Who Are The Phillies’ Potential Trade Partners in the NL?


With the MLB’s July 31st  trade deadline fast approaching, teams need to determine whether they will be buyers or sellers at the deadline. With the addition of the 2nd wild card this season, there are more teams still in playoff contention than ever, and thus there figure to be many more buyers than sellers at the deadline. The Phillies, unfortunately, will be selling at the deadline, as they are 14 games behind the Washington Nationals in the NL East and 11 games behind the Atlanta Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates for the two NL Wild Card spots. Despite the recent returns of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, with Roy Halladay’s return looming on the horizon, the Phillies simply have far too much ground to make up to consider buying at the deadline this season. For the first time since 2006, when they sent Bobby Abreu and Cory Lidle to the Yankees at the deadline (and the first time since Reuben Amaro, Jr. took over as GM), the Phillies will be selling. Today we’ll take a look at which teams in the NL are buying, which are selling, and what deals the Phillies could make with these NL teams. Of course, the Phillies could always sign Cole Hamels and/or Shane Victorino to an extension before the deadline, but for the sake of this article I’m saying that the Phillies are looking to move any of the players on the team aside from Halladay, Lee, Utley, Howard, Rollins, Ruiz, and Papelbon.

If the MLB season ended today, Washington, Cincinnati, and San Francisco would win their respective divisions, with Atlanta and Pittsburgh taking the two wild card slots. Los Angeles, New York, and St. Louis are all within 3.5 games of the second wild card spot before a dramatic drop-off, where Arizona, Milwaukee, and Miami are all 7 games back of the 2nd wild card. The Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Rockies, and Astros bring up the rear in the NL, all 11+ games out of the playoff picture. It’s easy to determine that the Nationals, Reds, Giants, Braves, Pirates, Dodgers, Mets, and Cardinals are buyers and the Phillies, Cubs, Padres, Rockies, and Astros are sellers. However, it’s difficult to determine what the Diamondbacks, Brewers, and Marlins will do. They’re all in no-man’s land: far enough out that it would be unlikely for them to make the postseason, but close enough in that selling would make their fans feel as if they were giving up on the season. Arizona and Milwaukee have both had lots of trade winds swirling around them: many teams have expressed interest in D’backs star outfielder Justin Upton and Brewers’ ace Zack Greinke. Baseball Prospectus’ playoff odds say that the Marlins have a 7.1% chance to make the postseason and the Brewers have a 9.4% chance. (For what it’s worth, the Phillies’ odds are listed at a favorable 0.4%). The Diamondbacks’ odds are listed at 29.9% despite being 7 games out of the wild card. Based on these numbers, I’ll classify the Marlins and Brewers as sellers and the Diamondbacks as “undecided”. If they do sell, they’ll have the top bat on the market in Justin Upton, something the Phillies won’t be competing with anyways, so they shouldn’t affect the Phillies too much.

Now, let’s look at that list of buyers again: the Nationals, Reds, Giants, Braves, Pirates, Dodgers, Mets, and Cardinals. Eliminate the Nationals, Braves, and Mets right away. I don’t see the Phillies trading within the division. Now we’re left with the Reds, Giants, Pirates, Dodgers, and Cardinals. Let’s go team-by-team and see what their needs are.

The Reds are set at catcher, 1st base, 2nd base, SS, 3rd base, CF, RF, and in the bullpen. They’re also pretty strong in their starting rotation, with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos at the top and Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake, and Homer Bailey all pitching servicably at the back of the rotation. That leaves LF as their primary area of need. They’ve been using a platoon there of Chris Heisey and Ryan Ludwick. They’re both solid players, but they could use an upgrade in LF. The obvious name that comes to mind is Shane Victorino, but the asking price for him is reportedly very high per Buster Olney and the Reds’ farm system was depleted (ranked 19th in the MLB at the beginning of the season by Keith Law, ESPN’s expert) by the Mat Latos trade. Considering the Reds’ need for a leadoff hitter as well, Juan Pierre would make sense in Cincinnati, and in fact Buster Olney has reported that the Reds have shown interest in Pierre. Law says that the Reds’ farm system is mostly made up of high-risk, high-reward prospects in Class A ball or below, so perhaps acquiring one of those prospects with both upside and risk would make sense for both teams.  Any of these prospects (at such low minor-league levels, positional need isn’t really an issue) would help the Phillies add to the farm system. It makes sense for both because  while the Phillies selling a productive piece (hitting .316 with 21 steals in 25 opportunities) who doesn’t fit into their long-term plans for a prospect, the Reds could acquire the leadoff hitter and everyday left fielder that they desire in order to make a World Series run.

The Giants could use help at SS, 2nd base, and an outfield spot, but are very well positioned at catcher, 1st base, 3rd base, the starting rotation, the bullpen, and the other two outfield spots. Obviously the Giants would love to trade for Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins, but both of those players figure to be untouchable despite the Phillies’ struggles this season. Shane Victorino would be a perfect fit for the Giants in the outfield, but after being burned last year by their deal with the Mets for Carlos Beltran in a similar situation (Beltran was a pending UFA, like Victorino, and the Giants sent the Mets Zach Wheeler, who is the 21st ranked prospect in the entire minor leagues now. Despite the trade, the Giants missed the postseason, and Beltran didn’t re-sign with the team after the season), the Giants might be wary of trading for a player who could leave after the season. With the new CBA not giving teams draft pick compensation for players that leave the team in free agency who are acquired midseason, the Giants probably won’t want to give up very much for Victorino unless they’re sure he will re-sign with the team. The Giants also don’t have a very good farm system (ranked 26th by Law), so whatever they might offer the Phillies probably wouldn’t be worth the draft pick compensation they would get if they held on to Victorino and let him walk in the offseason as a free agent. Any Giants-Phillies trade involving Victorino would likely start with Gary Brown, a 23 year old, 6’1, 190 AA centerfielder with blazing speed hitting .288 with 26 steals this season. He projects as an above-average defensive centerfielder and a prototypical leadoff hitter at the MLB level and is ranked as the 6th-best outfield prospect in the minor leagues and 38th overall.

