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The Phillies are supposed to be one of the major sellers in this season’s trade market. The club has declined steadily in recent years. They currently sit in the cellar of the NL East with a 42-54 record. The decision makers in Philadelphia have talked about trying to climb back into the race, but it’s probably too late to escape the inevitable – the glory days have passed.
Despite a poor record, the team possesses plenty of veteran talent to sell as mercenaries to the highest bidder. Cliff Lee returns from the disabled list on Monday. A.J. Burnett may be headed to the Orioles. Cole Hamels is perhaps too valuable to trade – just in case a rebuild goes faster than expected. Jonathan Papelbon wants to play for a competitor, but Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins prefer to exercise their 10-and-5 rights to remain in Philadelphia. Carlos Ruiz is recovering from a concussion. Marlon Byrd can block trades to four teams, one of which is the team that wants him. Those are just the most notable names among a plethora on offer.
As outside observers, we’re trained to look at this situation through a very simplistic lens. A bad team is supposed to trade it’s veterans for young players. A good theory, but it’s not always easy to put into practice. As we discussed earlier tonight, a guy like Lee might be hard to trade given his recent injury and contract status. The Phillies have to decide if a prospect package is worth more than Lee in a Philadelphia uniform. Even though the club isn’t competitive in the general sense, they’re still playing for a slice of their fans’ attention. Ratings and attendance will be better with Lee (and Hamels) on the roster.
With the exception of Hamels, none of the Phillies assets appear capable of returning the Grade-A type prospects needed for a quick turnaround. Mostly, they’ll have to acquire upside plays – guys who have potential, but haven’t yet actualized their skills. The front office has an iffy track record with such players; see the returns from Lee and Hunter Pence as examples.
Most of the veterans will still be Philadelphia property in the offseason, so the club isn’t under extreme pressure to make a deal. Their players will only be depreciated another half season. In some cases, a shorter contract could help their trade value. It’s probably a bad idea to play it fast and loose with players over 30, but it might be necessary if the right return isn’t out there.
Ultimately, trade talks are an issue of supply and demand. If those factors align, the Phillies will probably make at least one trade. If not, they may choose to stand pat, if only so some fans will continue to watch their few remaining stars. So…
For the second season in a row, the Cubs have drawn first blood in the pitching market. However, with apologies to Tony Campana, we’ve yet to see a major position player dealt this trade season. Last year, the first substantial trade of a position player occurred on July 8 when the Nationals acquired Scott Hairston from the Cubs. If you have a stricter definition of “substantial,” then the first deal involved the Yankees acquiring Alfonso Soriano on July 26 from (again) the Cubs.
Unlike the pitching market, there can be a lot more moving parts in the position player market. Every team can find a use for another starting pitcher, but the position player needs are often more focused to just a few potential buyers. We’ll limit our attention to 10 names and one per potential seller. Feel free to discuss alternatives like Aaron Hill in the comments.
It came as something of a surprise when the Padres retained closer Heath Bell at Sunday's non-waiver trade deadline. A pending free agent on a small-market club, Bell was considered the favorite among relievers on this July's trade market to find a new home.
However, no suitor could meet the Padres' asking price, apparently, which is reported to have been some player (or players) the Friars deemed to be of equal value to the two compensatory draft picks they'd receive in the offseason if Bell were to sign elsewhere after turning down arbitration.
The situation has grown complicated for the Padres, however, as Buster Olney of ESPN.com and Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com explained in separate pieces today. After the deadline, Bell said he'd accept arbitration if the Padres offered it to him, which would not be cost effective for a team on a tight budget. After all, Bell, 34 in September, could earn as much as $12-13MM in 2012 after another trip through arbitration.
The Padres also don't seem especially inclined to offer him a long-term deal — even at a discount — because he's said since Spring Training that he'd take one, and yet none has come to fruition. The others options are to trade him this month after putting him on waivers, which is not easy and compromises bargaining leverage, or to perhaps release Bell after going through arbitration if the price is exorbitant, a scenario put forth by Tom Krasovic of Inside The Padres.
If you're wondering about the fantasy ramifications of this situation, check out the post I wrote up today over at CloserNews.com.
Anyway, what would you do if you were the Padres?
In short, the Mets have new competition in their quest to trade their premium outfielder, Carlos Beltran, in the form of the Rays and Upton. Because of the complicated circumstances surrounding a potential Beltran trade, interest is shifting toward Upton, according to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
Beltran might be more attractive because he's a better hitter than Upton. However, questions remain about Beltran's defense in the outfield, as he's probably best suited for work in a corner spot. As well, he's a free agent at season's end, and his contract includes a stipulation that he may not be offered arbitration, meaning teams will be reluctant to part with top prospects for a two-month rental who won't yield compensatory draft picks. Upton, meanwhile, is a better defender, is a pure center fielder, and is under team control through 2012.
If you were a team searching for an outfielder, would you pursue Beltran or Upton?
Twins lefty Franciso Liriano is an intriguing potential trade candidate. It feels like he's been around forever, but he's just 27 and under team control through 2012, so he's still well within his prime years and relatively cheap for another season and a half.
Liriano's raw stuff is nasty, but the road back from Tommy John surgery in 2006 has been marked by notable highs and lows. He appeared to be fully recovered in 2010, posting a 3.62 ERA (2.62 FIP), 9.44 K/9, 2.72 BB/9 and 53.6% GB percentage. He's regressed in 2011, however, with his control (4.65 BB/9) being especially problematic.
Between Liriano's bouncing between dominance and mediocrity, and the Twins' uphill climb in the AL Central (eight games behind the Indians through today), it's quite possible that the lefty could be made available on the trade market this month. This came up in last week's MLBTR Chat with Tim Dierkes, who suggested that the Twins would probably recoup a top-50 prospect in exchange for Liriano, considering his age and contract status. (For reference, here are Keith Law's, Baseball America's and Baseball Prospectus' respective top-100 prospects for 2011).
The reasons to justify such a payment for Liriano are self-evident: His potential is huge, and he's been dominant for stretches in his career. But is it a no-brainer? Prospects are valued as highly now as they've ever been, and Liriano's inconsistencies are scary, as is his reliance on what may be an arm-taxing slider, as Eno Sarris of Fangraphs recently illustrated.
If you were a suitor, what would you do?
The Ryan Howard post yesterday sparked quite a debate. Now is your chance to see how your peers feel about his comments and contract renewal. Click here to vote on whether you feel he was out of line.
We’re trying something new here at MLBTradeRumors.com, a reader poll. Today’s question:
Was Michael Young‘s contract extension a smart move by the Rangers?
Click here to take the poll; you can also view the results.