Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Buying Or Selling?

There is a growing consensus around these parts that the next few weeks will determine whether or not the Phillies will be buyers or sellers at the July trading deadline.  According to many astute observers, the decision ultimately depends on which of two possible scenarios unfolds:

  1. To be sellers, the  Phillies would have to fall further behind the Mets and seemingly out of contention.

  2. To be buyers, they would have to win most of their upcoming series versus the Mets, Devil Rays, Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles and remain firmly in contention for the division lead or a WC slot.

The likelihood of the first scenario coming to pass increases daily as the starting rotation remains largely in disarray.  Any time speculation grows that the Phils might even be thinking of recalling Gavin Floyd from Scranton you know this club is in trouble.  Even Eude Brito’s name is being mentioned, but he cannot be recalled in the short term having been just optioned last week.  The rule states that at least ten days must pass before an optioned player can be recalled.  In Brito’s case, ten days would be insufficient to help him discover a major league out pitch.  Meanwhile, back at CBP, when a club is counting heavily on a pitcher with exactly three big league starts and one trip to the Disabled List under his belt, they might be getting just a little ahead of themselves, especially when said pitcher thinks he knows better than anyone else what pitches to throw in certain situations.  You want more?  Speculation is growing as to precisely when a pitcher recovering from Tommy John surgery will make his return to the big leagues.  This is not the staff of legends.

Starting pitching is not the only problem with these Phillies.  They need a catcher desperately.  They could also use a third baseman who can hit for power and at least one corner outfielder who can catch the ball regularly, but those spots can wait until the off-season.

If you can believe it, the second scenario is even a little more complicated than the first.  First, of course, is the small matter of beating those teams mentioned above.  Thus far this season the Phils have had little success against the Mets or Red Sox.  Then there is the question of who would be available to help the Phillies should they actually remain in contention.   A quick look at the available starting pitching does not look encouraging.  Some have speculated the Phillies would be able to land Dontrelle Willis in a multi-team swap.  Don’t believe it.   The Phillies don’t have what Florida wants, namely, cheap talent ready to step in and play for the Marlins now.   There are a few guys at Reading who might be ready a year or two from now, but even Jeffrey Loria’s AAA team masquerading as a major league team in Miami does not have the luxury of waiting that long.  As for the Barry Zito rumors, he isn’t coming to CBP to ply his trade any time soon.  This is not a park built for the likes of him.  And with free agency looming after this season, Zito would be an expensive short-term rental.  The Phils have been there and done that many times in recent years, always with disastrous consequences.

No other pitchers mentioned in trade rumors would help this club.  They are better off holding onto their own prospects, something they have failed to do in the past.

At the start of the season GM Pat Gillick hinted more than a few times he thought the Phillies didn’t have enough pitching to make up the five additional games he believed were necessary to get them into the playoffs.  Nothing has changed since then.   So, who could the Phillies offer to other clubs in contention as a step toward making up that difference?

Most speculation focuses on Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell.  Bobby isn’t going anywhere.  As far as the Phillies are concerned, he remains their most reliable OBP guy on a team that shows precious little patience otherwise.  As for his fielding misadventures, I have to believe no one in the Phillies organization was fooled by last year’s Gold Glove award.  What they see this year is basically what they have seen every year.

Burrell’s is a much more complicated situation.  He is a proven RBI man.  He is also one streaky hitter.   He cannot run and he can only field his position adequately.  He also has a big contract and a no-trade clause.   On the plus side (if you are peddling this commodity), Burrell would probably love to escape Philadelphia, where he has always seemed uncomfortable if not unhappy.   The most likely scenario would see him move to the American League where he could DH and play in the field occasionally.  The Yankees remain a good possibility as they continue to struggle with injuries to their corner outfielders.  The question remains, however, what do they have to offer?  Perhaps more significantly, would Burrell be happy playing in the largest media town given his distaste for this smaller one?

Neither scenario – buying or selling - would seem to offer much promise in the short term.  The prediction here:  the Phillies will stand pat until the off-season.


J. Weitzel said...

Excellent post, Tom, on the state of the Phillies. Gillick should make at least one deadline deal, and that's trade Cormier before they lose him to free agency. Just so they have something to show for it, even if it's a buck prospect (which they could use). The Phillies could get some fantastic offers from contending teams for their corners, but we shouldn't expect anything until then, or not at all, like you said.

If the Phillies totally fall out of it, which is unlikely, they should try selling off a whole plate of players, from Cormier, to Bell, to one of the outfielders, to Lieber. They could get 5-6 good prospects for all that.

Tom Goodman said...

Jason: Good point about Cormier. He is just the sort of commodity a contender would rent and given he has one good year followed by one bad year followed by....it makes sense to move him now. I don't know how much a fellow his age will bring, however.

J. Weitzel said...

Who knows? Deadline deals for relief pitching has generated some of the most lopsided trades in history, including the L.A. for Jeff Bagwell deal. I would love to see the Phils move Cormier to a team with some minor league depth at third base. A team like Arizona, for example, could be in the NL West hunt. They have NO left-handers on their team, and their minor league system is the deepest in baseball.

