Jun
28

A look at the unlikeliest of sellers

By

The trade deadline is, according to RAB’s visitor statistics, the most popular part of the season for baseball fans. In the week leading up to July 31st we frequently record single-day traffic records. (No day has yet topped the failed Cliff Lee trade day in July, 2010.) While there are many aspects of the trade deadline to love, one has always particularly caught me: there’s always a player who, before the season, we couldn’t conceive would become available.

Sometimes, if not oftentimes, that player is of direct interest to the Yankees. Heading into last season no one thought Ubaldo Jimenez would become available. He was seemingly a fit for the Yankees, since they could have used a pitching upgrade or three. But his price was too high, and as it turns out they were probably better off for having passed.

This year the landscape is a bit different. The second Wild Card will surely have teams holding off longer than normal before selling. Instead of trying to get top dollar in early July, teams might hold off until the final few days before trading players for prospects. But come deadline we can still expect a number of players to change teams. As usual, the Yankees will play the role of buyers.

Instead of some unexpected player becoming available this year, we might instead see an unexpected team playing the role of seller. It actually lines up well. They’re floundering this season, and play in a relatively tough division. Their farm system has been decimated in recent seasons due to deadline buying, so they could use any replenishment they can find. But what makes them ideal sellers is that they have the chips that can bring back a decent return. Yes, the Philadelphia Phillies could sell significant reinforcements to any contender.

Where they stand

For those who don’t keep up with the NL, the Phillies currently sit nine games back in the NL East, and 7.5 games back in the NL Wild Card. Most teams in that position, especially when they’re five games below .500, will get into selling mode around this time. They might not jump on the market early, as truly terrible team such as the Cubs might. But by mid-month you’d normally see their names cropping up in trade discussions.

At the same time, the Phillies could be in for a rally. They recently got Chase Utley back from the DL, after missing him all season. Another season-long absentee, Ryan Howard, is about to start a rehab assignment. Roy Halladay has missed significant time, but should be back soon enough. With those three replacing their inferior understudies, the Phillies certainly could make a run at the Wild Card, if not the division. That makes their selling position a bit tougher.

The obstacle

The largest obstacle in the way of Phillies and the sellers pool is the way they’ve operated the past few years. At the last three trade deadlines they’ve made significant trades. In 2009 it was Cliff Lee. In 2010 they picked up Roy Oswalt. In 2011 they traded for Hunter Pence. They also spent significant money in free agency the past few seasons. In signing Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Jimmy Rollins they’ve signaled that they plan to contend into the future.

If the Phillies’ spending and trade habits signal a focus on winning now and winning in the future, they become less likely to sell at the deadline. After all, a 10-game win streak in August can change everything. But the Phillies don’t have to mortgage the future if they’re to sell at the deadline. They have a number of players who might be gone after the season anyway.

Expiring contracts

You don’t need to tell a Yankees fan that Cole Hamels becomes a free agent after this season. Most of us have already imagined how the 28-year-old will look in pinstripes, providing a second lefty ace behind CC Sabathia. The Phillies have put on a public display of optimism regarding a Hamels extension, but it’s a near certainty that he’ll file for free agency. Can the Phillies afford to dole out another huge contract, with all the other ones they have on the books?

Hamels will cost plenty in a trade — think the return the Mariners got for Lee in 2010 — but he could be worth it. Not only does he add another high-end arm, but there’s always the chance that the team trading for him has the upper hand in signing him. The Yankees might not be interested in that, not if they’re truly after the $189 million goal, but you never know. With Andy Pettitte out at least six weeks, perhaps the Yankees will seek a high-end replacement such as Hamels.

There’s also Shane Victorino. My personal feelings for him aside, he could provide some production in the outfield should Brett Gardner suffer yet another setback. Victorino isn’t hitting quite as well as he did during the 2011 season, but his numbers are still decent. He can play the outfield well enough, and presumably could handle left field at Yankee Stadium. His price tag likely won’t be that prohibitive, and he’d be a true rental; there’s little chance the Yankees would explore a long-term deal with him after the Phillies already got his prime years.

(There’s also Joe Blanton, but I just can’t see the Yankees at all being interested.)

1.5 season trades

In addition to having a pair of attractive trade options with expiring contacts, the Phillies also have a few players whose contracts expire after the 2013 season. This works for the Yankees, since they’re free of any contractual burden during that key 2014 season. The Phillies will be less likely to deal these players, since they clearly aim to contend in 2013. But with a rough farm system, perhaps they’d be open for the right package of prospects.

