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Phillies trade rumors: Hot after Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon?

Boston Globe writer Nick Cafardo once again says the Phillies are “very interested” in the Marlins center fielder, but the mechanics of a potential deal are convoluted and don’t make much sense.

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MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The general rule regarding the trade deadline and the rumors you hear associated with them is to take them all with a grain of salt.

A couple weeks ago, we raised our eyebrows when Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe first mentioned the possibility of Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich as Phillies targets. We blew it off and wondered where in the world he could get such a crazy idea.

Then last week, Ken Rosenthal of “Facebook” (he does TV stuff for Fox Sports but no more of the writing, as you know) wrote extensively about it, noting that while the Stanton rumors were probably far-fetched, it does appear as if the Phils really like Yelich and are interested in acquiring him.

The Phillies, according to one source, have been “vocal” about their desire to land Yelich, even expressing an interest to assume “bad money” — say, reliever Junichi Tazawa’s $7 million in 2018, for starters — as part of the deal.

Now, in his Sunday notes column, Cafardo once again talked about this scenario, using different words to describe the Phils’ interest in Yelich.

“A few weeks back we wrote about the resources the Phillies have to be active in trades or free agency. We mentioned the possibility of them taking on Giancarlo Stanton’s contract while also having interest in Christian Yelich. Well, the Yelich part is heating up. There are conflicting stories on whether the Marlins have the OK to trade away major talent as the franchise is being sold, but it looks like the Phillies will pursue this.”

Make no mistake, Yelich is a damn fine ballplayer. In 386 PAs this season he has an fAR of 1.9 and is batting .288/.364/.412 with 8 homers, 57 runs scored and 44 RBIs. He has a wOBA of .335 and a wRC+ of 105. Among qualified MLB center fielders this season, that fWAR and wRC+ are both 9th-best and his OBP is ranked 5th.

He’s also owed a mere $43.25 million through 2021 (his age 29 season), with a $15 million team option or a $1.25 million buyout for 2022. Since becoming a full-time player in 2014, Yelich has been worth 13.1 fWAR, 7th-most among all center fielders.

He had a nice power season last year, smacking 21 home runs and knocking in 98 runs in 659 PAs, but those power numbers have dipped this season. Nevertheless, he is a terrific young player, just 25 years old this season, and the Phillies’ interest appears to be real.

If the Marlins simply want to dump salary and force a team to take Stanton along with Yelich, then Miami’s motivation makes a little bit of sense. Stanton is a great player, but is frequently injured and, starting next year, is owed $295 million through 2027 (includes a $10 million buyout). He will be 37 by the time this deal runs out.

But Stanton and Yelich aren’t the only Miami players linked to the Phils at the moment.

Dee Gordon? Really?

The Phillies already have a young second baseman in Cesar Hernandez, who should be coming off the disabled list this week. And then there is Scott Kingery, one of the team’s top prospects and who is knocking on the door of the Majors. His presence was already forcing the Phils to consider dealing one or the other in the off-season.

Why would the Phillies have any interest in Gordon? Would there be any other reason than to eat the $38.9 million left on his deal through 2020 and release him? If they planned to keep Gordon and play him, they’d be bringing aboard a 29-year-old player signed for three more years starting in 2018, which would mean they would have to find a home for Kingery and Hernandez. One or the other would almost have to be included in a Gordon deal.

All this for Christian Yelich?

Of course, this could all be coming from the Marlins’ side, as CSN Philly’s Corey Seidman noted.

Here's my interpretation of this report: It seems to have come from the Marlins since the news about Gordon is accompanied by 10 teams' interest in reliever David Phelps. Seems like a team trying to drum up interest in its own guys.

The Phillies are interested in Christian Yelich and have reportedly kicked around the idea of assuming Giancarlo Stanton's contract as part of a trade with the Marlins. If Gordon's name came up in one of those conversations, then technically he'd be a player the Phillies have shown interest in.

Consider that since Odubel Herrera became the Phils’ starting center fielder in 2015, he actually has more fWAR (9.3) than Yelich (8.6). Yelich’s slash line (.296/.370/.443) over that time is slightly better than Herrera’s (.284/.340/.420), and Yelich’s wOBA (.351) is also better than Odubel’s (.328). But is the difference enough to warrant giving up a top-tier prospect, plus more?

Also, Herrera is owed a minimum of $28.9 million through 2022, if they buy out his contract after 2021. If they decide to keep him, they have team options of $11.5 million in ‘22 and $12.5 million in ‘23. That’s even less expensive and more flexible than Yelich’s contract. And after a slow start, Odubel Herrera has batted .320/.346/.551 with 17 doubles and five home runs since June 3.

Let’s assume the Phillies would be willing to deal for Yelich on his own. What would that deal look like?

It’s likely it would cost one of J.P. Crawford, Sixto Sanchez or Rhys Hoskins to headline the deal. Would the Phillies be willing to go there? Would they be willing to deal Kingery? Or if they decided to move Kingery to third, would they give up on Maikel Franco? Would anyone want Franco?

A deal with Mickey Moniak, last year’s top overall pick and the team’s No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America, might not be enough to get the job done. If it was, the Phils would likely have to add in some of the low minors pitchers with upside, like Franklyn Kilome and/or Adonis Medina. And perhaps a close-to-MLB ready player with power upside like Dylan Cozens would be in the mix as well.

The Phillies would be better off sticking with an outfield of Aaron Altherr-Herrera-Nick Williams and holding onto Crawford, Sanchez, Hoskins and the rest of their top prospects for a player who may need their needs more, like a young, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

Eventually the glut of outfielders will have to be whittled down, but does it make sense in order to bring aboard another outfielder? Especially one who may not be a whole lot better or cheaper than one already in-house?

And finally, why would the Marlins deal Yelich in the first place? If the goal is to get younger and cheaper, moving Yelich doesn’t really help you there. It only makes sense if you force anyone who wants Yelich to also take Stanton or reliever Tunichi Tazawa, who is owed $7 million in 2018.

Folks, none of this makes much sense, and with each new rumor that emerges, it makes less and less.

Of course, that’s par for the course during trade deadline season.

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