The Pirates are an interesting case. They’ve got an impressive farm system (8th in the MLB) and they figure to be very aggressive at the deadline as they look to make their first playoff appearance since losing to the Braves in the 1992 NLCS. They could really use another bat to help protect MVP-candidate Andrew McCutchen in the lineup, and the bat could fit in at nearly any position. They could also use another starting pitcher to complement James McDonald at the top of the rotation. The Phillies have a couple of big bats in Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino potentially available for trade, and Cole Hamels is a top-of-the-line starting pitcher. While the Pirates have reportedly dangled top outfield prospect Starling Marte (#31 in the minors, #5 outfielder) to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton, that might not be enough for them to bite. However, building a deal around Marte, who is 23 and hitting .286 with 10 HRs, 55 RBIs, and 18 steals in AAA, for Victorino or Pence would likely be enough for Reuben Amaro, Jr. to pull the trigger on. Victorino is much more likely for the Phillies to trade for two reasons: he’s a free agent after the season, while Pence has one more year of team control, and the Phillies just traded (and overpaid for) Pence at last year’s deadline. Trading him this year would inevitably draw comparisons between the prospects the Phillies traded for him and then acquired in return for him, which would likely reflect unfavorably on Amaro. I doubt the Pirates would offer Marte for Victorino because of their doubts about being able to re-sign him after the season, but they could move him in a deal for Pence that I think would make a lot of sense for both sides. A more realistic prospect target for Victorino might be outfielder Josh Bell, a 19-year old switch-hitting outfielder who is 6’4, 195. He’s the 57th ranked prospect in baseball, and he’s very young and raw, but he’s got a ton of upside as the RF of the future for the Phillies due to his potential to hit for both power and average and his plus throwing arm. As for Hamels, the Pirates were reportedly among the teams who were scouting him yesterday at Coors Field the Phillies would likely require at least one of the Pirates’ two stellar pitching prospects (Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole) in return for him, plus Marte, and the Pirates have so far been unwilling to give up either of their two pitching prospects, who they deem as untouchable. That unwillingness to deal their pitching prospects seems likely to hold up despite Hamels’ immense talent because of his status as a pending UFA.

The Dodgers have a strong desire for Cole Hamels (they scouted him yesterday during his start against the Rockies), and they believe they can re-sign him because of their new ownership group’s money and his California roots. With Chad Billingsley’s recent arm trouble (he’s set to undergo an MRI today) and Ted Lilly’s injury this season, the Dodgers would love to acquire Hamels to form a dominant 1-2 punch with Clayton Kershaw at the top of the rotation. The Dodgers’ system is ranked 12th by Law, and is heavy on pitching prospects but not position players. Any trade with the Dodgers for Hamels would start with Zach Lee, the 35th ranked prospect in the minors who is a 20 year old righthanded starter at AA who turned pro rather than playing QB at LSU. His fastball can hit the upper-90s when necessary, and he can command his curveball, slider, and changeup well. All 4 of his pitches seem to be on their way to being quality pitches at the MLB level. It would also likely include Allen Webster, the 66th-ranked prospect in baseball who is pitching at AA along with Lee. He uses his sinker very effectively, and projects as a #2 or #3 starter at the MLB level. If the Dodgers wanted to add depth to the back of their rotation, they could easily make a move for Joe Blanton, who, despite his struggles this season, has pitched in the postseason many times and has gone 2-0 with a 4.02 ERA in 10 postseason appearances, with 6 starts. Blanton won’t cost very much to acquire either, so he could make sense in LA. The Dodgers have also struggled mightily at 3rd base this season (Juan Uribe is hitting .193), so they could trade for Placido Polanco. Polanco isn’t what he used to be with the bat (he’s hitting just .266 this season), but he provides excellent defense at 3rd base and would still be an upgrade offensively over what the Dodgers have now. Combine that with the low asking price that the Phillies are sure to have, and Polanco is a fit in LA.

Finally, the Cardinals. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries to Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, and coupled with Adam Wainwright’s struggles, they could use another starter. The Cardinals’ farm system is ranked 5th in the MLB thanks to top pitching prospects Shelby Miller (#2 in baseball) and Carlos Martinez (#23), outfielder Oscar Taveras (#84), and 2nd baseman Kolten Wong (#89), so the ammunition for a Cole Hamels trade is definitely there if the Cardinals wanted to explore that. However, that hasn’t been their style in years past. Instead, they’ve taken veteran starters who have been struggling and reinvented them. They did it last year with Edwin Jackson, and have done it in the past with Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook, and Jeff Suppan, among many others. This would seem to indicate that a more likely target for the Cards would be Joe Blanton, and I think the two teams could easily work out a deal for the portly righthander known by many as “Heavy B”.

Now that you’ve seen who the Phillies’ potential trade partners are in the National League and who they might acquire in return for their players, what potential deals jump out at you? Would you not want to trade with any of these teams? Sound off in the comments and check back tomorrow for the American League.