As the Phillies move forward in Spring Training, coaches, front office counselor, scouts, and the like gather information that will help them make roster decisions. While most of these decisions will be choosing whether a player on the Phillies roster heads to the farm or remains with the big league club, every so often, the roads lead to a possible transaction involving other MLB teams. More often than not, circumstances determine whether a transaction might be viable, and it’s quite possible that the Phillies have such a situation in front of them.
The New York Yankees recently lost outfielder Curtis Granderson and 1st baseman Mark Texiera to injuries for extended amounts of time. The Yankees 2012-2013 offseason proved very different from those in recent years in that Brian Cashman made few moves to acquire new players, and more importantly, he spent more time worrying about remaining under the luxury tax threshold than adding the best talent on the market. Given this recent trend and the Yankees growing disabled list, the team might look to make a move, but if so it won’t be for a big name player like Chase Headley or Alfonso Soriano.
The Phillies have a plethora of outfielders, and more importantly, two of those outfielders can play first base. As it currently stands, when Charlie Manuel decides to give Ryan Howard a rest, or the team faces a particularly tough left-handed pitcher, the most likely replacement for Howard is John Mayberry Jr. In his career, Mayberry has played 45 games at first base, not a large sample size, but his 9.9 UZR/150 at 1st in 2012 shows an ability to play the position fairly well. For comparison, Ryan Howard has never posted a UZR/150 higher than 6.0. As an outfielder, Mayberry has the instincts, throwing arm, and mobility to play 1st base.
At the plate, Mayberry has been able to mash left-handed pitching to the tune of a .248/.328/.547 slash line, while acting mostly as a stature vs. RHP (.232/.302..379). At the moment, the Yankees options for first base include moving Kevin Youkilis from third base to 1st base, platooning a combination of Dan Johnson, Eduardo Nunez, Youkilis, and Matt Diaz, or coaxing Derek Lee/Chipper Jones out of retirement. None of those scenarios involve giving up anything more than a bit of dignity and cash, but it is possible that a minor trade could bolster the team more.
Any Phillies fan who has watched games this Spring Training can lament the defensive showing of Darin Ruf in the outfield, as Ruf is slow getting to simple fly balls, has difficulty judging balls hit over his head and in front of him, and shows his lack of speed when pursuing hits in the gap. While Ruf’s bat hasn’t been great this spring, that is his calling card, and moving keeping him on the roster as a 1st baseman, occasional outfielder, and pinch-hitter might be the best way to sneak his bat into the lineup. Laynce Nix has surprisingly shown an ability to hit at least average pitching this spring, and with Delmon Young set to come off the DL within 6 weeks of the start of the regular season, Mayberry could be expendable.
The Phillies have to know that if they were to make a trade with the Yankees involving Mayberry, who is under team control until 2017, they wouldn’t be getting back a gem, and definitely not an MLB ready player who could help the club this season. On the other hand, the Phillies farm system is as close to atrocious as a team can muster, and adding any talent to the farm could make a difference.
So, here is the trade I would propose:
Phillies: Give up OF/1B John Mayberry Jr. and C Sebastian Valle
Yankees: Give up LHP Manny Banuelos
The Yankees have had a question mark at the catcher position all offseason, and while Chris Stewart provides great
defensive, especially in pitch framing, his offense is lacking, and any depth they can add at catcher would be welcomed. If you’ve never heard of Manny Banuelos, he is a southpaw pitching prospect in the Yankees farm system. Marc Hulet of Fangraphs ranked Banuelos as the Yankees 11th best prospect, and www.Bullpenbanter.com ranked him 7th.
At 21, Banuelos recently missed the 2012 season due to elbow issues, and succumbed to Tommy John Surgery this past October. This means the smallish lefty will miss the 2013 season. Doesn’t sound promising, but when Banuelos has been healthy he’s shows a low to mid 90’s fastball, one of the best change ups in the minor leagues, and a breaking ball advanced for his age. His command has been shaky, but at 21, there is time for him to recover and make adjustments to enhance his command of the strike zone.
The Phillies would be acquiring a project in exchange for a player who can mash left-handed pitching in the majors and plays both outfield and 1st base. Give the Phillies current and future standing, exploring a trade like the one mentioned here should be an option Ruben Amaro considers. Tommy Joseph and Darin Ruf make Mayberry and Valle superfluous pieces, so why not get some talent for them now? Will this move happen? Probably not, but for the Phillies need to think in this manner in order to ensure even a reasonable future for their fans in the coming years.