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Analyzing that Kluber rumor

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Sometimes, rumors need to be checked

Divisional Round - Cleveland Indians v Houston Astros - Game One Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

In Monday’s version of the daily links, I directed some of you to a piece that discusses five blockbuster trades that make sense for the teams involved. The author led off with a doozy, putting the Phillies in possession of an ace in Corey Kluber:

A Phillies-Indians-Mariners bonanza

Phillies get: Corey Kluber, RHP; Yan Gomes, C; Jean Segura, SS
Indians get: Edwin Diaz, RHP; Roman Quinn, OF; Adonis Medina, RHP
Mariners get: J.P. Crawford, SS; Sixto Sanchez, RHP; Adam Haseley, OF; James Karinchak, RHP

It’s silly season when it comes to potential moves in the offseason, mostly because there is so little to actually write about. In the past, we’ve seen team trade a player that we had no idea was even available, only to see that rationale explained in detail and then we understand. Here though, it seems that people are making offers just for giggles.

The first thing I would ask is why the Phillies would even consider this offer. Luckily, the author provided an explanation:

Phillies: They’re taking on salary. That’s no problem in Philly right now. They’re giving up a wealth of young talent, but they’re adding huge pedigree to their rotation in Kluber with three years of control, getting five years of control and stability at short in Segura, and shoring up their catching spot with Gomes, who comes with three years of control. If they were to make these additions and then sign Bryce Harper, that just might be your World Series favorite, folks.

World Series favorites indeed. The caveat of signing Harper is appropriate because there is no way the team gets anywhere near the World Series without adding some offense, Segura notwithstanding.

So let’s look at this logically. If the team were to acquire Kluber and Gomes and Segura, are they better? Absolutely. Even if Kluber is declining ever so slightly (increase in home run rate, slight decline in strikeout rate, drop in velocity) and Gomes might never hit again and Segura might be closer to average with the bat heading into a new league, they still represent upgrades over what is already on the roster. A trio of Nola-Kluber-Arrieta atop the rotation would be formidable for any team. Adding Gomes to Jorge Alfaro would give the team a good catching combination that provides solid defense and above average offense. With the left side of the infield being almost nonexistent in 2018, Segura would give an offensive punch that was missing in the middle of the order. Even the cost of these players (roughly $40 million combined in 2019) wouldn’t break the bank and would allow the team to continue to pursue a high priced free agent. So why shouldn’t the team be looking deeper into it?

Well, it’s pretty obvious isn’t it? This trade would decimate what little high end talent the system currently possesses. The top two pitching prospects would be gone, arguably their top hitting prospect and some significant depth in Crawford and Quinn would also be headed out the door. If we look at MLB Pipeline’s ranking of Phillies’ prospects (granted, they haven’t been updated yet), we can see what this would do to the top end of the system:

Phillies’ prospects

before trade after trade
before trade after trade
Sixto Sanchez Alec Bohm
Alec Bohm Jojo Romero
Adonis Medina Mickey Moniak
Adam Haseley Jhaliyn Ortiz
Jojo Romero Ranger Suarez
Mickey Moniak Enyel de los Santos
Jhailyn Ortiz Cole Irvin
Ranger Suarez Arquimedes Gamboa
Enyel de los Santos Daniel Brito
Cole Irvin Francisco Morales

That is a scary difference, although I would probably put other players (Spencer Howard, Luis Garcia) ahead of several of the ones on the list already. We could argue about the purpose of a farm system, whether you use it to supply the major league team with cheap talent or use it to acquire more established players, but the fact is that trading three of the your top four prospects would be a harsh thing to do.

Now, the more I look at it and consider my own visceral reaction to it, I begin to wonder why. Why don’t I like this trade? To me, it comes down to acquiring Yan Gomes.

Creating a package centered around Sixto Sanchez as a means of acquiring Corey Kluber is something the team should feel comfortable with. They would be acquiring an ace that, as we said, would give them a top third of a rotation that rivals anyone else top three. Even if the team didn’t want to part with Sanchez, creating something built around Medina that also included Haseley and perhaps one of the three young starters they currently have on the team would be something worth pursuing. Would it be a risk, considering Kluber’s age and drop in stuff? Of course it would be. No one wants to part with that shiny pitching prospect that gets all of the press from prospect prognosticators, but at the same time, when the opportunity to acquire an ace presents itself, no one should be untouchable.

If instead of adding Kluber the team would rather get Segura, even that is defensible. J.P. Crawford deserves to start somewhere. The preference here, if it isn’t going to be Manny Machado, is that Crawford should be the starting shortstop. But it is also true that Crawford was given an opportunity in 2018 and was unable to seize it for his own, either through poor performance, bad luck with injuries or management not believing in his ability. Therefore, seeking an upgrade in Segura would be something the team should be looking into as well. It’s doubtful that the team would surrender Sanchez to get someone like Segura, but what about Medina? Is sending your second best pitching prospect for a cost controlled shortstop that hits for average and plays good defense something that should interest the team?

It’s surrendering anyone of this ilk for Yan Gomes that seems to be a problem for me. He’s entering his age 31 season as a catcher who has had an OPS+ over 100 in only one of the past four seasons. He’s not too expensive (~$7.5 million in 2019) and has some control left (two options after 2019 valued at $9 million and $11 million), so he would be under control for a bit, but is that worth including three of your best four prospects in a deal, even if you are also getting Kluber and Segura? Sure, they have to surrender these prospects mostly as the cost for obtaining Kluber, but were the Phillies to get Gomes as well, you’d have to think that the price the Phillies had to pay would drop significantly.

I always like looking at what other people who don’t daily follow the Phillies believe they should do moving forward. It’s easy to see that the pitching needs to get better, but to simply hand out these prospects for the return feels like a loss for the Phillies in this proposed deal. As I stated before, I believe a deal could be worked out for Kluber and/or Segura involving some of these players, but to me, putting Gomes in would be a deal breaker.