Ruben Amaro Jr. couldn’t have liked what he saw in Atlanta this weekend and has now started start selling as Decision Day is here. We’ll take a look at who was traded, what they fetched and what we think of the trades.
Updated 5:00pm EDT 7/31/12
It appears that the reporting of trades has ended, after a trickle of last-minute deals – including the return to the National League of our old friend Chad Qualls – was reported.
The Phillies ended up trading Shane Victorino and within less than an hour, Hunter Pence too. We like the Victorino deal and don’t like the return on the Pence deal (see below), but also understand that there wasn’t a broad market for Pence and that holding onto him may have brought even more problems with payroll flexibility and less of a return at a later time.
It is quite surprising that the Phillies were not able to trade Joe Blanton, though again it looks like the market was limited to one team – the Orioles. Expect the Phillies to put Blanton on waivers and allow a team to claim him for the remaining salary owed (about $3 million). That team may yet be the Orioles, who seemed to want the Phillies to take on some of Blanton’s pay as they also offered practically nothing in return.
Also somewhat surprising is the absence of a Juan Pierre deal. Yes, Pierre is a defensive liability and isn’t necessarily worth a roster spot to just be a pinch hitter and pinch runner. It looked like the Reds were interested, and should have offered a deal once they were unable to land Denard Span from Minnesota, but maybe Drew Stubbs‘ Player of the Week honors and recent hot streak was enough to convince them to stand pat in the outfield and at the top of the order. It’s not clear that the Phillies would allow a Pierre waiver claim to go through, as he is a good clubhouse guy and may be a positive influence on the new young trio of outfielders – and letting him get claimed would only save about $300,000.
Also staying put – for now – is Ty Wigginton. Like with Blanton, expect Wigginton to end up on waivers and the Phillies not revoke the waivers if anyone claims him, since that would take them off the hook for the $700,000 owed in 2012 and the $500,000 buyout of the 2013 option.
Updated 1:45pm EDT 7/31/12
As we predicted yesterday (see below), Ruben Amaro played the Dodgers and Giants off each other, and has now sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco for Nate Schierholtz, minor league catching prospect Tommy Joseph and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin.
Joseph is the cornerstone of this package. He has very good power (8 HR 38 RBI at AA so far this year; 22-95 at high-A last year) and hits for a decent average and is only 21 years old. His catching skills are reported to be good enough to remain at that position as a major leaguer, though first base is also an option. No word on whether third base (think Todd Zeile, Joe Torre) is an option.
Schierholtz, 28, has the ability to be a terrific 2-hole hitter from the left side of the plate and is an upgrade over Pence in right field defensively. Schierholtz lacks power, but has the potential to hit .280-.290 – though he’s only managed .257 in platoon duty so far this season, and is a .270 career hitter. At worst, he’s a platoon option with John Mayberry, and under arbitration-fueled team control for the next 2 seasons. He’s earning $1.3 million this season.
Rosin has a big-time strikeout arm (170 in 156 minor league innings – mostly as a reliever), but is already 23 years old and only in high-A ball. He’s a longshot to be any better than a Justin De Fratus type – if he even makes it to the major leagues.
The biggest problem with this trade is that Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart were among the top 50 prospects in all of baseball (Singleton more of a top-30) and both were dealt for Pence last year, while none of the guys in this trade have nearly that pedigree. It turns out to be a very big price to pay for 2+ meaningful months of Pence and 4 meaningless months of Pence.
The next biggest problem with this trade is that the Phillies really should have gotten a top-30 prospect in CF Gary Brown – a Shane Victorino-type, but presumably kept asking and kept getting rebuffed until they decided to take what the Giants offered rather than hold onto Pence and either deal him for less in the off-season or pay him about $14 million in 2013 and possibly deal him exactly a year from now for a lot less.
On top of that, the Giants will almost certainly get a compensatory draft pick after the 2013 season, assuming they extend Pence a qualifying offer and he departs via free agency.
In the end, Pence’s trade value was not nearly as high as originally perceived, but the Phillies decided to pull the trigger now, regardless.
The Giants used their leverage well, and the Phillies now have both Joseph and Sebastian Valle as power-hitting catchers at AA.
Only time will tell.
But this is feeling more and more like the beginning of the end of an era, rather than a re-tooling for a run back up to the top in 2013.
Updated 12:02pm EDT 7/31/12
Shane Victorino, as we predicted yesterday, did in fact get traded to the Dodgers for right-handed reliever Josh Lindblom, along with minor league starting pitcher Ethan Martin, who was the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2008 (15th overall), but is now in his second year at AA at age 23, posting high strikeout (112) and walk (61) totals in 118 innings. Martin also offered the advantage of not being on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, so the Phillies did not need to designate anyone for assingment or move anyone to the 60-day DL despite the 2-for-1 trade. It will be interesting to see if Martin remains a starter in the Phillies’ system.
Lindblom, a converted starter, is 25 years old and is 6’4″ 240 lbs. He’s maintained nearly a strikeout per inning pace as a major leaguer in his second season – something the Phillies lack in their bullpen – but also has given up 9 home runs in his 48 appearances (over 47-2/3 innings) so far this season, which pushes his ERA to 3.02. Lindblom may step right into the 8th inning set-up role on the Phillies, though ideally he may be more of a 7th inning guy. He’s not arbitration eligible until 2015, so this is the type of player that fits well within the Phillies’ budget constraints in terms of productively filling out the team at low cost.
