With a big weekend series against the Braves starting tonight the Phils find themselves with a chance to pull within 6 games or so of a WC berth with a sweep. They've gone from sellers to "Oh no don't be buyers" in a week, and smart fans everywhere are calling for RAJ to be locked in a closet till thursday for fear of selling the farm. and while the idea of trading prospects when your 9 games out of a playoff spot, and sub .500 for the first time in nearly a decade at this point in the season may be a bit irrational, you have to ask one question:
Does the trade make the team better, and do you fill a need now that can't be filled later?
For the Phillies, that need is 3B, regardless of whether we buy, sell, or hold, that's the need. The question is whether we need to do it now, whether there's a better option, or if we can hold off.
It wasn't always this way though.
In 2008, the Phillies won a world series with a team built primarily from within. All but three of the starting 9 (Werth, Victorino, Pedro Feliz) were fairly cost controlled home grown in the prime of their career talent, and the World Series MVP (Cole Hamels) was 24 years old, and made $500,000. The team payroll was just south of $100 million by my count, and there were two players (Burrell and Howard) making north of 10mm per season.
It took this core team (with a few additions along the way from various scrap piles) almost 4 years together to reach the post season, but once they got there, man was it a ride. It seemed like every position on the field had a cost controlled all star caliber player.
Except 3B. Mainly because the last 3B to be developed through the organization worth his salt was Scott Rolen, and the team had a middle IF tandem in Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, who bucked the traditional defense first philosophy at the positions. We could afford to sacrifice offensively at 3B for a defense first guy like Feliz (and later, Polly)
Those teams were offensive juggernauts, built on the long ball and the Utley/Howard middle of the order bang for your buck. But a funny thing happened along the way.
The core got older, and more expensive. We traded a ton of prospects for elite pitchers, The team payroll almost doubled, and the farm system shriveled.
This culminated with the Hunter Pence trade last summer, when we gave up a ton of cost controlled future talent for a chance at another title, with basically a 100% chance of making the postseason.
It was one of, if not the most short sighted trades in the history of the franchise, and may end up being the dumbest, based on what the talent given up projects to, and has been doing this season in the minors. Jonathan Sigleton and Domingo Santana will haunt my dreams for years. But just because we made a bad deal, doesn't mean we should make another deal. Just because we overpaid doesn't mean its not something that shouldn't ever happen.
And the fact remains that going back to the Joe Blanton deal in 2008, NOT A SINGLE PROSPECT traded would be a solution now, or next year to fill the gaping hole at 3B. We'd simply have a few more chips to work with, and while the team has altered their draft strategy slightly the past two years and taken a shot on a few possible 3B prospects, the closest available is Cody Asche, who was promoted to AA a month ago.
So someone has to play 3B next season. After the jump, we'll discuss the options.
So there's been a ton of discussion around Chase Headley recently, and before I go there, I want to start with a caveat. I HATE TRADING PROSPECTS. I really do. But sometimes you don't have a choice. And I'd want to exhaust every option first before doing it. so here are the facts.
1. Someone has to play 3B next season.
2. that person has to come from 1 of three places. internal, free agent, trade.
3. Ideally that person should be more valuable on the field than what we pay him in a perfect world.
The internal options are pretty self evident.
Placido Polanco: played 132 games in 2010, 122 in 2011, and has seen the field in just 82 of the 99 games this season.
Freddy Galvis: may or may not have needed PED's to put up a whopping .617 OPS with a .254 OBP and a 4/1 KK/BB ratio in 58 games this season. also, hes played 1 game at 3B his entire professional career, at Clearwater in 2009.
Michael Martinez/Kevin Frandsen/ Mike Fontenot: Really?
Cody Asche: 29 games at AA, and while hes heated up recently, he's still not quite at a years minor league service time.
Ty Wigginton: 4mm worth of booted pop flys, but hey, he can delivery a baby in a pinch.
WINNER: TY WIGGINTON
And sorry guys but I refuse to address the move Rollins or Utley to 3B baloney. You get points for creativity, but its a dumb idea, never happen, don't bring it up.
Ok, so we're at Wigginton. Cool. Now lets talk free agent options.
With free agency you basically have two choices. Pay a lot for someone who's team can't afford them anymore, or take a risk on someone having an off year, someone older, or someone that you think may rebound. Here's a LIST of all the free agents for 2013 sorted by position.
editors note: One thing to remember about free agency is its rare that you will sign anyone worth their salt, at a premium position for 1 year, and even rarer to pay below or even true market value. so figure 2-3 year deals at the minimum.
