MLB Trade Speculation: Josh Willingham Would Be a Huge Mistake for the Phillies
After last night's thrashing of the Florida Marlins, after which the Philadelphia Phillies improved to 55-32 on the season, we may see a bit of a lull in the drastic outcry for offensive help. The arguments against making a move to bolster the lineup have been the same throughout the season—the Phils have the best record in baseball and little flexibility to make a move. In short, why change what's working?
The counter-argument is even more simplistic. As hard as it is to imagine, with a little bit of thump in the lineup, the Phillies could be even better than they are entering play on July 6. With four more wins than any other team in baseball, that's a bold statement. Assembling a team with the potential alone to compete for the best record in baseball is an imperfect science, but with a few additions, the Phils may have the winning formula.
While it's been pitching that has put them over the top, the biggest storyline of the first half has to have been the anemic offense. Loaded with former All-Stars, they were expected to provide enough run support to back their star studded rotation with ease, but that hasn't entirely been the case.
Even with the lineup at "full strength," the Phillies have been in the middle of the pack for just about every offensive category throughout the first half of the season. With a lot of familiar faces fielding the diamond in Philadelphia, their offensive standing is a far cry from their usual top five finishes. A once feared offense has spent its time making mediocre, bottom-of-the-rotation pitchers look like the second coming of Cy Young.
So while fans and scribes alike have been able to make excuses for this club's lack of offensive production, such as the departure of Jayson Werth and Chase Utley's questionable health, as we pass the midway point of the season, it's time to face the facts—this is just a bad offensive team.
They certainly can't use the home ball park as an excuse. Though proven mostly false, Citizens' Bank Park has been an offensive haven over the years, and with the Phils currently sitting 14th in runs scored and 18th in home runs, it may be time to lay some blame on the personnel.
That said, it wouldn't hurt to bring in a guy who can provide some stability for this lineup. With its slew of lefties, it isn't hard to see that a right handed bat could cure a few ailments, but it runs much deeper than that. The Phils' collective .663 OPS against left handed pitchers is the fourth worst in all of baseball, and for a team that's made its name in power output over the last few seasons, they've hit just 14 home runs against lefties this season—seventh worst in baseball.
With the corner outfield positions being the only spots on the field that a trade candidate makes logical sense, we can quickly gather that a right handed corner outfielder would be a nice upgrade for this ball club. I took a look at one guy who could be a potential fit, Michael Cuddyer, last week, but another guy that makes some sense for the Phils is Josh Willingham of the Oakland Athletics.
Currently on the disabled list with an Achilles injury, Willingham should be activated sometime this week, and will have plenty of time to re-establish his trade value,should the A's become sellers. At that point, the question becomes, "Is he a fit for the Phillies?"
At a glance, the answer is yes. He fits the criteria of what the Phils would be looking for on the trade market perfectly. Formerly of the Washington Nationals, the Phillies have seen his plus power out of the corner outfield positions first hand, and while the Coliseum in Oakland is taking a toll on his offensive production in 2011, those numbers would likely spike with a trade to a more hitter-friendly park, particularly in the National League.
Looking into his numbers with a little more depth shows that he may cause the Phillies more headaches than anything, however. As we've already established, the Phils need to add a right handed hitter that brings some pop to the lineup against lefties, and Willingham probably isn't that guy.
He's posted an ugly line of .211/.291 /.465 against left handed pitchers, leaving the yard just five times against them. The Phillies may be inclined to make a move for a guy who has had more success against lefties this season, like the aforementioned Cuddyer or Juan Rivera, who was recently designated for assignment by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Of course, there are certain intangibles that would work in Willingham's favor. The Phils may be willing to take a risk on his numbers against left handed pitchers because they're familiar with him, and he's had some success in the National League East. Despite the fact that he has struggled, he'd still provide guys like Utley and Ryan Howard with some support, and if he can continue to improve, Domonic Brown should help Willingham himself see a good number of fastballs.
All in all, though, he's probably not a worthwhile investment. He's a terrible defensive outfielder struggling with a foot injury, and though he's probably an upgrade over the likes of Raul Ibanez, that isn't saying much. If the Phils were going to make a move for a hitter at all, they'll need to bring in a guy who not only swings right handed, but is able to handle left handed pitching.
Making a blind move for a guy like Josh Willingham could cause the Phillies more headaches than he's worth.
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