It's no secret that most fans expect Ruben Amaro to be fairly active this offseason as he attempts to fill some gaping holes on the Phillies' roster. With skyrocketing free agency costs and the lack of real impact talent available at or below-market value, it's fairly safe to assume that the Phillies will be exploring the trade market this winter. Last week we asked you to vote HERE to rank the Phillies' top 10 tradeable assets. In addition to getting the reader input, 12 of the 16 staff writers voted behind closed doors, along with our occasional guest writer and esteemed prospect guru Matt Winkleman from Phuture Phillies.
Players were assigned ten points for every first place vote, through one point for a tenth place vote. The totals were added and then divided by the total votes to determine an average score. Aside from a flip-flop of Jesse Biddle and Chase Utley at the 5/6 spots, it's interesting that the top nine players were identical between the fan vote and the staff. Obviously some have more value than others, and a few players below have little, if any, chance of being dealt.
Let me be very up front with you about my ulterior motive. When I came up with my own list, I noticed an alarming trend. Most of the players in my rankings were either cost-controlled major league talent, or very close to the big leagues themselves. I had to be missing some young talent, right? Surely I was way off base. Nope.
The only player who received more than two individual votes who is expected to start the season below AAA was Roman Quinn. He was also the only prospect save Biddle and Franco on my own list as well. Interestingly, Quinn failed to make any of the three top ten lists (overall, staff or readers' poll). While this doesn't mean that Amaro won't try to move some younger talent (or Quinn himself in the right deal), it signals a reality that if the Phillies want to acquire top-level major league talent via trade, they will likely have to give up someone with a ton of potential, or someone who may actually already provide more value on the field than the player he's dealt for.
Simply put, It ain't gonna be easy, folks. So when a guy like Dom Brown or Maikel Franco or Jesse Biddle comes up in rumors, that's why. Now, without further ado, the Phillies' top ten tradeable assets:
1. Dom Brown (consensus #1 across the board)
When it comes to tradeable assets, it's really Dom Brown and a Bunch of Other Guys. There isn't a team in the league that can't afford him, and there isn't a team that wouldn't immediately ask for him in any trade revolving around an impact player. Frankly, his value may be at its apex. While Brown certainly had what many consider to be a breakout season, (first All-Star Game, 27 home runs, etc.), there are still a few warning signs (injuries, defensive lapses, a 252/296/429 split with a 3/1 K/BB ratio vs LHP, Scott Boras client, awful taste in football teams, and a preoccupation with a new puppy)* that leave Brown, in the right deal, far from untouchable. I expect Ruben Amaro to listen seriously to inquiries about Brown, especially if it brings in a white whale.
*Okay, so Wet Luzinski added those last few links while helping me edit this article.
2. Cliff Lee (consensus #2)
I had Cliff Lee ranked significantly lower than most on my list. My reasoning for this is simple. While teams covet a pitcher like Lee, the reality of his salary weakens his value as a trade asset considerably. Why? The only pitcher in baseball who put up more fWAR since 2010 is Justin Verlander. Lee has been a force, and is worth every penny of the $25mm the Phillies will pay him in 2014 if healthy. So unless the Phillies believe he can net them a huge haul of prospects who are ready to contribute at the major league level and provide roughly 6-7 wins per season in 2014, the return they would get is mitigated by the salary they'd have to pay someone. You trade a player like Cliff Lee if you're rebuilding, which isn't what the Phillies are doing this offseason. Nevertheless, he ranks this high for a reason. Teams will want him, teams will ask about him, and if someone is willing to send Ruben Amaro a prospect haul that he can turn around and use on the field in combination with securing other talent, he'll listen. But I've said this before and I'll say it again; finding a suitable trade partner for Lee to get the kind of talent that is necessary to recreate his on field value is going to be extremely difficult.
3. Maikel Franco (consensus #3)
In my mind Franco is the guy who has the biggest chance of actually reporting to another team's camp in February. He absolutely tore his way through the minors in 2013, and skyrocketed up the prospect rankings. There is very little chance that any major trade that takes place for an impact player this offseason gets done without including Maikel Franco or Domonic Brown. With Cody Asche also in the fold at 3B, and Ryan Howard blocking 1B for the foreseeable future, Franco becomes that rare player who, along with playing a premium position (3B) that other teams covet, he also plays a position that the Phillies can fill internally. Still, when you realize that seven of the Phillies' expected position starters for 2014 are lefthanded, and Franco hits righthanded, the real question becomes who's the guy you want to bank your future on: Franco or Asche? But make no mistakes, folks. His name will be prevelant, and there's a better than 50 percent chance he's traded before the deadline.
