Stop me if this sounds familiar. A team with championship aspirations faces a slew of injuries to their best players. They find themselves last in their division but hope that the players return will boost them back into contention. At the trade deadline they must make a tough decision: stick to the plan or write off a season in a championship era whose window could be closing.
Yep - the Phillies are having the year the Twins had last year. But instead of a fan base of Minnesota stoics, they play in the City of Brotherly Love. You can imagine how pleasant that is.
Why They Will Trade With The Twins
The Phillies are walking a delicate line. Despite injuries to superstar second baseman Chase Utley, first baseman Ryan Howard and ace pitcher Roy Halladay, the Philadelphia is only six games under .500 and just 5.5 games back of the wild card. They hope to have Utley back on Wednesday, Howard beginning a rehab assignment this week and Halladay returning in the middle of July. If they get healthy, and the Phils simply tread water for the next month, it will be awfully hard for them to give up on the season.
Traditionally, the Phillies have had trouble finding good right-handed hitting to offset Utley and Howard’s left-handed bats. But they traded for Hunter Pence last year and he has an 803 OPS and catcher Carlos Ruiz has a (unsustainable) 978 OPS to lead the team. Add in that Juan Pierre is playing left field (and hitting .322) and it’s hard to see a fit for Josh Willingham, though in previous years he would’ve been an obvious fit.
But what if Howard can’t come back strong, or if this injury (which has repeatedly defied expectations) looks like it might take more time than just this season to heal? If so, Justin Morneau would be a hell of a replacement for him, and it’s not like his $14 million salary would be much of a problem for the phree-spending Phils.
Other options include Ryan Doumit if Carlos Ruiz' ribcage strain becomes a problem. The Phillies setup men – primarily Chad Qualls and Antonio Bastardo - have both been unreliable. If Halladay can’t recover, history suggests that the Phils aren’t afraid to chase high-ceiling pitchers like Liriano. Finally, there is one Twins player that could be interesting even if the Phils decide to pack it in this year. Their center fielder Shane Victorino will be a free agent at the end of the year and the Phillies don’t know if they’ll be able to re-sign him. Denard Span might be of interest as he’s under contract through 2015.
Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
The most likely scenario is that the Phils do exactly what the Twins did last year: stand pat. It’s hard to give up on a year when expectations were so high and it’s easy to blame injuries. Plus, management can trot out the great cliché that they’re trading for three superstars just by getting healthy.
They’re worth watching, to be sure. The Phils have been very aggressive around the trade deadline in acquiring talent, and they haven’t been afraid to trade away significant prospects for the right pieces. But outside of Morneau as a Howard replacement, there doesn’t look like a great fit here.
Possible Trade Targets
Domonic Brown - OF
You may have heard this name a the trade deadline in 2011. Or 2010. Or 2009. And now he’s 24. The Phillies have had several opportunities to trust him with a corner outfield spot, and it seems likely they’re never going to have room for him, even though he’s only had 246 AB in the majors. He hasn’t actually done much in the minors in 2011 or 2012 and he’s had trouble staying health (including being out right now with some strained knee ligaments). But did I mention that he’s just 24, and that two years ago he was posting a combine 980 OPS in AA and AAA?
Trevor May – RHP
May is a possible front of the rotation starter, topping most Phillies prospect lists. But he isn’t an elite prospect because of his struggles with his control. You might expect those issues (4.6 BB/9) to be further exposed as he climbed up the ladder and sure enough, he’s posting a 4.94 ERA this year at AA, albeit with fewer walks. Short of a big deal, he likely isn’t available, but he’s one of several options – Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America both have multiple pitchers in their Top 5 rankings of Phils prospects.
Freddy Galvis - SS
Galvis made the Phils roster out of spring training, starting at second base, courtesy of Utley’s injury. His year went downhill from there in a hurry. First, he hit .226. Then he fractured his back. And then he was suspended 50 days for testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. His main asset is a terrific glove. It isn’t clear he has enough offense to be a regular starter – his career OBP in the minors is .292 – and the steroid suspension further clouds that issue. But he’s just 22 years old and has been relatively young for most of his levels, so a case can be made that there is still plenty of untapped potential.
Please add your thoughts and trade ideas (and other names the Twins could pursue) in the comments below!