Scouting The Trade Market: Phillies’ Position Players

Yesterday we looked at the pitchers the Phillies could offer at the trade deadline, and they have two gems in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now let’s look at the position players. Philadelphia doesn’t have any impact position players to trade — Chase Utley has already said he would use his no-trade clause to remain with the team — but they do have a few usable pieces. Here are the potential fits for the Yankees.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

OF Marlon Byrd
The Yankees have zero right-handed power right now. Their righty hitters have managed 16 homeruns in 99 games this year, six of which were hit by the departed Alfonso Soriano. Unless switch-hitters Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Chase Headley are facing a southpaw, the team’s best power threat from the right side is Zelous Wheeler. That’s not good and adding some right-handed firepower to the lineup is a clear need leading up to the trade deadline.

Byrd, 36, is currently hitting .266/.319/.480 (120 wRC+) with 19 homers this season, one year after resurfacing with the Mets (and Pirates) and going deep 24 times. He was very nearly out of baseball in 2012 — Byrd had a 27 wRC+ in 153 plate appearances that year before being suspended for a failed performance-enhancing drug trade — but he reinvented himself as an all-or-nothing slugger following that season. Byrd basically swings from his heels all the time now, and the result is a lot of power (.214 ISO this year, .220 last year, .151 career) and a lot of strikeouts (28.7% this year, 24.9% last year, 18.9% career).

There is a tangible reason for Byrd’s transformation as a hitter (both Jason Collette and Jeff Sullivan have written about it more in depth) and his performance this year is right in line with last year. He is hitting a few more fly balls in general but his 16.7 HR/FB% is the same as last year (16.6% in 2013, to be exact). His plate discipline stats are roughly the same and his .337 BABIP is actually lower than last season’s .353 mark. After nearly 1,000 plate appearances, I think it’s safe to say Byrd’s swing hard all the time style is conducive to a high BABIP. If you’re willing to live with the strikeouts — the Yankees as a team have the fifth lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 18.4% — he’ll give you plenty of right-handed thump.

The Phillies signed Byrd to a very reasonable two-year contract worth $16M over the winter (there’s also a vesting option for 2016 based on plate appearances) and he is in demand at the trade deadline. The MLBTR archives show the Royals, Mariners, and Reds are among those interested in acquiring him. The Yankees are not included in Byrd’s four-team no-trade list according to Jim Salisbury, and he would fit nicely as the team’s everyday right fielder/number six or seven hitter. The Mets traded a half-season of Byrd for a Triple-A reliever (Vic Black) and a good but not great Single-A prospect (Dilson Herrera) last year, though I suspect the price will be a big higher this summer because he’s shown his resurgence isn’t a fluke.

(Mitchell Leff/Gett)
Mayberry. (Mitchell Leff/Getty)

1B/OF John Mayberry Jr.
Don’t want to pay the price for Byrd? Fine, the 30-year-old Mayberry is a cheaper alternative. He is currently hitting .213/.304/.418 (104 wRC+) with six homers in 138 plate appearances overall, including .255/.339/.582 (155 wRC+) against lefties. Over the last three seasons he’s managed a .259/.314/.498 (120 wRC+) line against southpaws and only a .220/.286/.341 (73 wRC+) line against righties, so Mayberry is strictly a platoon option. Considering what the Yankees have gotten out of right field this year, playing him everyday might still be an upgrade.

A few weeks ago we heard the Bombers were scouting Mayberry and that makes sense. He’s cheap ($1.59M salary this year) and under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, plus he can play both corner outfield spots and first base in a pinch. A real live backup first baseman. Imagine that. We aren’t talking about a difference maker, just a nice role player. Mayberry would instantly become the team’s best right-handed power hitter and he should come relatively cheap — similar players like Scott Hairston and Justin Ruggiano cost nothing more than fringe prospects over the last calendar year. The Phillies placed Mayberry on the 15-day DL with wrist inflammation just yesterday, so a trade would either have to come in August or while he’s injured.

OF Domonic Brown
Remember all those Brown for Dellin Betances rumors? Those were fun. Last year the Yankees looked dumb for not making the trade (not that is was ever on the table, as far as we know) and this year they would be morons to doing it. Brown has been one of the very worst position players in baseball this year, hitting a weak .227/.279/.327 (66 wRC+) with six homers while playing awful defense in left field. That 66 wRC+ ranks 157th out of 161 qualified hitters. The raw production is slightly better than what Soriano (60 wRC+) gave the Yankees this year.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)
(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Of course, the 26-year-old Brown hit .272/.324/.494 (124 wRC+) with 24 homers and was an All-Star last season, when it looked like he was finally starting to turn his talent into results. Eighteen of those 24 homers came in the months of May and June though (12 in May alone), so over the last calendar year he has hit a soft .236/.292/.337 (74 wRC+) with only nine homers in 136 games. Brown is not a high-strikeout hitter (18.1% this year and 18.4% career) but he does struggle against lefties and is beating the ball into the ground this year. He’s a project. No doubt about it.