Reports are that Domonic Brown has been recalled from AAA and will be in the starting lineup in Washington tonight.
It’s expected that with Matt Kemp in center field and Andre Ethier in right, Victorino will lead off and play left field for the Dodgers, an organization which let Victorino go in the 2005 Rule V draft, where he became a fixture for the Phillies after they traded Bobby Abreu to the Yankees in 2006. It’s not known who will pick up Victorino’s $3.3 million tab for the rest of 2012, with the Phillies trying to stay out of luxury tax territory, but also wanting to acquire useful talent for 2013 and beyond.
Updated 10:10am EDT 7/31/12
Checking in on the non-Cliff Lee news, the predictions of trades we made yesterday are still potentially very much in line.
While there was a rumor of a Hunter Pence deal with the Giants yesterday, the Giants’ front office quickly denied it. There is nothing new on the Pence front, other than he’s still most often linked to the Giants – if he’s moved at all.
Shane Victorino interests the Reds, who are notorious bottom feeders – which is why we think they’ll end up with Juan Pierre instead. Victorino was also potentially linked to the Pirates, but the Phillies’ intended target – reliever Brad Lincoln – was dealt to the Blue Jays late last night for outfielder Travis Snider, nixing Pittsburgh as a Victorino destination.
So we’re back to the Dodgers for the Flyin’ Hawaiian, the organization which allowed him to leave for the Phillies via the Rule V draft. The Dodgers’ acquisition of former closer Brandon League from the Mariners creates just the kind of relief surplus that might allow the Dodgers to send Josh Lindblom to the Phillies – as we predicted yesterday (see below).
Joe Blanton was all but ticketed to the Orioles yesterday, but the Phillies apparently wanted the O’s to take on the $3 million still owed Blanton and also part with 2B-3B Jonathan Schoop, their #3 rated prospect coming into this season – but who is struggling with a .244 average in AA as a 20 year old. It would appear that the two sides will keep at it until either the Phillies pay out Blanton’s contract to get Schoop, dump the salary and get a much lesser return, or turn to another team to trade with.
There is no real news on any interest in Ty Wigginton, which might turn out to be a last minute thing or maybe even a post-waiver August deal.
Updated 10:00am EDT 7/31/12
We are 6 hours from the non-waiver trade deadline, and it’s almost disconcerting that the Phillies – for having had 6 names in play (the top 6 % likelihood players to get dealt from the list at the end of this article), 4 of whom will not be back with the Phillies next season – have not yet made a deal.
We will speculate that part of that revolves around the “Cliff Lee detour” that apparently took a lot of the front office’s time yesterday. There is no doubt that the Phillies and Rangers – along with perhaps a short list of other clubs – talked about a Cliff Lee trade. There is no reliable information on two important and interconnected issues regarding the likelihood of such a trade – which would be 1) whom the Phillies get back and 2) how much, if any, of Lee’s $95 million (moving to $110 million if the 4th year vests) the Phillies would be willing to contribute toward.
Our best guess is that in order to get back the high level of prospect (Mike Olt?) that would motivate the Phillies to trade Lee, they would have to pick up not only Lee’s 2012 ticket (about $7 million) but also the $12.5 million buyout if the 2016 option doesn’t vest – for a total of nearly $20 million. Before you consider that sum outrageous, keep in mind that Lee’s 2011 salary was a ridiculously low $11 million, so in order to even things out to where Lee gets a market salary on the remaining contract, the Phillies will need to pony up at least $10 million to have other teams even consider adding the rest of Lee’s money, let alone parting with a prospect.
The other potentially complicating factor with dealing Lee to the Rangers is that we think the Phillies are not completely sold on Mike Olt as a 23 year old playing AA and striking out a lot. No one wants to trade a Cliff Lee hoping for a Mike Schmidt in return, only to end up with a Mark Reynolds instead.
It’s no secret that the Phillies – along with maybe a dozen other clubs – covet Padres third baseman Chase Headley. We are speculating that a Lee deal is so complicated with not only the money flow and prospect flow, but also that it’s quite likely a three-way deal intended to flip prospects to the Padres for Headley. In other words, a Lee deal is very unlikely before the deadline.
After asking in our Phillies Notebook just this past Thursday whether the mojo was back, we got the answer over the weekend from Atlanta – a resounding “NO!”
As a result, it’s expected that the Phillies will deal players who don’t fit into their plans for 2013 and beyond.
Who’s on the block (and PhillyPhanatics.com’s take on the chances they’ll be traded):
Shane Victorino (95%)
Joe Blanton (90%)
Juan Pierre (80%)
Hunter Pence (75%)
Ty Wigginton (50% – still likely in August)
Cliff Lee (10%)
Roy Halladay (2%)
Jimmy Rollins (1%)
Laynce Nix (1%)
Chase Utley (.1%)
Placido Polanco is on the DL and might be traded in August, depending on his health, whether he gets through waivers and other teams’ needs.
Here’s a look at a slate of deals we think could happen:
Juan Pierre to Reds for J.J. Hoover
Joe Blanton to Red Sox for Daniel Nava and a marginal pitcher from A or AA ball.
Ty Wigginton and a knuckleball catcher’s mitt to snare pop ups and hard ground balls to Nippon Ham Fighters for a bento box. Actually, he seems like an Oakland type of guy. Phils will have to pick up his 2012 ticket and the 500K buyout to get anything in return.
Stay tuned over the next 24+ hours…