decisions that not everyone here in Philadelphia agrees with.

    He's also going to have to bolster a bullpen that's in more need than most would have thought at the beginning of the season. With injuries to closers Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson, and a potentially season-ending setback to closer Jose Contreras, the Phillies are short on late-innings options and will have to potentially look outside the system for solutions.

    Ranging from low-key players like Jeff Francoeur and David DeJesus to high-profile All-Stars like Hunter Pence and Heath Bell, Ruben Amaro's going to face his biggest challenge to date.

    Will he go out and get the best player available on the trade market like he has the past two seasons? Will he trade away a top prospect like Jonathan Singleton or Jarred Cosart in order to get a deal done? Or will he keep his word and acquire a small-scale player, if he makes a move at all?

    It's going to be important for him to think about, and he'll have to figure it all out by the end of the month.

    What's more important, though, is looking at the future.

    With players like Madson, Jimmy Rollins and especially Cole Hamels dealing with free agency and arbitration, Ruben's going to have to figure out who to keep and who to let walk.

    Whether it's about the money or the where the player wants to play (or both), Ruben Amaro, Jr. is going to have to persuade these players to stay in Philadelphia either way.

    If he feels he can't get that done with these players, then the only way to get anything for them is by trading them.

    But for now, I focus on the season, and with that, I say this to Ruben: if the deal is right, get it done.

    And as we've seen with Ruben Amaro, Jr., no matter how much he downplays the deadline this year, anything can happen come July.