This monday, the annual Winter Meetings for GMs will begin in Orlando, Florida. This marks the unofficial true beginning of the offseason hot stove! This news makes me feel all warm inside – and not just because we can talk about teams other than team beard-y and team scruffy.
It’s an exciting week where every day sees dozens of moves and signings take place, and unless he’s given in to the hopelessness and sense of loss perforating every aspect of the Phillies’ organization – some of them will probably involve GM Ruben Amaro Jr!
Last year at this time, the ground work was seen for both the trades for Ben Revere and Michael Young – both of which served smart purposes the following season. Free agents also sign deals here (Shane Victorino signed with the Red Sox on day 2 last seas- THERE WE GO AGAIN. NO MORE RED SOX.), but I’m more concerned with trades.
In a year where salary commitments are already sky-high, and prospects are at a ‘meh.’, it becomes essential for the Phillies to bring in cheap, quality talent without giving up the farm in return.
I’ve already covered one trade I think makes a lot of sense in a recent article about addressing the bullpen, so I won’t rehash too many of the details here, but basically, it’s:
The gist of the argument is that the Phillies need to bolster one of the worst bullpens in baseball from last year. Nate Jones on the surface had a sophomore slump in 2013, but his peripherals were great. Joseph is on the mend, but a risk, and Mayberry doesn’t have a future in Philly. The White Sox are in shambles, and may be inclined to get two position pieces in return for only a reliever.
I’m in love with Josmil Pinto’s bat. He’s a 24-year old right handed catcher for the Twins, who was a September call-up in 2013. He’s a criminally underrated prospect who isn’t being covered because he has no future within his own organization (the Twins have catcher covered for a while) and they also have a couple pretty good prospects ahead of him.
In his short 21 game stint in Minnesota, he batted .342/.398/.566 with 4 HR and 12 RBIs. This isn’t just an aberration. While those figures are a little unsustainable, in his last two minor league seasons he’s batted .295/.362/.482 with 14 HR and 65 RBIs (105 games in 2012) and .309/.400/.482 with 15 HR/74 RBIs (126 games in 2013).
His behind the plate skills lag behind his bat some, but he would still be ready to be a backup catcher in the majors in 2014. Ideally, were the Phillies to either re-sign Carlos Ruiz or sign someone like a Dioner Navarro on a two-year deal, the free agent and Pinto would split time at catcher 60%/40% in 2014, and maybe switch roles in 2015.
Regardless of the Phillies trading for him, I would still expect to see a lot of interest in Pinto this offseason. This necessitates offering some decent prospects in return for him, as seen in my proposed offer. The Twins currently have Trevor Plouffe, but some question whether he is the long term answer at 3B. Despite being third on the 3B depth chart for the Phillies, Green is a legitimate prospect who tied his club’s record for home runs in a season in 2013.
Morgan is a top 10 organizational prospect in Philadelphia, however, he’s been an injury concern this past year, and while he has a nice ceiling, there’s a lot more value trading him to the Twins (who could use pitching prospects for an upgrade in ANY rotation spot) than keeping him (LHPs Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee are already in the rotation for a couple years, along with LHP Jesse Biddle reaching AAA this season).
They’re expendable, the Twins have needs for those positions, and it’s worth trading two prospects of depth for a prospect in an area with a lack of depth (catcher).
This proposal is two things: 1) a little out of left field, and 2) the least likely of these trades to occur. Assuming the Phillies look for an upgrade in CF (Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, etc.), and look for a power corner OF through free agency (Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, Mike Morse, Corey Hart, etc.), that pushes either Ben Revere of Cesar Hernandez to the bench. The other doesn’t really have a spot on the roster.
Based on a proven track record, and his surprising consistent success against LHP, I’m inclined towards keeping Ben Revere (and if he’s your 4th OF, that’s a good situation to be in). Hernandez does have the sweet smell of prospect over him, and flexibility to play multiple positions, but Freddy Galvis can play all of his positions just as well from the bench.
In addition, Phillies management has stated that Hernandez will be placed on waivers if he were not to earn a job out of Spring Training, which sounds stupid if you can try to trade him now for value.
So, he’s a natural 2B with a .314 BA and .378 OBP in his 2013 minor league season, plus he has some major league experience and top 10 organizational prospect pedigree. Who might be interested? The A’s, Reds (if they trade Brandon Phillips), Orioles, Brewers, Rockies, and White Sox are a few teams that could use 2B upgrades.
However, the Phillies as an organization most lack right handed power bats. And given that, in this scenario, there are no Major league outfield spots, maybe a mid-level minor league prospect would fit. Enter the Royals. Their preseason #1 prospect, OF Bubba Starling, just had a down year due to eyesight problems, but after Lasik surgery, had a monster last month of the year, batting .311/.398/.556 with 4 HR/15 RBIs from August 1 – on.
That being said, he still batted only .241/.329/.398 with 13 HR/63 RBIs for the year. His value took a hit in 2013, and given the Royals priorities being to win now (see Wil Myers trade), he may be more tradable than one would assume.
Also, in 2013, the Royals were dismal at 2nd base. Their 2B, Chris Getz, Emilio Bonifacio, and Elliot Johnson, had OPSs of .561, .700, and .458, respectively. They need an upgrade badly if they want to climb the final hurdles that kept them from playoff contention in 2013.
Mixing their desperation to win now, Starling’s slightly diminished value, Hernandez’s peaking value, and the Phillies’ not having room for Hernandez, it might just be crazy enough to work.