This off-season brings the second year in a row with a conservative, belt-tightening approach to player acquisitions from Phillies management (not that that’s a bad thing).
Two months into the offseason, there has been little activity on the trade market for the Phillies (outside of acquiring reliever Brad Lincoln from the Blue Jays).
Strategic smaller moves seem to be the M.O. of management at this time. Several players on the roster, due to market conditions, roster composition, or timing of a contract, provide both the Phillies with incentive to make a deal.
I know fans don’t like KK’s inconsistency, but look at the deals of comparable pitchers in this year’s free agent class:
- Kyle Kendrick: 939.2 IP; 4.38 ERA; 1.369 WHIP; 2.5 BB/9; 4.8 SO/9
- Jason Vargas: 979.2 IP; 4.30 ERA; 1.319 WHIP; 2.8 BB/9; 5.9 SO/9
- Scott Feldman: 909.1 IP; 4.62 ERA; 1.370 WHIP; 3.0 BB/9; 5.6 SO/9
Vargas signed a 4-year, $32 million deal with the Royals. Feldman signed a 3-year, $30 million deal with the Astros. In this inflated pitching market, Kendrick would probably be worth $10 million AAV over 3-4 years to another team.
Given his likely actual cost (projected at $6.5 million), this disproportionate value to cost gives the Phillies leverage on the trade market. As he also is a free agent after the season, it makes the most sense to move him.
You might also say, if he’s in line to make $30+ million, then why not hold on to him, risk a qualifying offer, and get a supplementary draft pick out of him in the following season? He won’t accept an offer of less than half of what he’s worth in a new contract.
The problem is, the inflated value for starting pitching that exists this off-season might not be there next year.
This year’s top free agent pitcher is Matt Garza, a decent #3 starter, but would probably make less money than any one of those guys, head to head.
While a couple of those pitchers will probably sign extensions, the demand still won’t be as high for Kendrick’s services, so there’s a much higher chance he accepts a qualifying offer. It’s too much of a risk.
The most valuable circumstances for the Phillies would be to trade Kendrick before opening day, preferably to a team who expects to compete this season, but still has a lot of lower level prospects who can’t help win yet on the major league level.
There are any number of specific trades you could create, but I like the Mariners as a potential trade partner. They want to add starting pitching to bolster their rotation after making a definite commitment to win NOW with the signing of Robinson Cano.
They have a need for someone like Kendrick, as he is relatively cheap (they’re close to their spending limit), and they are flush with prospects.
Victor Sanchez and Jabari Henry are both young prospects who performed well last season, but don’t rank highly on organizational prospect lists (mlb.com lists Sanchez as their 15th best, and Henry isn’t ranked).
Sanchez, a starting pitching prospect who just finished his age 18 season in full-A ball, started 20 games to a 2.78 ERA, with 1.4 BB/9, but only 6.2 SO/9.
He’s a young prospect who would add starting pitching depth to a Philadelphia system that lacks it.
Speaking of lack of depth, Henry is a RH OF who split his age 22 season between full-A and high-A in 2013. In 433 PAs, he batted .260/.370/.436 with 11 HR and 9 SB.
He’s known for his plate discipline, and while not a highly-touted prospect, would provide some OF depth moving forward.
Potential Trade: 2B/OF Cesar Hernandez to Oakland; RHP Tanner Peters, OF John Wooten to Philadelphia
Cesar Hernandez’s inclusion may make some people scratch their heads. He’s still considered a prospect, was a AAA All-Star this past season, and shows a lot of versatility as a second baseman and outfielder (not to mention being a switch hitter).
The problem is two-fold: he doesn’t have much of a future within the Phillies, and his contract. First, Hernandez is a natural second baseman, converted to a backup center fielder after Ben Revere‘s injury in 2013.
Revere is a better option at CF, and although Hernandez is a switch-hitter, a true lefty off the bench would be preferable (he is right-handed). Additionally, there’s a Chase Utley-shaped object blocking second base for the next 2-5 years.
