2011 has been a breakout year for Phillies outfielder John Mayberry Jr. With more Major League playing time than at any point in his career, Mayberry has taken advantage. But with his emergence, and the addition of Hunter Pence, it leaves the Phillies with a quandary heading into 2012.
This dilemma, and Mayberry's emergence were two of the reasons I did not want to trade for Pence in the first place. Ruben Amaro has some options, although none of them are very enticing.
While some people think Mayberry is "the future oh the Phillies," that title still belongs to Domonic Brown. 27-year-old rookies should not really ever be considered the future of any team. For every Jose Bautista, there are tons of other late bloomers who will have a couple good seasons before falling off. I'm not saying Mayberry cannot be like a lite-Bautista, I'm saying the odds significantly favor him becoming more of a Casey McGehee.
Obviously Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino will be starting everyday next year. That leaves either Domonic Brown or Mayberry as the third outfielder.
With a couple months at Lehigh Valley adjusting in left field, Brown should be ready to go at the start of 2012. The former top prospect in baseball has all of the tools to be a great player.
At 24-years-old entering next year, it's time to start Brown everyday. While still raw defensively, he displayed terrific plate discipline this year, cutting his strikeout-rate in half and almost doubling his walk-rate. He still suffered from some BABIP bad luck and his power potential still lacked, but that could still have been a result of his hamate bone injury before the season.
Unfortunately, with keeping Mayberry on the bench most of the time, the Phillies would not maximize his value. Keeping a potential three win player on the bench next year is a waste.
While Brown improved slightly against lefties this year, he still struggles against them. Platooning Mayberry against lefties certainly would improve the team on a day to day basis, but hurts the future development of Domonic Brown, who needs at bats against lefties to improve. In addition, Mayberry doesn't appear to have a high-split platoon, meaning there isn't much difference for him when facing either a lefty or righty.
The other option is starting Mayberry everyday at the beginning of 2012 with Brown still in the minors. However, there is nothing more for Brown to prove in the minors and only continues preventing future offensive growth.
The main problem of trading Mayberry in the off-season is that I don't believe the Phillies can get enough value in return.
The demand for what will be a 28-year-old outfielder coming off his first good half a season, with no previous successful track record is not very high, even with him being a former first-round pick and very cheap financially. The closest comparison I can think of is Corey Patterson in 2006.
For those who do not recall, Corey Patterson was the third overall pick in 1998 and one of the top prospects in baseball while coming up through the Chicago Cubs system. He played sparingly in 2000 and 2001, accumulating just under 200 plate appearances. His first full season in 2002 was very underwhelming, hitting .253/.284/.392 while playing just below average defense.
Although he only played half a season in 2003, he began showing his power potential and good defense. His .298/.329/.511 line with 16 steals(good for a .359 wOBA and 116 wRC+), is actually quite similar to Mayberry's career line thus far.
Recovering from his injury, 2004 was a breakout year for him due to his tremendous defense and league average offense. His 5.2 fWAR was among the top 15 outfielders in all of baseball.
Unfortunately he fell off of a cliff the next year, accumulating -0.3 fWAR for the season. He was subsequently traded in the offseason to the Baltimore Orioles for two fringe prospects. At the time of the trade, he was entering his age-26 season with a salary just under $3 million and another year of team control.
So the question is, would you want to trade Mayberry for two fringe prospects before 2012? Personally, I do not think that's good enough value. If they could somehow squeeze out a top 75 prospect for him, I'd be much more open to it, but I do not think that will be on the table.
None of those players are going anywhere, so there is about a one percent chance of this happening. Trading Victorino would be the biggest mistake as he's been arguably the Phillies best position player this year and still is under a very team-friendly contract through 2012.
Turning right around and trading Pence would be a gutsy move, and I would not be opposed to it in order to save money, but I can't picture that happening either.
At this point, with his contract, Howard is pretty much untradeable and probably has negative value. The Phillies would have to add significantly more than the $22 million they gave to the White Sox in the Jim Thome trade. In addition, using Mayberry as a first basemen takes away his defensive value in the outfield.
Like Mayberry, I do not feel the Phillies would get good enough value in return for Domonic Brown. On top of that, a player like Brown, with his age, ability, and team control is needed for a team saddled with heavy contracts.
Even if the Phillies were going to trade him, what would it be for? Certainly not another position player. They are set with those next year. A reliever should not be needed as well, as they are fairly well stocked with young, ready players. A starter also should not be needed as four are already set in stone with Halladay, Hamels, Lee and Worley. Kendrick, Oswalt or Blanton will fill out the last spot.
If they do trade him, it would have to be for prospects. I think they'd be able to get a top-25 prospect and more for him at least. I'd hate to give up Brown now, but depending on what who we could get in return, I may not be as heartbroken, unlike if they would have traded him for Pence.