Buying super low on Brown as a reclamation project seems like a great idea, except he’s out of options and can’t go to the minors to work on things. At least not without clearing waivers, which would never happen no matter how poorly he hits. Someone would take a chance on him. Can the Yankees afford to stick him in right field everyday and hope hitting coach Kevin Long can fix whatever needs to be fixed? I’m not sure. The Phillies have been shopping Brown since the offseason and I don’t think acquiring him would be all that tough. I’m just not sure what the Yankees would do with him other than stick him in right and cross their fingers.

* * *

As I mentioned earlier, Utley has all but said he wants to remain with Philadelphia and would block any trade. Jimmy Rollins has indicated the opposite — he would be open to accepting a trade to a contender. I don’t think Rollins, who has played one-third of an inning at a non-shortstop position in his entire professional career, is a fit for the Yankees right now, but I fully expect a winter of Rollins-to-New York rumors after Derek Jeter retires. Get ready for it. It’s coming.

Catcher Carlos Ruiz makes no sense for the Yankees and don’t even bring up Ryan Howard. Did you realize he’s hitting .222/.302/.378 (88 wRC+) this year? Forget him. Just a name at this point. Left-handed hitting third baseman Cody Asche is hitting .256/.308/.401 (96 wRC+) with poor defense but is only 24, so that makes him kinda interesting. He wouldn’t help the 2014 Yankees all that much — they wouldn’t need him to with Headley now on board — but he might be useful in the future. Byrd and to a lesser extent Mayberry are good fits for a Yankees team in need of right-handed power. Both are available and both would make a lot of sense.

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Salisbury: Yankees scouting John Mayberry Jr.

Via Jim Salisbury: The Yankees have some interest in John Mayberry Jr. and had a scout at the Phillies’ recent series in Atlanta. He went 2-for-8 with two singles, three walks, and two strikeouts during the three-game set. Philadelphia has played well of late but still has the seventh worst record in baseball. Rumblings that they may finally sell and start to rebuild are growing louder and louder.

Mayberry, 30, had a huge year in 2011 (132 wRC+) that made everyone think he was the next great bench player, but then he dropped off to an 87 wRC+ from 2012-13. Mayberry is hitting .256/.363/.526 (147 wRC+) with five homers in only 91 plate appearances this season. He’s a right-handed bat who has always hit lefties (183 wRC+ in 2014 and 125 from 2011-13) and can play both corner outfield spots as well as first base. Imagine that, a real backup first baseman. Mayberry, who is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, would be a clear upgrade over the current version of Alfonso Soriano in my opinion.

Mailbag: Tanaka, Mayberry, Betemit, Setup Man

Got 12 questions for you this week, but some of the answers are really short. Like two sentences short. I also trimmed some questions a bit. A few were pretty long. Send us anything via the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar at any time.

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Paul asks: Does Masahiro Tanaka have a legit shot at Rookie of the Year this year? I’m still bitter about Hideki Matsui getting robbed.

Hey, you can make a case Matsui wasn’t robbed. He hit .287/.353/.435 (109 wRC+) with 16 homers as a bad fielding left fielder while Angel Berroa hit .287/.338/.451 (101 wRC+) with 17 homers as an average fielding shortstop. If you want to take fWAR/bWAR at face value (fine for something like this), Berroa edges Godzilla out (Berroa: 2.7/2.5, Matsui: 0.2/2.2).

Anyway, yes Tanaka has a legitimate shot at RoY this season. The last three RoY starting pitchers (Jose Fernandez, Jeremy Hellickson, Justin Verlander) averaged a 14-8 record with a 2.94 ERA (~143 ERA+) and 4.7 bWAR in 180-ish innings, if you want a performance benchmark. That’s doable but a sub-3.00 ERA in the AL East and at Yankee Stadium will probably take some luck. Tanaka is going to have some stiff competition in Xander Bogaerts and Jose Abreu (my early RoY pick), plus the voting has been skewed heavily in favor of position players these last ten years (13 position players, four closers, three starters).