Oisín/Wizlah said...

however much pat can get for rheal, we should take, I think. It'll be a good benchmarch of his horsetrading abilities . . .

As for possible trade bait, I've always viewed the two guys we acquired in the thome trade as possible bait to be moved on. Regardless, I'm of the opinion that if Mathieson is pitching will right now in AA, haul him up. If we're to get through june with a decent record and still within 5 of the mets, we just have to keep throwing whateve pitching we have at opposition and seeing if any sticks.

gr said...

i think the angels would be the best fit for moving burrell (or abreu for that matter, I guess). when colon comes back, they have an extra pitcher and their offense has not been spectacular -- remember, they were heavily into the manny talks in the off-season. plus, pat would most likely dig moving back to the west coast. as for getting prospects for bell or cormier, i'll believe it when i see it.

nat said...

Tom, when you say that since the beginning of the season "nothing has changed" in regards to the Phillies' starting pitching, you are being too kind. Things have changed -- and for the worse. The Gavin Floyd Experiment was a total flop. The Opening Day pitcher wasn't very good, then went on the DL. Ryan Madson as a starter has been -- well, we're not sure yet, but overall his line is only a little better than Floyd's. The only starter who has been what we might have hoped for has been Brett Myers. Cory Lidle, I guess you could say, has not disappointed, but that's only because we weren't expecting a whole lot from him.

Now it looks like Ryan Franklin will be starting. This is a guy we should see less of, not more.

Hopes ride with Cole Hamels and Randy Wolf. Well, hope springs eternal, but I' afraid this is going to get worse before it gets better.

Sell! Sell!

gr-- Good thoughts on Burrell and the Angels. I think the Phils' trading partners are more likely to be found in the AL, esp. for Burrell. Most of us are NL oriented and that's where we spend our time looking for deals, but Gillick is AL oriented and in his short tenure here that is where he has gone shopping. Gotta brush up on those AL buyers!

kuff6 said...

Seems unlikely to me that they would unload Burrell. He is the only legit right-handed bat in the entire lineup. I like the idea of moving Cormier while we can get something useful for him. Otherwise, as I posited before the season began, I think Gillick is stuck waiting for the end of the year, when Lieberthal, Wolf, and Bell (and their $20M/year) come off the books and we finally have some payroll flexibility. There were just too many holes to fill and too little in the way of financial wiggle room for Gillick to make all necessary changes this past off-season. It is exceedingly difficult, but I keep telling myself to wait until that $20M is freed up.

BlueMan said...

Would quibble that the Phils have had trouble with the Mets. 3 and 3 with 2 extra inning losses. 5 of the six games were tossups.

Tom Goodman said...

Blue Man. I stand corrected. It only seemed that way, especially when one win came via a topped ground ball thrown away by the Mets reliever. But 3-3 it is.

kuff6 said...

For the record, I still think Abreu would have beaten that play out even if the throw was better. Of course, had it been Utley or Rowand, we would have heard endlessly from the Inqy and WIP guys what a great play it was and how busting out of the box and hustling down the line forced the pitcher to rush the throw. Since it was Abreu, though, we only hear he was safe because the pitcher blew the play.

RickSchuBlues said...

Even if the Phillies believe they are in a poistion to be 'buying', it doesn't appear they'll have anything they can stand to part with. Trading Abreu or Burrell in mid-season I don't think is a good idea, and in the case of Burrell, they'd be utterly vulnerable to LH pitching without him. - unless another right-handed outfielder with power was acquired, but what would then be the point of moving Burrell in the first place? And the Phillies certainly don't have prospects to offer; all the ones they do have will probably be pitching in the majors by the deadline and probably are the team's only hope for a better future. As much as I've chided Gillick (not to his face, mind you) for not making a move, I guess I don't feel the potential of this team is really worth trading prospects in order to try to salvage a playoff spot, because I don't think they have what it takes. The needs of this team could and should have been addressed more adequately in the off-season. Mid-season trades usually smack of desperation and are prone to bilking teams out of good prospects. The problem, however, continues to come down to the fundamental lack of organizational depth. If there was an excess of prospects, particularly ones who may be blocked at certain positions, it'd be one thing to go for a big deal. But there never is.

Rev. Smokin Steve said...

I'm fine with moving Cormier and especially fine with moving Burrell. If the Phillies are going to do any trading this year, I'd sell now and get the future a little stronger. I don't believe the Phils are in the buyers market. I think these prospects they have would be better served in our organization.

But if Dontrelle Willis really is available, I wouldn't mind having him.

BlueMan said...

Yes, but if Abreu doesn't beat it out, it's still only a tie game-like so many of the other games, a tossup. We won 2 tossups at home, they won 2 at Shea.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to see the Phils trade Abreu AND Burrell. Restock the fram system with position players and clear the books of too overly priced pieces. I'd then turn around and play Delucci and Victorino everyday.

Lineup: Rollins (SH), Utley (L), Rowand (R), Howard (L), Victorino(SH), Delucci (L), Bell (R), Fasano (R), pitcher