Just as everyone was digesting the Marlon Byrd signing on Tuesday night, Fox 29's Howard Eskin on Twitter decided to drop this little bombshell on everybody.
Of course, that report was debunked by CBS Sports' baseball writer Jon Heyman this morning...
just to clear something up, #blueJays arent trading jose bautista for dom brown. not even close.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) November 13, 2013
Hmm. Hard to believe there would be conflicting reports and surprising rumors followed quickly by stringent denials. Yay Hot Stove! Let's just take this Dom Brown & others for Jose Bautista trade thing with a grain of salt, here.
I wrote about Bautista a couple weeks ago when dissecting potential outfield trade targets for the Phils and noted that trading for him has its positives and negatives. On the plus side, he's a right-handed power hitter who slugged 28 HRs last year and put up an fWAR of 4.2. He knows how to get on base (he led the league in walks in 2011 and posted a .358 on-base percentage the last two years) and would provide the Phils with an additional right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup. He's also relatively cheap by right-handed power hitter standards, earning just $14 million a season in each of the next two years.
The negatives are that Bautista has missed 114 games over the last two years and has seen his slugging percentage fall from .608 in 2011 to .527 in '12 to .498 last year. His isolated power numbers are also in free-fall, from .306 in 2011 to .239 last year. He'll be 33 next year and appears to be on the downside of his career.
Still, despite the negatives, a Brown-for-Bautista move could be a good one (if it's not bunk) depending on the pieces that would go with Brown.
But here's what Amaro has to consider. The Phillies have a commodity in Dom Brown. Last year's breakout season has made him highly desirable to other clubs, mainly because he turns just 26 next year and is coming off a season in which he hit 27 home runs, slugged .494 and posted an fWAR of 1.6.
It's understandable teams would covet a young, left-handed slugger that is just entering the prime of his career, and one who will cost only about a million bucks next year. Young, controllable talent, especially of the power-hitting outfielder variety, is a valuable thing.
Yet there are good reasons the Phils should consider trading him. If we have learned anything over the last few years it's that you are supposed to sell high whenever you can. And that is what the Phils would be doing with Brown. Remember that 12 of Brown's 26 home runs (46%) came in one month. Brown also missed time in 2013 due to Achilles soreness and a concussion he suffered diving for a ball in the outfield, and has had trouble staying healthy the last couple years. Some of those injuries were kind of fluky, but some were not.
Brown also isn't a very good defensive player and could become very expensive in the next few years as a Scott Boras client. It seems unlikely the team would be able to sign him to an extension in the next year or two. So, the time may never be better to dangle him out there and see what he could bring in.
However, trading Brown is a huge risk. Last year, he finally showed what he's capable of. He showed incredible power and his defense is improving. He's still very young, has only one full season under his belt, and could get even better as he gets more plate appearances. Not only that, the Phils already have so many older veterans on the team (one more since the Byrd signing), and it would be a huge risk to trade away one of the few good young players they have on the roster.
The Daily News' David Murphy last night mentioned one other thing to keep in mind. When you trade away Brown, you're not just trading him away. You're also trading away all the other players you might have been able to acquire if you traded him to someone else.
Brown could fetch a serious haul. Perhaps he could bring back someone better than Bautista. Perhaps he could bring back someone who isn't an aging veteran coming off two down seasons. Perhaps he could be part of a deal that lands the Phillies someone younger, like Matt Kemp, Carlos Gonzalez, David Price or someone else who may become available at the trade deadline later this year.
As Murphy said, if you trade Brown, you not only trade the player. You trade away the opportunity to acquire a better player or players later.
At the end of the day, it doesn't look like a Brown-for-Bautista trade is an actual thing that will happen. Nonetheless, trading Brown may be the best thing for the Phillies to do at some point in the near future. It's entirely possible Brown had one lucky month and will not be able to duplicate what he did last year. It's entirely possible he becomes too expensive for the Phils to keep in a couple years. And it's entirely possible someone might offer the Phillies a proposal that is just too good to turn down.
The bottom line is Domonic Brown is valuable. If Amaro and the Phils are going to trade him, they better make sure it's for the right piece.