Hunter Pence could help the Yankees in two ways. First, he could take over a corner spot this year in case Brett Gardner isn’t ready. Even if Gardner is ready, Pence is plenty valuable in any role the Yankees can find for him. Next year he could take over in right for Nick Swisher, giving the Yankees one more year to find a more permanent replacement. His numbers on the road this year, considerably better than his numbers at home, suggest that he’s not merely a product of hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park.

It sounds crazy, and I’m 99.9 percent certain the Phillies won’t even entertain the idea, but they could, if they so chose, deal Roy Halladay. He has a 2014 option that vests with 225 IP in 2013, and knowing Halladay he’ll reach that mark. He was ineffective this year, but if that was just a lingering injury, he could provide a year and a half of superb production. Even if the 2014 option does vest and the Yankees want to avoid paying it, they won’t have much trouble finding a trade partner. Again, I don’t expect this at all, but it’s one of those “so crazy the Phillies just might try it” things.

I’ve heard people mention the idea of trading for Cliff Lee. When first hearing that, I wondered why in the world the Phillies would trade Lee just so they’d have the money to sign Hamels long term. But then I remembered that Ruben Amaro once traded Cliff Lee so that he could trade for Halladay. Again, when you think, “that’ so crazy it might just work,” you have to immediately think of Ruben Amaro.

All of this is, of course, just thinking aloud. The Phillies, like the Yankees, don’t seem like a team that will ever truly become sellers. But this year is an odd one for Philadelphia, and they might take a step back now in order to build for 2013 and beyond. If that’s the case, it’s easy to see where the Yankees fit in.

Categories : Trade Deadline
  • 28 this year

    Question: Say Cliff Lee is available, do you pursue a trade? Say it will cost you one of Williams, Sanchez, or Banuelos plus spare parts? Probably a lesser package but the contract is in play. Do you pull the trigger?

    • Cris Pengiucci

      I think you have to. Unless, of course, the Yankees can’t figure out how to fit his contract into the $189M budget and ownership refuses to budge on that.

    • Rich in NJ

      I wouldn’t trade Williams or Sanchez for any pitcher.

      As for Lee, he makes way too much money. So unless the payroll is going up instead of down, no way.

      • Cris Pengiucci

        Cliff Lee is an elite pitcher that can help the Yankees win for a few more years going forward. Neither Sanchez nor Williams is even guaranteed to make it to the show. Yes he makes a lot of money, but if they have a plan that allows them to stay within their salary budget, then I think you have to go for it.

        • Murderers’ Row Boat

          Have you seen Cliff Lee pitch this year? He lived and died on pinpoint control, and he doesn’t have it anymore. Be glad the Phillies are stuck with him for $25 million a year.

          • Cris Pengiucci

            I haven’t seen him pitch this year, but a 1.81 BB/9 makes him look pretty good to me. He’s also giving up 0.96 HR/9. While these are slightly higher than his recent past, I’m not yet willing to say “he doesn’t have it anymore”. Depending on the package and what it means to the team going forward, I could see doing a deal.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          I think this is purely fantasy, since they’re not going to turn around and trade him after he took less to sign with them, but I’d do it.

          I’d rather the team decide whether they want to take their chances on Hammmmels in the off-season. Not paying twice for him. No way.

          I wonder what the “reasonable” price on Victorino is. Pence is intriguing, but giving up pieces just to move up the “who plays RF” question a year? Bigger fish to fry.

          • Cris Pengiucci

            You’re right, purely fantasy. The Phillies can’t expect a good package in return, so I’d be very surprised if they traded him.

            The problem with waiting on Hamels, however, is what is your backup plan if he signs elsewhere? If you’re going after him, you obviously are looking to make a big splash. Who else fits, Greinke? I’m in the camp of making a more guaranteed move.

            • Cris Pengiucci

              Garza too, I guess, fits in with Greinke.

              • BK2ATL

                I doubt if Cashman’s gonna give away anything of value for a FA-to-be after this year (Hamels/Greinke) or next (Garza).

            • Robinson Tilapia

              You’re assuming he sticks around if we trade for him (Hamels.) I’m not ready to make that assumption. All I know is that he throws lefty AND at Bryce Harper. He may test the FA market no matter what AND find a better taker.

              I’m of the belief they shouldn’t make any moves right now unless it’s obvious they have to, so I don’t have a backup plan. I was just talking the Lee fantasy scenario simply because we wanted him not that long ago.