Craig asks: How about John Mayberry Jr.? He could double as the fourth/fifth outfielder and first base back-up. If they are looking for a lefty we could eat Ichiro Suzuki‘s contract or send Brett Gardner and get some bullpen help.

Mayberry, 30, had that huge season in 2011, hitting .306/.358/.595 (157 wRC+) against lefties with a 132 wRC+ overall. He hasn’t hit much since then, just .259/.309/.481 (111 wRC+) against lefties and an 86 wRC+ overall. There was talk the Phillies might non-tender him earlier this winter, but they kept him for $1.59M instead. Mayberry can play first and the two outfield corners, but he’s a net negative on defense. His only redeeming quality is his power against lefties. There’s no way I’d trade Gardner for him — the Phillies have been looking for bullpen help all winter, so I doubt they’d kick in a reliever, and I’d need a great reliever to even out a Gardner-for-Mayberry swap — but a straight up Ichiro-for-Mayberry deal would make some sense given the current roster. You’d wind up the same replacement level-ish extra outfielder, just instead of doing it with defense, he’d do it with power.

Billy asks: What are your thoughts on Brendan Ryan coming in for Derek Jeter defensively in save situations? Obviously it should be done but does Joe Girardi actually do it?

Should this happen? Yes, absolutely. Will it? I don’t think there’s any chance unless Jeter shows he is completely immobile following the leg injuries. If that happens, the team will have a bigger problem to worry about other than simply replacing Jeter for defense in the late innings. If he’s not used a defensive replacement, I’m not sure how the team will use Ryan this year aside from giving Jeter and Brian Roberts the occasional day off.

Can't find a Betemit. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Can’t find a Betemit. (Rob Carr/Getty)

Roy asks: Should the Yankees take a look at Wilson Betemit as insurance for Mark Teixeira? Can Betemit stabilize the infield better than Scott Sizemore, Russ Canzler or Eduardo Nunez?

Did you know Betemit is still only 32 years old? He just turned 32 in November too. I figured he would 35 or 36 by now. Anyway, he missed almost the entire 2013 season due to a knee injury, and he only has 81 games and 515.1 innings worth of experience at first base in his career. Betemit has played a ton of third but the defensive stats crush him there, and he’s a switch-hitter who should be a platoon bat because he punishes righties (127 wRC+ since 2011) but can’t touch lefties (36 wRC+).¬†As a bench bat who backs up first and plays third base in an emergency, the 24th or 25th man on the roster, yeah it might work. It would be worth bringing Betemit to camp as a non-roster player, but I’m not sure he’s clearly better than Sizemore, Nunez, Canzler, or whoever else at this point.

UPDATE: Betemit agreed to a minor league contract with the Rays this morning, according to Jon Heyman. So scratch that idea.

Eric asks: Can and should the Yankees employ a six-man rotation this year or at least for part of it? You can lighten the load on Hiroki Kuroda and CC Sabathia, help Tanaka transition from pitching every seven days in Japan, and give the young arms a better look other than just Spring Training.

I feel like the six-man rotation idea comes up every offseason around this time. The obvious question is this: do the Yankees even have six starters worthy of a rotation spot? Do they even have four at this point? No one really knows what to expect out of Sabathia, Tanaka, and Ivan Nova in 2014. Taking starts away from your top guys for someone like Vidal Nuno isn’t a luxury a team like the Yankees can afford. They’re going to have to fight for a playoff spot, remember. Kuroda’s and Tanaka’s (and Michael Pineda‘s) workloads are going to have to be monitored, no doubt about it, but I don’t think a straight six-man rotation is the answer. It sounds so good on the paper, but successfully pulling it off is so difficult.

Michael asks: I’m trying to find out what Tanaka’s nickname “Ma-kun” translates to English as, but i’m not having any luck. Do you know what it means?

According to Jim Baumbach, “Ma” is simply short for Masahiro while “kun” is a familiar way to address an equal. Wikipedia says it is an old high school nickname that stuck.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jason asks: If I remember correctly, prior to being injured, there was an advantage to keeping Pineda in Triple-A until at least mid-May to push back his arbitration clock. Does that benefit still exist if the Yankees did that this year?

Pineda was the on the DL until the team activated him and sent him to Triple-A in early-July last year. He was down long enough to both delay his free agency and arbitration clock one year. Pineda will be a Super Two now (four years of arbitration rather than three), but they get to keep him for another season (through 2017) and that’s the important thing. They’ve already received the benefit and would have to keep him in the minors pretty much all season to push things back another year. If Pineda goes yet another year without pitching in the big leagues, it would be close to time to write him off completely.