Anyone tickle your fancy? Like, better than Wigginton?
Me neither. WINNER: TY WIGGINTON
By the way, check out the OF's on that list and commit it to memory.
So lets talk trades.
Trades are pretty simple really, and are broken into two categories. Major league talent for ready prospects, or prospects for proven talent. The issue is delving into the players to target that teams may be willing to give up and matching up their needs to your assets.The key in all this is to not cripple yourself today or tomorrow. For instance, even if someone were willing to trade for Chase Utley, if you dealt him for a 3B, now you have the same problem at 2B. It's a vicious circle. In addition, in a perfect world, we'd make a deal for Evan Longoria and problem solved. But if you think the Rays are gonna talk about Longo then we've got bigger problems with your warped sense of reality.
In terms of ML talent there are currently three assets on the team that are tradeable right now, who could possibly net a 3B. Victorino, Pence and Lee. Of the three, Pence is the most likely to be traded, and Lee is the most likely to net Mike Olt, But trading Lee would be a bad idea for a number of reasons not worth getting into here.
Mike Olt, Nick Castellanos, maybe Pedro Alvarez (if the Pirates could find a suitable replacement) are all possibilites. Aside from those three, the pickings are slim and I can't find another option out there. If anyone has a suggestion let me know.
But here's the rub. Detroit isn't selling, Olt is gonna be hard to get for Pence, based on the Rangers pitching needs, and Pittsburgh, while interested in Pence, has made no indication Alvarez is available. But if he is, he'll be traded NOW, not in the fall. The Buco's are in win mode. The caveat here is that they're also ahead of us in the standings. RAJ may be hesitant to deal Pence to Pittsburgh (or to anyone) if he thinks we have a shot this season. In addition, the Pirates would have to deal for a 3B or do something to replace Alvarez. Very complicated, but doable.
In addition, Pence will still have value in the fall.And if you look at that link of FA OFs above, he's very replaceable, and the OF market is strong. Very strong. So strong that there will be someone available at below market value.
So unless the Pirates are willing to trade Alvarez, Ty Wigginton is still your 3B.
Which brings us to the last option, trading prospects for ML ready talent.
In this scenario you identify possible available options both today and in the offseason. For me that's a short list of three players.
Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, and maybe Pedro Alvarez again.
Sandoval is an offense first guy who may or may not show up bigger than Prince Fielder to camp. San Francisco has grumbled about dealing him because of his weight. conceivably the price tag would be as high if not higher than Headley. And their in the hunt, and wont move him now for sure.
Alvarez we've discussed. definite option but is he available, and really, can you imagine the backlash from the WIP crowd if we traded Pence for Alvarez? (though I like the idea).
So that brings us to Headley
Imagine what he'd do at the Bank? The price is gonna be steep though, right? But San Diego wants to move him, and unless the Yankees jump in, the other suitors (Batimore, Oakland, possibly Pittsburgh) are not teams with winning track records or history of paying money in recent years. They're mostly cheap, and unwilling to dip into their prospects. So really how much will it actually cost?
The key is giving away the right balance of prospects here, followed by (or concurrent with) dealing Pence to restock a bit, or replace himself (think Starling Marte).
But the facts are pretty simple. If we don't trade for Headley, or a 3B prospect by July 31st, TY Wigginton will be your best option at 3B in 2013. Cause Olt will be gone, Headley will be gone, Alvarez won't be available, and Pablo Sandoval is a big fat piece of crap.
Unless of course, Sandy Alderson doesn't pick up David Wrights option. Then he'll be ours for 5/100mm.
Cause thats who we've become.
I hate the idea of trading more prospects. It makes my skin crawl. But it would be shortsighted to look at that idea in a philosophical vacuum. Just because we're behind, doesn't mean we shouldn't buy. We have a tendancy to grade a trade based on return, and value, and cost effectiveness, etc.. but the common tenant of every good trade is simple.
The team made it out of a need. Not a want, a need. We didn't need a RH bat last year, but we paid out the nose for one. This is different. We need a 3B. Badly. And no matter who it is, we have to pay for him somehow.
A trade is the best option, and the price is what we'll pay. But the worst thing we can do is avoid the situation, and worry about it in the offseason. Cause there's no one there worth paying for. I've outlined a few options, and maybe Headley doesn't work. Maybe I'm missing someone else, but the point here isn't to say we have to trade for Chase Headley, the point here is this.
IF WE DON'T TRADE FOR A 3B, THE BEST OPTION IS TY WIGGINTON AND THAT WOULD BE HORRIBLE.
Ty Wigginton. Remember this come April.