Phillies Rumored to be Shopping Dom Brown

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Can’t make that up. Domonic Brown was once the Phillies’ top prospect and one they safeguarded in deals for Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Roy Oswalt, but with some unfortunate injuries and a lack of organizational commitment to his playing time and development, his stock has fallen off of the veritable cliff. Alfonso Soriano bounced back from a rough 2011 season, posting a .350 wOBA with the Chicago Cubs last season.

Heyman indicates that the Cubs would pay for all but $10 million of Soriano’s $38 million remaining salary which takes him through 2014. It sounds nice — a player who is coming off of a .350 wOBA season for two years at $10 million — but Brown will have significantly more value to the Phillies in the future. Brown doesn’t become eligible for arbitration until after the 2014 season, which means that the Phillies will have him under control for slightly more than the Major League minimum for another two years. Then, after that, Brown’s salary will scale according to his production or he could agree to a multi-year extension. Kyle Kendrick, for example, earned $2.45 million 2011 in his first year of arbitration eligibility, then agreed to a two-year, $7.5 million extension with the Phillies prior to the start of last season.

Essentially, if Brown pans out to be the prospect everyone thought he would be, the Phillies will be happy to compensate him. If Brown is a dud, as others expect, then he won’t earn as much money. In giving up Brown for Soriano, the Phillies are forgoing the opportunity to reap what they’ve sown in Brown, who is still young (25) with plenty of potential, an asset that could prove to be quite valuable over the next five seasons. In return, they would be gambling on a 37-year-old corner outfielder for the next two seasons.

The Phillies put themselves in this position, though. There were several opportunities to give Brown regular and even semi-regular playing time over the years, but they left him in Triple-A when he had nothing else to gain, then he was injured. He suffered from a quad injury in 2010, then had his hamate bone broken in March 2011, which sapped him of his power for a while. All told, Brown has 492 plate appearances spread out over three seasons, an average of 164 per season. In that span of time, however, Brown has shown some good signs — he has had as much power as Carlos Ruiz (both have a .152 ISO since 2010) and the third-best walk rate behind the now-departed Jayson Werth and Chase Utley.

Brown has his flaws too: he strikes out too much (fourth-highest rate since 2010) and has not looked comfortable in either outfield corner defensively. But is Soriano really any better in that regard, and are the Phillies’ needs so immediate that they must salvage Brown now rather than continuing to let him grow? This recent bit of news, along with manager Charlie Manuel‘s recent comments about Brown…

You know something, for me to say — I think I’m sending a bad message if I say that I don’t want them [Brown and Darin Ruf]. […]

… as well as the entire history surrounding the Phillies’ handling of Brown over the years, it does seem like a divorce is inevitable. Brown very well may be better off in another organization, but he is still a great asset to the team at the moment nonetheless, and certainly worth more to the organization going forward than Alfonso Soriano.