Adam asks: When a player gets a non-roster invitation to Spring Training, what compensation does he receive?

Non-roster players don’t get paid anything during Spring Training. They get meal money and some kind of housing arrangement/allowance. That’s all. Guys on minor league contracts get paid a salary during the regular season only.

Dylan asks: Can you give an explanation for why pre-arbitration players don’t get exactly league minimum (i.e. J.R. Murphy‘s extra $2,700 on top of $500,000)? Thanks!

Most teams have a sliding salary scale based on service time for pre-arbitration players. Murphy was in the big leagues for a month, hence the extra $2,700. Teams can simply renew a pre-arb player’s contract for any salary as long as it is at least 80% of the previous year’s salary, but that’s a good way to get your players to hate you. A sliding scale based on service time (with adjustments for awards, All-Star Games, etc.) makes it nice and easy.

Anonymous asks: Would you guess Shawn Kelley is Opening Day setup man on this current Yankee roster?

Yeah, that’s the safe bet, but I wouldn’t count on him holding the job all summer. We’ve been spoiled these last few years by David Robertson. Here’s a quick recap of the team’s primary eighth inning guys from 2007-11, the five years before Robertson emerged.

Opening Day Setup Man End of Season Setup Man
2011 Rafael Soriano David Robertson
2010 Joba Chamberlain Kerry Wood
2009 Brian Bruney Phil Hughes
2008 Joba Chamberlain Joba Chamberlain
2007 Kyle Farnsworth Joba Chamberlain

Remember, Joba moved into the rotation at midseason in 2008. He only wound up in the bullpen late in the season after hurting his shoulder. Farnsworth took over as the primary setup man when Joba gave the starting thing a shot. Point is: don’t sweat who holds what bullpen role on Opening Day. They’ll all change. They almost always do.

Mike asks: Assuming it was allowed, how would you look at a Robinson CanoJacoby Ellsbury trade before the season starts? Would Ellsbury fit better with Seattle and would Cano fit better with NY than the way things stand now? Would either NY or Seattle have to throw in a player or pay part of a contract?

I completely understand why the Yankees didn’t match the Mariners’ offer to Cano, but there’s no doubt Robbie makes more sense for the current roster than Ellsbury. The team could go with an Alfonso Soriano-Gardner-Carlos Beltran outfield with Cano at second and a low-cost DH (or an expensive one like Kendrys Morales). The Mariners are going to let Dustin Ackley sink or swim in center this year while Nick Franklin slides into a utility role thanks to Cano, so they need the outfielder and not the infielder. Cano makes more sense for the Yankees, Ellsbury makes more sense for Seattle. I assume the Yankees would have to add another player to facilitate a trade (despite the salary difference) because Cano is the considerably better player.

Possible Trade Partner: Philadelphia Phillies

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

The Yankees are in a very dangerous place right now. Their glut of injured players are due to start returning in 2-3 weeks, but the current roster simply isn’t good and the team is fading fast. They’ve lost five straight and 21 of 33, falling to 6.5 games back of the Red Sox for first place on the AL East. They’re four back of a wildcard spot. It’s a deficit they can still erase with 81 games to play.

The re-injuries to Mark Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis (and Curtis Granderson to a lesser extent) should keep the Yankees from relying on the injured players too much. Even when guys start coming off the DL, there’s no guarantee they’ll help the offense. Heck, there’s no guarantee the team will even be close enough to the race for the lineup additions to matter. The season is half over and the Yankees need to start improving the offense — the time for patience has come and gone. They need help and they need it right now.

Over the last few days, we’ve heard them connected to both infielder Michael Young and catcher Carlos Ruiz. Those two aren’t the only Phillies who fit with New York though. In fact, the Fightin’s are a great trade match for the Yankees, and I’m not talking about Brian Cashman‘s white whale (Cliff Lee) either. Here are a few more fits.

IF Chase Utley
Once one of the very best players in all the land, age and injuries have reduced Utley to a merely above-average player. He’s hitting .284/.348/.517 (138 wRC+) on the year, and that is broken down into a 144 wRC+ against righties and a 123 wRC+ against lefties. The rebound against southpaws is nice to see after a few years of below-average production. Utley is a left-handed power hitter who draws walks (8.5%) and doesn’t strike out much (14.7%), and it’s worth noting that he’s also one of the very best base-runners in the game. I’m not necessarily talking about bulk stolen base totals, but being a high-percentage base-stealer and going first-to-third on singles, stuff like that.

