Its that time of year. With the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, lots of rumors will start popping up. You’re going to hear a lot of stuff that is true, isn’t true, is half true, and everything else on both sides of the spectrum. With 30 MLB teams all looking to improve their teams either for now or later, lots of rumors will swirl. The Phillies, especially recently, have been very active at this time of the year. Two years ago, we had Clifton Phifer Lee round 1. Last year, we stole Roy Oswalt away from Houston. Who will it be this year? That’s not my focus here. Instead, I wanted to talk about the Phillies prospects who will probably be mentioned in deals, look at which guys we should hold on to, which guys we should trade, and what is going to happen. Check below the fold for all of the specifics.
What is the difference between the July 31 deadline and the August 31 deadline?
All teams have the ability to trade any player in their organization to any team they like (assuming said player doesn’t have a no trade clause) without worrying about the waiver process before August 1. After July 31st, any player you wish to trade must be passed through waivers. When you put a player on waivers, any other team can put in a claim. If a team claims a player, the two teams can attempt to work out a deal within a given time window. If no deal is reached, the team that waived the player can either let him go for nothing or pull the player back. If the player is pulled back, he can’t be traded again during that season. As you can see, pulling off a trade before July 31st is the preferred option and removes multiple layers of complexity. Teams can still pull off a move after July 31, with the Phillies notably doing this in 2008 when they acquired Scott Eyre in August, a move that would greatly impact the Phillies postseason run.
Will the Phillies make a move?
I don’t know. Ruben Amaro will never be called timid. He’s delivered big moves the past two seasons, and also delivered Roy Halladay over the winter in 2009. He’s generally been a big game hunter, landing Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt and hasn’t really filled in around the edges with the smaller deals Pat Gillick was famous for. The Phillies are one of the 3 best teams in baseball, you can argue they are the best team in the NL, and thus, not making a move does make some degree of sense. Lots of smart people have calculated the odds of a team winning a short series in the playoffs, and there is quite a bit of variance and luck involved. If the Phillies have a 60% chance of winning a random 5 game series against team X, the addition of one player (when factoring in the player he replaces) may only add 3-5% to a team’s chances of winning the series. That said, when a team has invested over $170M in payroll, you can bet Amaro is looking to give his team everything possible to win a World Series ring.
Who are the Phillies targeting?
As discussed above, Amaro tends to go big or go home. While you can argue that a little fine tuning around the edges is needed, that doesn’t fit the MO of our GM. I think it’s safe to say we’re not looking at Felix Hernandez or Ubaldo Jimenez, but I wouldn’t really rule out any extra talented every day player. When Amaro gets fixated on a player, he goes and gets him, no matter the cost. But it takes two to tango.
Who are the Phillies untouchable prospects?
This is a website devoted to Phillies prospects. I obsess over Phillies prospects more than anyone, and get attached to guys who become personal favorites, and I never want these guys traded. That said, no one in the system is untouchable, because there is no such thing as a “can’t miss” prospect. Every prospect is a future project. Some of them look a lot more likely to be stars, others seem a lot more rough around the edges. But all of them carry a value, just like a stock commodity. Like stock trading, the key is knowing which assets to hold on to, which to sell, and on the other side, which players in other organizations to “buy” at the right time. The same group of names will come up over the next 2 weeks: Jon Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Brody Colvin, Trevor May, Sebastian Valle, and others. All of these guys have strengths, all of these guys have flaws. Trading all of them would be a huge risk, obviously.
But the important thing to look at is the depth of the Phillies farm system. We may lack a position player like Mike Trout or a pitcher like Matt Moore, but our depth from prospect #1 to prospect #20 is very strong. After our first 7 guys, we have 10 more guys who are interesting. Not to mention we have quite a few interesting 2011 draft picks who are unsigned, but who will likely be signed by this time next month. According to a reader/contributor here, Tyler Greene, arguably the third best prospect we drafted, is going to sign. I’m sure we’ll pick up a few interesting guys in Latin America. The point of this diatribe is that our system is very deep.
The Major League team is old, we can’t trade prospects
I’ve seen this sentiment in a number of places, and on the surface, I agree. However, a few things need to be considered. Outside of bullpen arms, the Phillies have no impact prospects at AA or above. The Phillies, over the last 5-6 years, haven’t made a habit out of rushing position player prospects to the majors. Singleton, just 19, is probably 3-4 years away from being a regular on the Phillies team, barring some crazy development. That doesn’t mean he should be traded for just anyone. However, this brings up another angle. Prospects can be traded for proven major league players in their prime. The Indians couldn’t afford losing Cliff Lee to free agency, they didn’t feel they could afford him long term, so they traded him to the Phillies in 2009. The Phillies turned a few prospects into Cliff Lee. At this point, none of those prospects are coming close to replicating what Cliff Lee is giving the Phillies.
Yes, we can’t stock the roster with 15 guys making $20M per year. But large market teams who are willing to max out their payroll aren’t going to rely on rookies to fill key lineup spots. The current major league roster is older, but none of these players (those who will be here next year, ie, not Ibanez) are declining just yet. Howard, Utley, Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Victorino, and Rollins are still in the prime or the tail of their prime years, and are likely to be there for at least 3-4 more years. As these players grow old and come off the books, they will be replaced by new players. The Phillies have stepped up payroll wise. They are no longer a small market club in any sense, and they aren’t acting like one. Small market clubs cling to all of their prospects, dreaming of putting together a team of cheap players who win a World Series for pennies. This rarely ever happens.
You may misinterpret this as me saying “trade everyone”, and that isn’t my message. I wouldn’t be too keen on trading 2 of the Big 7 for Mike Adams. All I’m saying is, the Phillies are going to leverage their assets to maximize the 25 man roster heading in to the playoffs. This is a special team, with a potentially historic pitching staff, and it would be a shame to look back in 5 years and say “we could have had player X, but we wouldn’t give up prospect Y” and that being the difference between winning a pennant and winning a World Series. When the inevitable trade is made, just take a deep breath and let the dust settle before we pick it apart.