4. Cole Hamels (consensus #4)
Cole Hamels barely made my list for many of the same reasons as Lee. Still, there are people who feel he actually has the most trade value of anyone, and for me that kind of sums up the Phillies' predicament. Hamels and his contract are going nowhere; let's get that out of the way. Most of the names below him, however, have very little return value. If the Phillies bomb again in the first half of 2014, expect Hamels' name to start popping up in deadline trade talks.
5. Jesse Biddle (Overall #5 Staff #5 Readers #6)
Not counting J.P. Crawford, Biddle is the only first round draft pick taken by the Phillies since 2007 to make this list. And before you assume Ruben has already trraded them all, you should know that there are eight players who qualify for that distinction, and all of them (with the exception of Travis D'Arnaud) are still in the organization. Whether that's a testament to Biddle or a scathing indication of how poorly the Phillies have drafted near the top is up to you to decide, but when you consider that the two teams in the World Series have names like Michael Wacha, James Ramsey, Kolton Wong, Shelby Miller, Brett Wallace, Lance Lynn, Pete Kozma, Clayton Mortenson, Matt Barnes, Henry Owens, Jackie Bradley, Bryce Brentz, Anthony Raunado, and Casey Kelly occupying their first round selections those years? About half of those names would likely be at the top of this list.
Biddle is coming off of a strange season where he developed whooping cough after dominating in the first half, and his stock is down. Trading him now would be a bit of a sell low, but because of that, just about every potential trading partner will ask about him. He's also a big reason why Maikel Franco becomes that much more likely to be traded: Ruben loves his pitching. He loves his lefthanded pitching even more, and even though Biddle doesn't project as a top of the rotation guy, he'd be hard for Ruben to deal. But if Ruben wants to land the white whale, if it's not Brown and Franco at the top, you can substitute Biddle in pretty easily for one of them.
BEFORE WE GET ANY FURTHER, A CAVEAT:
Whether you believe the Phillies SHOULD trade for a guy like Stanton, or Price, or any of the other big names that will be bandied about, if one of those players, or someone like him is wearing red pinstripes, one of the names above (at least), is not. And should Ruben Amaro pull off some kind of miracle deal that nets a true impact player without sacrificing Biddle, or Brown, or Franco, or Lee? I will throw a parade in my living room in his honor, and you're all invited to join me.
6. Chase Utley (Overall #6 Staff #6 Readers #5)
The only two names in the top nine that had any disparity between the reader and staff vote were Utley and Biddle. If the Phillies decided to trade Utley (which won't happen, based on his contract, 10/5 rights, and recent extension) he'd still command a decent haul. When you consider the fact that the sixth most tradeable asset on the team is a 34 year-old second baseman with full 10/5 rights, a no trade clause, that made him, AAV wise, the second-highest paid second baseman in the game, it's a testament to just how much tradeable value the organization has.
7. Cody Asche (consensus #7)
Cody Asche is certainly a bright spot in terms of the Phillies' recent drafts. A fourth round college pick in 2011, Asche tore through the minors and found himself manning the hot corner for the Phillies by the middle of 2013. The fact that he's a 3B, a prime position void of free agent talent that's always at a premium on the trade market, only helps his trade value, and the reality of Maikel Franco beating down his door less than six months into the gig only strengthens that idea. It's extremely unlikely, barring a position change, that both Asche and Franco remain in the organization much past the middle of 2015, and ask two fans with knowledge of both which one should stay and which one should go and you're bound to get a different answer.
Yet Asche may be the most intriguing trade candidate in the system. As part of a package, Asche has the potential to yield a solid, if not unspectacular return, based just on his ability to play third base, and his tool set. That would be easier to do if Maikel Franco was ready. The biggest issue with moving Asche this offseason isn't his tradeability so much as his replacement. For example, would the Dodgers, a team in need of a 3B, see Asche as a potential stopgap piece until Cory Seager is ready? He's a guy that fits for them in a package, but also one that creates a troublesome hole for the Phillies in 2014 if he's dealt. In the end, one of Asche or Franco gets moved, but if it happens this offseason, it's probably not Cody playing somewhere else.