Second, the Phillies seem to be under the impression that Hernandez is out of options within the organization, since he’s spent three years on the 40-man roster in the minors.
Cesar is going to be out of options next year, and he’s going to have be on our club (out of spring training), and we want him on our club… – Joe Jordan, Phillies’ Director of Player Development
This is despite reports that claim he qualifies for a rare 4th option year, as long as the team asks for it.
Basically, because of the amount of time he’s spent in short-season leagues, he hasn’t totaled 5 years of professional service time yet; this is the metric that qualifies him for the 4th year.
With he, John Mayberry, and Darin Ruf competing for two bench spots (preferably one, if a left-handed bat can be found), and Freddy Galvis being a better defensive infielder, chances are good the team would rather him start the season in AAA.
If that is still the prevailing thought of the team, and the idea of merely waiving an MLB-ready prospect (admittedly, with only moderate projection) is as gross to you as it is to me, then trading him probably makes the most sense.
His youth, 2013 AAA numbers, and major league experience would make an attractive option in a bench role to some teams. The A’s in particular have only one current bench OF (Craig Gentry), and have made no ground on their need for 2B depth. Hernandez could address both issues for the team.
In return, further prospects would be preferred. Again, some A+ or AA talent would be nice.
One (of many possible) scenarios would be to pair an advanced-A pitcher like Tanner Peters, who started 28 games to a 4.07 ERA, with a 8.6/1.5 SO/BB per 9 in 2013, and take a flier on an A-ball OF like John Wooten, who was only a 37th round draft pick in 2012, but OPS’d a respectable .764 in 2013, with 20 HR.
John Mayberry Jr.
Potential Trade: OF John Mayberry Jr. to Colorado; OF Tyler Colvin to Philadelphia
I’m on the record as liking Mayberry as a situational guy (AKA, against LHP), with a superb .847 OPS against lefties for his career. The problem in the last two seasons has been poor planning on the part of management, and bad luck with injuries that pushed him to an everyday role.
This exposed him a lot more to RHP (career .668 OPS against). Batting against lefties was the key to his success in 2011, and if used correctly (as a pinch hitter, interleague DH & occasional starter against LHP), he would be a valuable tool for the Phillies. It would have been dumb to non-tender him.
That being said, there’s a logjam of right-handed bench OFs currently, with Mayberry, Hernandez, and Darin Ruf competing for two spots. Even If Hernandez is traded, that still leaves zero left-handed bench bats (Freddy Galvis is a switch-hitter, but again is a natural righty with noticeable platoon splits).
This is where the re-signing of Kevin Frandsen hinders the team. Regardless of his potential on-field performance, the backup corner infielder was a spot management could have invested in a left-handed bat.
Given Ruf’s longer team control, his on-base ability and great power (despite holes in his swing), I’d rather give him the bench spot. The ability to have Darin Ruf for three seasons at league minimum is more valuable to me than three potential years of Mayberry at an arbitration rate.
Additionally, a trade could benefit Mayberry now too. Another season of forced ABs against RHP and too many starts in CF would depress his numbers by not focusing on his strength. It would only increase his pay in succeeding arbitration years.
In terms of trade partners, in Mayberry’s case it might be a good idea to trade for, well, basically the left-handed version of Mayberry, if that exists.
Tyler Colvin was out-righted off of Colorado’s 40-man after a lost 2013, but was just one year removed from a .290/.327/.531, 18 HR season in 2012. He can play all three OF spots, and 1B, and is a career .781 OPS hitter against RHP.
If he can recover his skills in some ABs against RHP early in the season, he would be an incredibly valuable buy-low candidate. He is also under team control for 3 seasons (like Mayberry).
With two left-handed OFs in Charlie Blackmon and Corey Dickerson likely to get Colorado’s 3rd and 4th OF spots, respectively, that leaves a spot for a righty backup with some power. Mayberry would thrive, and chances are Colvin recovers (with starter upside). It would be a win-win for both teams.