Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players They Can Get Without Passing the Luxury Tax

Alec Snyder@@alec_snyder62Contributor IIIJuly 18, 2011

Philadelphia Phillies: 5 Players They Can Get Without Passing the Luxury Tax

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    According to a recent piece by FOX's Ken Rosenthal, the Phillies are willing to take on roughly $2 million worth of payroll at the trade deadline this year.

    Since it would take about $3 million for the Phillies to surpass the $178 million luxury tax, this still gives the Phils a little wiggle room to add some smaller-market players.

    There are many options for the Phillies to ponder. Considering that their two primary targets are a right-handed bat (preferably an outfielder) and a bullpen arm, the Phillies will look to strike gold in a cheaper player.

    Just because a player is less expensive doesn't mean that they aren't as good, though. In fact, Padres reliever Mike Adams, who is due a total of $2.535 million this season, is having a better season than his fellow teammate and Padres closer Heath Bell.

    In comparison, Bell is making a total of $7.5 million this season. That's roughly three times Adam's salary, and it could be why the Phillies seem to have more interest in Adams than Bell.

    At the trade deadline this season, the Phillies will have to look deep within some organizations to find what they're looking for. Some players, like Adams, are easily recognized, whereas some other players are hidden talents.

    I'll be looking at the players in a couple of ways: at their stats (mainly this season, although some throughout their careers) and at their salaries.

    Most salaries will be listed by total amounts, though I'm well aware that those salaries cover the entire season, not from July 31 onward.

    Due to the fact that we as a public can't see exactly the amount each player is paid at all points of the season, it would be impossible to accurately pinpoint the salary a player is due after the trade deadline, though it usually amounts to a third of their total salary for the season.

    Here's a list of five players the Phillies could acquire at the trade deadline this year within their $2 million budget.

Reed Johnson

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    Of the right-handed hitting outfielders on the trade market, Reed Johnson is most likely one of the last to come to mind.

    Johnson, 34, was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 17th round of the 1999 MLB draft. Since then, he's found his way to the Chicago Cubs, the Los Angeles Dodgers and back to the Cubs.

    In his career he's hit .283 with 58 homers, 343 RBI and has posted an OPS of .755 over the course of nine seasons. If he played 162 games a season, he'd average 10 home runs and 59 RBI.

    Not terrible for a backup on a terrible team.

    He could be a great option for the remainder of the season for the Phillies. In just 59 games this season, he's hitting .325 with four dingers and 22 RBI and has an OPS of .915. And best of all, he's hitting .365 against lefties this season, something the Phillies desperately need.

    Johnson is a very cheap option as well. He's due a total—and I repeat, total—of just $900,000 this year. If the Phillies wanted to re-sign him after the season 

    Lastly, Johnson is a good target for the Phillies because he can play all outfield positions, although he mainly plays left field. His fielding percentages at all outfield positions are as follows: in left field, it's .993, in center it's .992, and in right it's .987.

    However, he's only played 33 fewer games in center field than right (212 compared to 245 games), so if the fact that he's consistent everywhere is a good thing. Plus, he could give guys like Ibanez and Brown a break if needed.

    Johnson would be a good fit in Philadelphia, with his outfield versatility, and he comes at a cheap price.

Jeff Francoeur

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    Jeff Francoeur could be a very interesting option for the Phillies.

    Francoeur, 27, has played in the NL East for most of his career, from being drafted by and playing for the Atlanta Braves to being traded to the New York Mets on July 10, 2009, to being traded in waiver-trade deal on Aug. 31 of last year from the Mets to the Texas Rangers.

    He eventually signed with the Kansas City Royals on a one-year deal.

    Francoeur, who's got a career average of .267 with 113 home runs, 521 RBI, and an OPS of .736 (20 home runs, 90 RBI per 162 games), would be decent in Philly. He signed a $2.5 million, one-year deal back this past offseason, and there's a mutual option worth $4 million for next season.

    Also, he'd come cheap, and if the Phillies would want an outfield option for next year without having to worry about searching the free-agent market, Francoeur's their guy (assuming he agrees as well).

    This season, Francoeur hasn't been bad: he's hitting .263 with 12 home runs, 56 RBI and has an OPS of .748. However, the best perk of Francoeur is that he's fantastic against southpaws.

    This year, he hits .310 off them, compared to .249 off right-handed pitchers. That would be awesome for the Phillies to get their hands on. 

    In terms of fielding, Francoeur's not bad. He's played close to every game in his career in right field, and over seven seasons he's posted a .983 fielding percentage (.984 in right field, where he's started 901 of his 920 games and has played in 919 of them).

    However, a better indicator is his range factor per game, which is 2.05 this season. That's pretty good for a guy the Phils would use as a backup or platoon.

    Francoeur could be a good fit in Philly, both this season and next season. 

Melky Cabrera

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    While Francoeur could be a good Royals target for the Phillies, a potentially better one is center fielder Melky Cabrera.

