With an underperforming team full of strong individual performances, the Philadelphia Phillies trade deadline could be an historically impactful sell off. That is, if the front office has both the green light from ownership, and themselves have to stomach to follow through with it.
There has been talk for the last two years about when the other shoe would drop, and the team would sell off pieces and rebuild. If Cliff Lee comes back healthy (a BIG “if”, but for these purposes, let’s presume he will) – there may never be a better confluence of market need, and internal circumstances to get some value this July 31.
Below are five feasible potential trades, listed roughly in terms of impact, that would each bring in young talent to a middling farm system.
Cliff Lee to Toronto Blue Jays
|Cliff Lee||LHP||MLB||Aaron Sanchez||RHP||AAA||#1 Starter||Low|
|Cash Considerations||Daniel Norris||LHP||AA||#3 Starter||Moderate|
|Franklin Barreto||SS||A-||All-Star SS||Very High|
|Matthew Dean||1B||A||Everyday MLB 1B||High|
I wanted really badly for the Los Angeles Dodgers to be a likely destination for Cliff Lee – Joc Pederson would be an amazing get for any team, and without a plan for him at the major league level, he appears reachable. However, the Dodgers’ rotation is just too impossibly good this year - the highest ERA by a starter is Dan Haren, with 3.62 in 92 IP. They don’t have a need there, particularly not one so expensive.
While the Yankees, Orioles, Mariners, or Royals may seem likely based on need, the Yankees do not have the prospect depth to accomplish a trade, and the latter three all have financial constraints that make a Cliff Lee deal unlikely.
Presuming he’s healthy, Lee’s most likely landing spot could be the Toronto Blue Jays, currently in the lead in the AL East. J.A. Happ has been serviceable for the team, but between his high ERA (4.87) and Marcus Stroman‘s inexperience, they would likely prefer at least one upgrade this deadline.
Additionally, there was significant disappointment in the pre-season that no impactful starters were signed by GM Alex Anthopoulos, so they could have the money and incentive to do so now. Their system is flush with high-upside, high-risk prospects, enough to get a deal done without emptying the coffers.
In terms of specific names, top-20 MLB prospect Aaron Sanchez would have to be involved - he’s a potential ace sitting in AAA, but recent struggles at the level mean he isn’t likely to help the team’s playoff push this year. He’d be tough to pry from them, but any deal for Cliff Lee begins with the partner’s top prospect.
A secondary piece would be LHP Daniel Norris, he has mid-rotation stuff, is in AA, and has pitched to a 1.62 ERA, with a 1.025 WHIP and 10.2 K/9 this season.
I see one one of the extreme upside, extreme risk position prospects in the system added to a deal like this. My preference is young SS Franklin Barreto, who is hitting incredibly well in short-season A ball, but is years away from the majors. Finally, a bat like Matt Dean is nice, although he’s limited to 1B.
I don’t see this as an unreasonable haul for a *healthy* Lee - while Sanchez is the team’s #1 prospect, he’s only paired with their #5, #6, and #25 prospects (by Baseball America’s pre-season ranking) to him, and I’d be pretty happy to take it.
A.J. Burnett, John Mayberry Jr. to Miami Marlins
|A.J. Burnett||RHP||MLB||Justin Nicolino||LHP||AA||#3 Starter||Moderate|
|John Mayberry Jr.||1B/OF||MLB||Brent Keys||OF||AA||Everyday OF||Moderate|
This pairing might seem a bit odd; it’s a calculated gamble, not knowing which teams are included in Burnett’s extensive no-trade clause. He’s reported to have 25 teams included, so depending on his relationship with his original team, I’d wager they weren’t one (also, pre-season, no one thought they’d be a trade deadline buyer threat).
They’ve held strong since Jose Fernandez‘s injury, are currently at .500, and definitely in the race. It would be an attendance boost to bring him back, he’s still performing well, and is an expiring contract. Additionally, Mayberry perfectly complements Garrett Jones as a platoon mate at 1B, and is relatively cheap.
In terms of a return for Burnett and Mayberry, I based it loosely on the return the White Sox received for Jake Peavy last season. Mid-rotation starters are always in heavy demand, and Burnett could return a fair amount.
Top Marlins’ prospects Andrew Heaney, Jake Marisneck, and Colin Moran are out of the question, but LHP Justin Nicolino would make a good centerpiece, and has pitched well in AA to this point. Fellow AA OF Brent Keys hits for among the highest average in their system, but has struggled this season, and is a potential rebound candidate.
Finally, I’d want RHP Arquimedes Caminero for the name alone, but he also features the best fastball in the system (although with control problems that have caused 2014 struggles). His ceiling is a high-leverage reliever.
