Potential July Departures
There is next to nothing going on in the baseball world right now, but the Phillies could be very busy come July. With eight potential free agents in 2012, the Phillies may want to move some players before they walk away. Who are they and under what circumstances could they be moved?
Oswalt is due $16 million in 2012 but the Phillies can buy out that final year for $2 million and let him walk. There is some speculation that he could retire as well. If the Phillies are in contention for the playoffs, which is nearly guaranteed, there is no way Oswalt is moved. But, if the Phillies anger the baseball gods and fall out of the hunt by July 31, Oswalt could waive his no-trade clause and agree to be traded to a team in contention for a few prospects or a Major League-capable left fielder that would be under team control beyond the 2012 season.
If the Phillies are very strong in 2011, they will just keep Oswalt on board through the ’12 season. No reason to break up the four aces if you don’t have to, right?
Like Oswalt, Lidge has an expensive price tag for the 2012 season but the Phillies can buy him out for $1.5 million. Due to his struggles in ’09 and the early part of last season, the Phillies may be more comfortable with Ryan Madson in the ninth inning going forward. The only way Lidge would be an attractive trade target, though, is if he is healthy and pitching well, and if that is the case, the Phillies are going to want to keep him through the post-season. So for Lidge to be moved, he would need to be healthy and pitching well and the Phillies will have to be out of playoff contention.
The haul for Lidge wouldn’t be too impressive — perhaps a Ben Francisco-esque jack-of-all-trades outfielder at the most; more likely a fringe prospect or two. The Nationals may have ripped off the Minnesota Twins last year in getting prospect Wilson Ramos in exchange for closer Matt Capps, but don’t expect the Phillies to get such a deal.
Ibanez’s availability will depend on the progress of Domonic Brown, particularly the rookie’s performance in spring training. Essentially, if Brown impresses enough in spring training to merit a full-time job in right field, the likelihood of an Ibanez trade increases. Based on what the organization has said publicly, though, expect Brown to platoon in right field with Ben Francisco. In that case, if both Brown and Francisco produce, Ibanez does become expendable if and only if Ibanez agrees to waive his trade protection.
The problem is, of course, finding a market for a 39-year-old corner outfielder. The American League, where Ibanez’s shoddy defense can be hidden, is the place to look. Unlike Oswalt and Lidge, the point of trading Ibanez would be to recoup some of the $11.5 million he will be owed in 2011. The Phillies would be willing to trade Ibanez for next-to-nothing as long as the receiving team takes on the remainder of his salary, which would be about $4 million.
Thinking about this breaks my heart, but there is a possibility that Madson won’t be wearing Phillies red in 2012. He will earn $4.5 million this year, the last leg of his contract. Given his age and great performance over the last four years, it’s hard to imagine the Phillies not wanting to keep him around. However, Madson’s agent is Scott Boras, who may not advise his client to sign another team-friendly contract like he did in January of ’09.
Madson, who turns 30 at the end of August, is among the best relievers in the game but is not regarded as such. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was ninth-best among relievers last year and his 2.49 SIERA ranked 12th among pitchers with at least 50 innings of work. Despite that, Madson has never had an extended opportunity to close, and in the scant opportunities he has had, no one was impressed by his performance.
His age and overall good performance in the set-up role should allow the Phillies to get a couple of useful prospects, but I would be shocked if GM Ruben Amaro doesn’t have Madson, Rollins, and Cole Hamels signed to two- and three-year extensions before it’s too late.
As with Ibanez, Victorino’s availability depends a lot on Brown’s ability to transition into the Majors. Because Victorino is a center fielder and the Phillies have never seemed enthused about having either Brown or Francisco in center, such a trade would have to involve a center fielder coming back. The Dodgers’ Matt Kemp will be named in trade rumors until he is actually traded or signed to an extension and would be one such trade target for the Phillies. Kemp will earn $550,000 less than Victorino this year and will likely match Victorino’s $9.5 million salary in 2012, his last year of arbitration eligibility. Many have felt that a change of scenery would benefit Kemp and the Dodgers, so the thought has some merit — just not much.
If you’ve been keeping tabs on the caveats throughout this article, it’s quite obvious that such trades aren’t likely and involve a confluence of factors to actually occur. A team like the Phillies, built to win now, can’t really afford to sell off their parts, even if it means swallowing a net loss in terms of prospects and draft quicks left on the table. Stranger things have happened, though, like last year when the Phillies appeared to be throwing away the season and Amaro traded for a tractor-loving pitcher named Roy Oswalt.