Not a lot of things have gone the Phillies' way this season. But the news yesterday around the Majors suggests the Phils may benefit from the bad luck of other clubs this month.
The Yankees have lost their best starting pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, to the disabled list for at least the next two weeks, and Tanaka is back in New York ready to undergo an MRI as well. The Yankees were already in the market for a starting pitcher, having previously lost CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova for the season to injury.
Now, the team with the $197 million payroll is suddenly looking at a rotation headed by Hiroki Kuroda, with David Phelps, Brandon McCarthy, Chase Whitley and Shane Greene. Not only that, but...
So if you are scoring at home: Tanaka to DL, Gardner and Beltran both scratched from lineup. Is this just a bad day or D-Day for #Yankees— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) July 9, 2014
New York is hemorrhaging players, yet they are 46-44 and just 3 games out of first in the American League East. With a payroll as high as theirs and nothing in the cupboard to sell, it's likely New York has become even more desperate to buy a quality starting pitcher and/or some outfield help.
The Phillies just happen to have all five starters - Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez - all available, to varying degrees. Not only that, pretty much every outfielder on the roster is acquirable for the right price, too.
The Yankees don't have a lot in the farm system to offer, but there are a couple names that are intriguing. Reliever Dellin Betances is going to the All Star Game and has a 1.55 ERA in 52.1 innings, with 79 strikeouts and 16 walks this season. Any deal for Lee or Hamels would probably have to have him at the top of it, although New York has said he is not available.
Of course, that was before the Tanaka news.
Two other intriguing names from the New York system are catcher Gary Sanchez, their top prospect according to Baseball America, and outfielder Aaron Judge, who entered the season as their #6 prospect. But in 78 plate appearances at high-A ball this season, the is 22-year-old is hitting .246/.410/.492, with 3 HRs and 15 RBIs, and a 20.5% walk rate. That's after hitting .333/.428/.530 in 278 PAs in Low-A ball this year, with 9 HRs and 45 RBIs.
Then, there was this nugget.
If Tampa does decide to keep Price, suddenly Hamels and Burnett (as well as perhaps Lee) become far more intriguing for teams desperate for a top flight starter.
Hamels would immediately become the top starter "available" (and he's only available in the sense that the Phillies would listen to offers on him but would probably need to be blown out of the water to deal him), with Boston's Jon Lester right behind. Lee will have three starts to prove to teams that he's healthy, and although many general managers would probably like to see more than just three starts from him before acquiring the left-hander, the absence of Price from the market could force teams to roll the dice on Lee. If he pitches well before the deadline.
Lee pitched last night for Clearwater in his second rehab stint.
Cliff Lee is done: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. Some bad defense hurt him. He'll pitch at Clearwater again Monday.— Matt Gelb (@magelb) July 10, 2014
Lee will likely make one more rehab start before joining the Phils' rotation. Meanwhile, San Diego's Ian Kennedy, Houston's Scott Feldman, Boston's Jake Peavy and Colorado's Jorge De La Rosa are all said to be available, too. All are good middle-to-back rotation arms, with Kendrick and Hernandez in the next tier below.
Circumstances outside their control could be helping the Phillies right now, which would be a nice change of pace given how their 2014 season has gone so far.
Papelbon Looking For The Door, Utley Not So Much
After closing out the Phils' 4-1 against the Brewers last night, their third straight win against the best record in the National League, Jonathan Papelbon lowered his ERA to a miniscule 1.24, with a 0.853 WHIP. He now has 22 saves and, despite a fastball with diminished velocity, lowering strikeout rate, and other peripherals that seem to defy his actual results, he has been one of the league's most dominant relievers.
And, if the situation warrants, he's ready to move on to a contender.
"Of course, what kind of question is that?" Papelbon responded when a reporter asked him if he'd be open to a trade. "Some guys want to stay on a losing team? That’s mind-boggling to me. I think that’s a no-brainer."
That seemed to be a shot at Jimmy Rollins, who has repeatedly said he wants to stay in Philadelphia, and Chase Utley, who once again reiterated on Wednesday that he doesn't want to go anywhere either.
"I still have faith in this organization," Utley said. "We can turn it around and get back to the level we were once at."
Papelbon and Utley are in far different positions. Paps was brought aboard as a free agent hired gun before the 2012 season, with the intention of him closing out games for a playoff contender. That clearly hasn't happened. Utley, meanwhile, is the team's Derek Jeter and just re-signed with the team last year to a two-year deal with three vesting years to follow.
The Daily News' Ryan Lawrence posted the full Q&A with Papelbon after last night's win, which indicated his no-trade clause wouldn't be an issue, and that he would be willing to accept a trade to another team, like the Tigers.
There are teams in the market for a closer. Baltimore is relying on the inexperienced Zach Britton to close things down, Detroit is still running Joe Nathan out there, the Angels have youngster Joe Smith in the 9th, and the Giants recently canned Sergio Romo as closer, replacing him with the not-quite-household-name of Santiago Casilla (h/t to commenter LeepinLizardz, who caught my earlier mistake in the comments below).
Papelbon would like to leave, and the Phillies will certainly move heaven and earth to try and make it happen.