Carlos Ruiz, Antonio Bastardo to Los Angeles Dodgers
|Carlos Ruiz||C||MLB||Matt Magill||RHP||AAA||#4/5 Starter||Low|
|Antonio Bastardo||LHP||MLB||Jose Dominguez||RHP||AAA||Closer||High|
|Cash Considerations||Darnell Sweeney||2B/SS||AA||MLB Bench IF||Moderate|
Comparable trade(s): 2013 – Jose Veras from Houston Astros, Danry Vazquez and David Paulino from Detroit Tigers. 2012 – Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez from Miami Marlins, Justin Turner, Rob Brantly, and Brian Flynn from Detroit Tigers.
While not the perfect match for Cliff Lee, the Los Angeles Dodgers are a great fit for Ruiz and Bastardo. Their bullpen has been worse than expected this season, but they may not want to usurp Kenley Jansen with an established closer like Jonathan Papelbon. Additionally, catching has been a weakness in their lineup this season.
Jose Veras’ trade last season is a good comparison for moving Bastardo, and Omar Infante is comparable to Ruiz in terms of annual expected WAR and WAR at the time of their respective (potential) trades.
In return, I’d want to take a gamble on a guy like Matt Magill, who’s numbers are better than they look, given that he’s pitching in the PCL. He could be either a back-end starter, or long man out of the bullpen moving forward.
Additionally, Jose Dominguez has an incredible fastball, but is another guy who currently lacks control with it. His ceiling is as a closer, but has struggled of late between AAA and the majors.
Finally, Darnell Sweeney is a 2B/SS in AA, who has hit well this season (.319/.406/.491 with 22 doubles, 7 HR). He has shown the tendency to swing-and-miss in the past (151 strikeouts in 2013), but has increased his plate discipline this year (40 BB/64 K). He’s likely to end up a pure 2B, given his poor defensive numbers at SS (.922 career fielding percentage).
Kyle Kendrick, Marlon Byrd to Seattle Mariners
|Kyle Kendrick||RHP||MLB||Corey Hart||1B/RF||MLB||Everyday 1B/RF||Low|
|Marlon Byrd||RF||MLB||Victor Sanchez||RHP||AA||#4/5 Starter||Moderate|
|Cash Considerations||Austin Wilson||OF||A||Everyday OF||High|
Comparable trade(s): 2013 – Bud Norris from Houston Astros, L.J. Hoes and Josh Hader from Baltimore Orioles. 2013 – Marlon Byrd and John Buck from New York Mets, Vic Black and Dilson Herrera from Pittsburgh Pirates.
You don’t have to go very far back to see what a good Marlon Byrd is worth. He was traded last season with John Buck from the Mets to the Pirates, netting a major-league reliever and double-A shortstop prospect in return.
Kyle Kendrick, despite what Philadelphians are quick to assume, has more value than John Buck, more in the range of what Bud Norris returned to Houston last season. A bit stretched thin budget-wise, the Mariners need cheap upgrades in the rotation and right field.
Kendrick is a cheap, expiring contract, and accepting what’s remaining of the $6 million owed to Corey Hart (who hasn’t bounced back from his injury as hoped), would lessen the cost of Marlon Byrd to the team. Additionally, part of his 2015 salary would likely be included as well.
In return (additional to Corey Hart), Victor Sanchez is a double-A starting pitching prospect with good control and a back-end rotation ceiling. OF Austin Wilson is the team’s 2012 2nd-round pick, and has adjusted very well to full-season ball. He’s currently hitting .302/.390/.530 with 11 HR, and ranked in the bottom half of the top 10 in their prospect rankings.
Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins to Detroit Tigers
|Jimmy Rollins||SS||MLB||Andrew Romine||SS||MLB||MLB Bench IF||None|
|Jonathan Papelbon||RHP||MLB||Jose Valdez||RHP||AA||Closer||High|
|Cash Considerations||Austin Kubitza||RHP||A||#4/5 Starter||High|
Comparable trade(s): 2011 – Francisco Rodriguez and $ from New York Mets, Danny Herrera and Adrian Rosario from Milwaukee Brewers. 2010 – Jhonny Peralta from Cleveland Indians, Giovanni Soto from Detroit Tigers
This one has the most naturally comparable trades. Francisco Rodriguez was a dominant closer making similar money to Jonathan Papelbon at the time of his trade, and Jhonny Peralta had a matching WAR at the time of his trade to Jimmy Rollins currently.
Money would have to be included for both players’ deals, but you could expect a similar return to those two deals (two low-minors future relievers, and a strong performing mid-minors starting pitching prospect).
Since Joe Nathan‘s implosion this season, the Tigers are wanting for a closer. Additionally, their struggles at SS have been well-documented this year.
From the Detroit Tigers, I’d look for one of the stop-gap shortstops they’ve been using to be included, purely to fill the immediate shortstop need for the Phillies (in this case, Andrew Romine).
In terms of pitching, starting pitcher Austin Kubitza has exceeded expectations in full season ball this year, with a 2.53 ERA, 10.2 K/9, and 1.138 WHIP in 13 starts.
Jose Valdez is another closer-potential, problematic-control relief prospect. The idea is to throw enough darts at the wall, so that one or two stick. He misses a ton of bats, but has a high 5.6 BB/9 in his career; he’s currently in double-A.