    Cabrera's career numbers include a .270 batting average, 51 home runs, 322 RBI and a .718 OPS over seven seasons. However, this season has been a breakout year for Cabrera.

    He's hitting .293 with 11 home runs, 52 RBI, and an OPS of .781. That's pretty good considering he's just entering his prime at age 26.

    Although his main position is center field, he's also got his fair share of play in left and right field. In center field, where he's played most of his career, his fielding percentage is .989, and his range factor per game is 2.36. That's also very good.

    Cabrera's biggest advantage for the Phillies might just be his cost: he's only costing the Royals a total of $1.25 million this year, and the best part is, unlike Francoeur, he would be under team control next year assuming the Phillies would still want him.

    With numbers like his this season, though, who wouldn't?

    Think about this, though: a .293 batting average off the bench. And he's a switch-hitter. That's fantastic. And though he's hitting better against righties (.297) than lefties (.283), a .283 average off southpaws is nothing to laugh at.

    Cabrera could prove to be an even more valuable option for Philadelphia. He's played in more of the outfield more times than Francoeur, he's hitting better (not to mention he's a switch-hitter, too), and he's half the price of Francoeur.

    If I were Ruben Amaro, Jr. and I had to choose between Jeff Francoeur and Melky Cabrera, I'd go Melky hands down. 

Chad Qualls

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    Chad Qualls would be a potentially good fit in the Phillies bullpen.

    In a slideshow I wrote last week, I mentioned Qualls as a potential relieving candidate for the Phillies to acquire at the deadline this year. He's been decent in San Diego this season, and he's relatively inexpensive.

    In 45 games this year, Qualls is 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA, a 1.16 WHIP, a BAA of .240, and 26 strikeouts in 45.0 innings pitched. While that's above average, his pitching to left-handed hitters is mediocre at best: left-handed batters hit .273 off Qualls, compared to righties, who hit .211 off him.

    Qualls isn't closer quality, either—the Phillies have Ryan Madson (and potentially Brad Lidge) for that—but his stats are good enough that he could get the job done.

    It should be noted that Qualls is a better pitcher at home this season. At Petco Park, he's got a 2.01 ERA, a 1.03 ERA, and a BAA of .225. In comparison, on the road, Qualls has a 3.18 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP, and a .253 BAA. 

    And it's not like it's because he's pitched much more at home or away. He's pitched 22 games at home versus 23 games on the road. 

    However, something the Phillies would find attractive about Qualls is his salary this year: he's signed to a one-year, $2.55 million deal. He's technically due $1.5 million this year, but he has a $6 million club option for next season with a $1.05 million buyout.

    That's appealing to the cash-strapped Phillies, and with his average stats, he might not command so much in return.

    Qualls' stats could turn off the Phillies, but knowing they need bullpen help, he could be their cheapest option, in terms of both salary and what they have to trade back. 

Mike Adams

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    Mike Adams is one of the premier available bullpen pitchers on the trade market this season.

    As a member of a team that's stacked in bullpen talent consisting of Heath Bell, Chad Qualls, Luke Gregerson and Adams himself, Adams could be the best of the best in the Padres bullpen.

    And he's sure to be the most attractive to the Phillies. Not only are his stats the best of the Padres' bullpen pitchers this season, but he's cheap and is under team control through next season.

    Here's the deal with the 32-year-old Adams. In 42 games this year, he's 3-1 with a 1.29 ERA, a 0.71 WHIP, 41 strikeouts and a BAA of .155 in 42.0 innings pitched.

    His record is good, his strikeout count is great and his ERA, WHIP and BAA are fantastic.

    Like Qualls, Adams is better against right-handed hitters than lefties, although he's still incredible against both of them: righties are hitting .106 against Adams, whereas left-handed hitters are batting .195 against him.

    Adams is also cheap this year: as I covered on the main slide, Adams makes just $2.535 this year (meaning just about a third of that is due to him after July 31), and while he's due for a big raise at arbitration at the season's end, the Phillies would have then to figure it out.

    The only big problem with Adams is his injury history. In 2006, Adams had not one, not two but three microfracture knee surgeries within just a 10-month period.

    And though Adams claims his injuries are what saved his career, the Phillies might think that they could prove otherwise in the future.

    If Adams puts up the kind of numbers he is now for the next year and a half, he could be a great investment for the Phillies, but if injuries derail him sometime throughout that period, he could be a huge flop, and with Adams being under team control through 2012, it wouldn't be so easy to get rid of him if worst came to worst.

    Looking at it on the bright side, if Adams stays healthy and continues to dominate hitters, he could be the Phillies' most valuable trade target this year.

    Coming at a low price and being under team control could cost the Phillies a valuable prospect or two, but if they see Adams as a worthy long-term investment, then he could be the key to the Phillies' success through the remainder of the year.