        • Rich in NJ

          Jeter and A-Rod are approaching 40; Tex has been declining since 2009; it may be impossible to retain both Cano and Granderson after next season.

          Going forward, I am far more concerned about their position players than their pitchers.

        • Fin

          I wasnt a fan of the Yankees giving that contract to Lee when he was a FA. I’m less of a fan of taking on that contract and also having to give up prospects to get it. With that contract and the Year he is having, how much in terms of prospects would it cost to get him? I cant think there are many teams that would be in on him.

          • ROBTEN

            Beyond W/L and ERA, what about the “year he is having” says that Lee wouldn’t be an immediate force?

            I’m not advocating a trade, but there’s little in the numbers to indicate that Lee is not the same pitcher he’s been the past few years.

            • Fin

              I wasnt suggesting that he has fallen of the cliff. What I was asking is…What kind of prospects would it take to get Cliff Lee given his performance so far this year, that fact that hes 33, hes singed through 2015 with a vesting option that he will most likely reach for 2016 when you would be paying him 27.5m for his age 37 season. He’s 33 years old and most likely has ~$120m left on his deal. I would pass on that contract alone, let alone give up players to get it. THe question is given all the circumstances what will it cost in terms of players to get him? I really have no idea if its non prospects or top prospects.

        • Rainbow connection

          Lol

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Thanks for dropping by.

    • BK2ATL

      No.

      We’re winning without him right now, and his $25 million contract ruins both the $189 million 2014 target. It would blow up our farm system, which means a bleak future on a team with definite holes around the 2014 timeframe when Mariano, Soriano, Pettitte, Kuroda, possibly Jeter and one of Cano/Grandy may be gone. We’re already hamstrung with the A-Rod, CC, and Tex contracts. We’ll have to sign Cano and/or Grandy. The math doesn’t even add up for Lee or Hamels or Halladay.

      The Lee ship has sailed. We can win without him.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      I keep Sanchez but trade the other two. We don’t keep prospects on this team so use them for the best players out there, not the Michael Pineda’s.

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Guess as to what it would take to get Pence?

    • A.D.

      Figure they’d ask for what they gave up last year of top 50 + top 100 + 1 other prospect.

      What the discount should be for a season is, I’m not sure but I would guess you need to part with a Banuelos/Sanchez/Austin/Williams player

  • Murderers’ Row Boat

    The difference than years past is the Yankees actually have a farm system from which to plug holes. Had this been 2004, the Boss would have traded an entire minor league team for some mid to late 30’s starter.

  • Sweet Dick Willie

    as it turns out they were probably better off for having passed. (on Ubaldo)

    fixed

  • http://riveraveblues austinmac

    The Yankees have few upper level prospects which would bring much of anything in return. Their best prospects are very young and not likely to bring a great deal in return.I think, despite repetitive statements about the strength of the farm system,they don’t have the chips to make a big trade even if they wanted to unless they give up multiple Charleton guys and that would gut the future of the system.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Let the record reflect that I’m not necessarily an advocate for trading the low-A guys, but this year’s low-A darlings were the draft picks of one and two years ago. We could be having these conversations about Austin Aune, or whoever, in a year.

      I agree with the rest of your statement unless some franchise REALLY likes someone. Hopefully, who they really like is actually Sean Black.

      • Rich in NJ

        Except signing Williams cost $1.5m and Sanchez $3m. The new CBA has leveled the playing field. Finding that kind of talent is much harder.

    • Fin

      Yea, I made a coment about this the other day while discussing Carlos Gonzalez. Because the Yankees real talent is only in low A ball, it will cost them more to get a player than other teams with talent in AA and AAA. If Banuelos was healthy and pitching well, they would have one true big time prospect above low A ball that a trade could be built around. Without Banuelos any trade will be built around low A guys.

      • BK2ATL

        Baltimore, Detroit, Toronto, Texas, Tampa, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, SD and Arizona and KC off the top of my head have much better higher-level ready-to-contribute prospects.

        Some of those teams are in contention could use some of those prospects to make supplement their last season postseason push.

        We’re not there.

    • ROBTEN

      I have to think that this would probably prevent any trade with Philadelphia. I think they’d be looking for guys to plug in fairly quickly, given the age of their core players, rather than players that might help out three or so years down the road. Such a trade scenario would play out better with a much weaker core–the Cubs for Garza, say—or a team like the Pirates or the Astros, who are years away from contending already and can afford to look more long term.

