First, a quick review of Ruben Amaro, Jr.’s hit list:
*Winter ‘08-’09: Signed free agent OF Raul Ibanez
*Summer ‘09: Traded for LHP Cliff Lee
*Winter ‘09-’10: Traded for RHP Roy Halladay and traded away LHP Cliff Lee
*Summer ‘10: Traded for RHP Roy Oswalt
*Winter ‘10-’11: Signed free agent LHP Cliff Lee
Notice a pattern?
Amaro has struck at least one major deal in every acquisition period since he took over as Phillies GM in the winter of 2008. By way of savvy and surprise, Amaro has quickly asserted himself as one of the most active GMs in the game.
Amaro’s track record suggests that the Phillies will make a significant move before the July 31st trading deadline.
But when? And for whom? And at what cost?
With speculation running rampant, I’ve identified five of the most misguided trade rumors and notions based on the Phillies’ needs and Amaro’s mercurial past.
Ever since his ground-shaking entrance at the 2011 All-Star Game, Bell has been the talk of Philadelphia.
And with good reason. Bell throws a baseball really, really hard. He has for quite some time.
Adding Bell would bandage an oft-injured bullpen and give Charlie Manuel the sort of enviable late-game options that fellow NL East skipper Fredi Gonzalez enjoys in Atlanta.
There are two problems with Bell. He’s expensive, and his contact only runs through the end of this year.
The Phillies have reportedly told clubs that they’re only willing to add $2 million more to their payroll this year because they do not want to pay the luxury tax.
In that case, the Padres would have to eat some of Bell’s contract, complicating any deal between the two clubs.
Also, the Phillies and Amaro have generally shunned half-year rentals, opting for players like Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, who still have at least one-and-a-half years remaining on their contracts.
For both of those reasons, fellow Padres’ reliever Mike Adams is the far more desirable target.
Adams has been just as good as Bell over the last couple of seasons and would remain under team control through 2012 if the Phillies acquired him.
Because both Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson are free agents at year’s end, Amaro would much rather trade prospects for a player that he would still control this upcoming offseason and be able to use as leverage in any sort of negotiation.
The Phillies have expressed interest in the Mets’ All-Star outfielder, but a trade between the two rivals seems unlikely.
For precisely that reason: Because they’re rivals.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that Mets’ GM Sandy Alderson would have no qualms trading Beltran within the division, but that maligned Mets’ owner, Fred Wilpon, would loathe to make such a move.
Any Beltran-to-Phillies move would likely require the Mets to pay the rest of Beltran’s contract, and Wilpon can’t afford the negative PR that would accompany the Mets’ paying one of their best players to play on the Phillies.
In addition, Beltran fits the half-year rental mode that Amaro tries to avoid and has been a better hitter left-handed this year than right-handed (the Phils need help from the right side).
The Phillies have and will continue to inquire about Beltran, but his arrival in the City of Brotherly Love isn’t imminent.
Two reasons this trade won’t happen: It’s a bad deal for the Phillies, and it’s a bad deal for the Astros.
It’s a bad deal for the Phillies because Brown is younger, cheaper and (in the words of one AL Scout) “has the potential to be a much better player than Pence.” If the Phillies trade Brown they’re compromising the future of their outfield.
As much as the Phillies are built to win this year, they also have long-term commitments to Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The Phillies are not looking to completely abandon the future in order to increase their already-stellar chances this year.
Add the fact that Pence is outside the Phillies price range, and a deal for the Houston slugger becomes increasingly unrealistic.
This is a bad deal for the Astros for reasons completely unrelated to baseball.
Pence is the team’s most popular player, and with new ownership arriving, the Astros won’t soon part with a player of Pence’s pedigree. Having jettisoned Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman and other players from the franchise’s mid-decade glory years, the team desperately needs a brand and Pence is a big part of that rebuilding identity.
For that reason, Jon Heyman of SI reports that the Astros are much more aggressively shopping players like Brett Myers and Wandy Rodriguez.
The Astros would move Pence for only the most attractive package of prospects, and at least one of those prospects would have to be major-league-ready.
Rumors of a forthcoming “right-handed bat” have become legend in Philadelphia, something akin to the Yeti in Nepal or Elvis sightings in the South Pacific.
The Phillies might yet add a right-handed outfielder to their roster. But don’t expect their BIG move(s) to include an outfielder. Amaro has clearly embraced a pitching-first approach, and concerns about the Phillies’ offense are greatly exaggerated (seventh in the NL in runs scored).
Most of the big-name outfielders would cost the Phillies more than they're willing to spend.
By comparison, elite relief help is cheaper and more in line with the Phillies team-building strategy under Amaro.
And Amaro, who has developed a reputation for defying convention, likes to avoid obvious acquisitions as a way of further branding his own GM genius.
For those reasons, I think the Phillies will target lower-profile outfielders like Jeff Francoeur, Josh Willingham and Melky Cabrera, and leave the bigger names to other contenders willing to spend more.
Polanco, Rollins, Utley, and Howard. Four infielders, four All-Stars. And the Phillies need infield help?
With Polanco, Rollins, and Utley all missing time this year due to injury, the Phillies lack depth in their infield. Amaro must dread the thought of starting journeymen Wilson Valdez or Michael Martinez in a critical late-season game.
Although the outfield has gotten most of the attention, the Phillies have a couple of capable outfield backups in John Mayberry, Jr. and Ben Francisco.
The Phillies need players of that caliber in the infield, and I would expect them to seriously pursue the Astros’ Jeff Keppinger, the Cubs’ Jeff Baker, and the Marlins’ Omar Infante. None of those three would command a huge price, and each would fill an immediate roster need.
Infante in particular is a favorite of Phillies manager Charlie Manuel and excels defensively almost anywhere on the diamond. A trade for Infante could serve as insurance for the Phillies on multiple fronts.