8: Ben Revere (consensus #8)
Ben Revere gets little love from most of you, trade-value wise. I had him fourth on my list, behind Brown, Franco and Biddle and ahead of Cliff Lee, yet I was in the vast minority here. So what I'm about to write is probably going resonate differently with most of you. For me, a 25 year old arbitration controlled center fielder one season removed from a 3 fWAR season, who likely would have gotten close to that production had he not broken his foot has a lot more value than he's given credit for. Yet close to 40% of the people who voted chose to leave him off their lists completely. Maybe that's got something to do with an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, or maybe I value his cost control and defensive skill set more than others. But if the Phillies decide to go after Jacoby Elsbury, or find that elusive right-handed hitter who can also play centerfield, Revere instantly becomes the most tradeable player on the roster. He may not necessarily be the one with the most return value, but he's certainly one who will yield a significant return. Then again, I'm one of those people who thinks Ruben absolutely stole this kid from Minnesota for Vance Worley and Trevor May.
9. Darin Ruf (consensus #9)
Ah, Darin Ruf: The 20th round pick who's either Roy Hobbs incarnate or the most overhyped figure in Philadelphia sports. I had very little hope for him coming into 2013, and I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with how he handled the transition to the majors. Still, he's something like 43 years old, and has no prospect pedigree, right?
Yet all this kid does is continue to prove people wrong, and all it takes is one GM to buy into the hype and believe he's for real and realize that if he can actually produce something close to a 250/350/490 line with 30 home runs and provide average defense at first base for $500,000 a year. If so, he's one of the best bargains in baseball compared to his peers. The rub, of course, is convincing someone of that, when your own GM comes out and says he doesn't know if he's a regular or not.
He's not an outfielder, that's for sure. And he's blocked at 1B. But he's a right-handed power bat on a team that needs right-handed power. So the reality here is that, unless he's packaged well, his value to the Phillies, even as a bench bat/occasional platoon partner for Howard, is likely much more than his value in trade.
10: Everyone else.
The staff votes for #10 was a tie between Cesar Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick (another guy who I think got a lot less love than he should have). The fans voted Papelbon and Bastardo (a guy I wish I had included on my original list).
Yet based on the sheer number of ballots that he was given exclusively in the 10 spot, the overall choice for number 10 is probably Roman Quinn. Had I done this last year this time, Quinn would have been a likely consensus top five, but his stock has fallen drastically due to injuries this season. For that reason, the ceiling is still such that if I put him in at 10 he's likely also the only player on this list who is untouchable - not because he's that special, but it would just be a tremendous sell low, and I think the Candle is poised for a serious first-half breakout in 2014.
As for the rest of the names above, well... If someone was willing to eat some salary, Papelbon would get moved pretty easily, and Kendrick has value at $6mm a year either to the Phillies (or to anyone else) as a fourth or fifth starter. At some point the Phillies need to decide which switch-hitting utility man, Hernandez or Galvis, they want more, although neither has the impact ability to garner much more than passing interest or be considered much more than part of a package. Bastardo is an interesting name, but he's more of the kind of player who would get moved mid-season if some of the younger arms in the pen reach potential, and he proves he's the same pitcher without "help."
A few random thoughts:
- I'd like to know who the heck Ruben keeps offering the Marlins for Stanton.
- There are a lot of guys not on this list who have value, of course. Shane Watson, Kelly Dugan, Severino Gonzalez... And it's likely that more players who actually are traded come from outside this list, in my opinion, than from on it.
- Losing the protected pick would have been devastating organizationally, because there is literally no way I can see this team adding enough pieces without trading, from free agency, to not end up with at least one, if not two free agents who accept qualifying offers.
- Yes, Ryan Howard got a vote. One. For ninth place.
All in all, after finishing this exercise I came away a lot less excited about this offseason than when I started. No matter how I look at it, just about any gain you make from a trade, based on where the majority of the real value is, is negated from the severe loss of that talent at the major league level. The activity you'll see this offseason will end up being more lateral than anything else, e.g., cost-controlled pitchers for a cost-controlled outfielder, lesser level prospects for a bad contract. Ugh. I'm getting sick to my stomach thinking about it.
Maybe Ruben has a rabbit in his hat I'm not seeing, but right now, if he can't do what he wants to via free agency, I'd put money on one of Biddle, Brown, or Franco being gone by opening day, and I'm not sure the return will be justified.
I wish I was more optimistic here. I'm just not.