Utley is owed approximately $7.5M through the end of the year and is due to become a free agent after the season, so he isn’t exactly easy on the wallet. He is cheap relative to his production, however. The Yankees are being reimbursed for a big portion of Mark Teixeira’s salary by … someone. Either the World Baseball Classic or insurance, depending on who you believe. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter who pays them back. It’s a big amount of saved salary that will more than cover the last few months of Utley’s contract. The money really isn’t the problem.

The Yankees have no need for a second baseman and Utley tried and failed to transition to third before the season, but first base is a viable alternative. He played a handful of games at the position earlier in his career, so it wouldn’t be completely foreign to him. Lyle Overbay turned into a pumpkin sometime in mid-May and Utley would be a fantastic replacement. Playing first would require an adjustment though, an adjustment and his willingness. Utley has ten-and-five rights and can veto any trade, so he’d have to be okay with leaving from the only team he’s ever known for the Yankees at a time when more legitimate contenders like the Orioles, Athletics, and hometown Dodgers figure to show some interest as well.

For what it’s worth, GM Ruben Amaro Jr. told Ryan Lawrence he would be open to moving Utley if the circumstances dictate a trade. “Even though he might be the most popular player, if there are things we have to do with some of these popular players that are going to make our club better, then we have to keep our minds open,” he said.

Frandsen. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Frandsen. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

IF Kevin Frandsen
With all due respect to certified baseball player Jayson Nix, the 31-year-old Frandsen is a way better utility infielder. He’s a career .269/.328/.372 (88 wRC+) hitter in the big leagues but has found a home in Philadelphia, hitting .320/.382/.448 (129 wRC+) since joining the Phillies last year. The right-handed hitter does most of his damage against lefties (169 wRC+), which fits well with New York’s needs. Frandsen won’t steal bases or draw walks (5.5%), but he won’t strike out either (9.0%). Even if he has been playing over his head these last two years, he’d still be an upgrade over Nix if he reverts back to his career averages.

Frandsen plays first, second, and third bases regularly, but he hasn’t seen time at shortstop since 2009 and has only played there sparingly as a big leaguer. He has played short in the minors over the years — 25 games there as recently as 2011 — so it’s not something that is completely off the table. In fact, he’s played short about as often as Nix did prior to coming to the Yankees. Frandsen is a flat-out better player than Nix and would be an upgrade to the bench even if all the healthy guys return perfectly fine. As an added bonus, he is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2015.

OF/1B John Mayberry Jr.
Mayberry, 29, became a platoon darling after cracking Philadelphia’s roster full-time three years ago. He’s a righty bat who’s hit .278/.302/.490 (116 wRC+) against lefties this year with a 130 wRC+ against them the last three years, basically since breaking into the league for good. His numbers against right-handers — 102 wRC+ this year and 91 wRC+ since 2011 — aren’t great, but they aren’t disastrous. Mayberry will draw some walks (7.7%) and he will strike out a bit (21.6%), which isn’t surprising.

Mayberry. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
Mayberry. (Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

Despite his size — he’s listed at 6-foot-6 and 225 lbs. on the team’s official site — Mayberry is a really good athlete who can legitimately play center field as well as the corners. He’s not a great defender in the center, but he can do it. Mayberry has also spent a bunch of time at first base, making him an ideal platoon candidate. He could partner with Overbay (or Utley!) or the outfielders on any given day depending on who else is in the lineup. Mayberry will be arbitration-eligible for the first time next year and remains under team control through 2016.

* * *

It’s hard not to dream about a blockbuster trade that sends Young, Ruiz, Utley, Frandsen, and Mayberry to the Yankees. That would shore up the corner infield spots, the catcher position, and bench in one fell swoop. Trades that big are complicated though, plus the Phillies have yet to decide to sell. They seem very tentative at the moment, but remember, they took the plunge and traded away Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence at the deadline last year. They made be tentative, but they have shown they will do it.

As for the asking prices … who really knows. They traded Victorino and Pence for prospects and okay young-ish big leaguers, but that doesn’t mean the same will be true this year. One thing I do know is that they won’t want rental players like Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. That defeats the purpose of selling. Adam Warren? Ivan Nova? Zoilo Almonte? The Phillies always target toolsy up-the-middle athletes in the draft, so would Mason Williams or Angelo Gumbs pique their interest? We have no way of knowing. All we do know is that the Yankees have a ton of position player needs and Philadelphia has several players who would fill those holes.