    • BK2ATL

      Very very true. Seems like people want all of these big names, but don’t get that point.

      Like, for instance, Hamels/Greinke/Garza for the likes of Melka Mesa, Ramiro Pena and Ramon Ortiz types.

      EVERY conversation for one of those names will begin and end with names like Banuelos (AAA – DL now), Sanchez (A+) and Williams (A+). Maybe even Campos (A+ – DL now)and Montgomery (A+) now.

      • Fin

        Also what is the conversation rate? By that I mean, say the Yankees want to build a package around M. Williams, and another team has thier version of M. WIlliams but in AA or AAA. Would it take M. Williams plus Autin to = a AAA M.WIlliams on another team? We all loved getting Campos in the Montero trade and he was basically a throw in. It seems the Yankees top prospects are just too far away from the major leagues to get elite players for. As we all know, their is just so much that can go wrong between low A ball and the major leagues.

        • BK2ATL

          I guess that’s why the NY media hype around NY prospects is so successful. WE think these kids (Williams, Austin, etc.) are great and have a ton of value. Yet around baseball, their value is pretty limited, as they are still only in High A.

          Romine (AAA), Mitchell (AAA), Laird (AAA), Joseph (AAA), Marshall (AA), Betances (now AA) and Adams (AA) won’t bring back much of anything.

          • Fin

            Heh, High A would be better, unfortuantely they are in low A, but yea the Yankee system seems to have taken a huge step back this year. Betences cant even be considered a prospect at this point, Banuelos has struggled then got hurt, Romaine has missed the whole year. There really doesnt seem to be anyone to build a trade around. I’m not an expert but I dont think teams typically take low A players as the center of a trade for a top flight major leaguer. I do think they have plenty of decent disposable pieces to pick up salary dump players though, probably better pieces for that than most teams. Guys like Branyon, Cust, Cervelli ect.

  • Brian Cashman is Watching

    “At the last three trade deadlines they’ve made significant trades. In 2009 it was Cliff Lee.”

    I think this is wrong, Cliff Lee was traded to Texas, then in the offseason signed with the Phillies. But didn’t they get Roy Halladay in a trade?

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Joe Pawlikowski

      Trolling?

    • roadrider

      Lee was traded to the Phillies by the Indians at the July 2009 deadline. The Phillies then traded him to the Mariners in the off season and reacquired him as a free agent in the 2010 off season.

      If they didn’t have him in 2009 then how did he win 2 games against the Yankees in the 2009 WS?

  • yooboo

    Dodgers get Puig for 42m. wow. What does it mean to Andre Ethier whose contract is already set until 2017?

    Will 17m per season affect 2014 budget plan? It is all depending on how well young starting pitchers have progressed.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      Dodgers are just flushing money down the toilet these days.

    • BK2ATL

      They’re only at approx. $93 million for 2012.

      Right now for 2014, including Kemp, Ethier, and Kershaw (possible arb.), not including Puig, they’re still only at $76 million.

      They can go all in on Hamels and still have cap space.

      • Jonathan

        I’ve been saying this for awhile here with zero support, even before the MLBTR post, but I’d love to get Thome to platoon with Andruw. If Gardner doesn’t make it back bring up Dickerson but I don’t have any confidence in Ibanez and he’s really slowing down. Even when he was playing better than expected it was all based on pure power and some timely hitting. He wasn’t getting on base or hitting for average. Thome annihilates right handed pitching and would be a major offensive upgrade. With a healthy Gardner that’s a big upgrade all around and probably would cost very little. Perhaps if Brett doesn’t come back we pull a packaged deal for Victorino and Thome or if Gardner does come back but Hughes doesn’t keep this up ( I really really hope he does as he seems to be a different pitcher. He looks more focused and tough on the mound while throwing a bit harder and showing off 2 good curves. It’s a shame his cutter abandoned him but he hasn’t had this good of a curve+velocity in a long time) and the rest of the pitching doesn’t sort itself out we could go with Thome and Hamels. This is obviously just speculation and there’s a chance we don’t need Hamels or Victorino but i still would like to see Thome as our DH against RHP.

        • Jonathan

          Um…I have no idea how this ended up replying to you guys? My bad

  • Brian S.

    Phillies suck.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Y’all just change your screen names back after a day. Tisk tisk.

  • Ro

    Dang. People already saying Cliff Lee would be traded. That is exactly what I thought too. Only to the Detroit Tigers. Mark it down!