Phillies Rumored to be Shopping Dom Brown

twitter.com/JonHeymanCBS/status/278626981531242498

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.

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54 comments

  1. Dan

    December 11, 2012 08:00 PM

    The league should force the Phillies to wear Civil War era tunics for uniforms should this trade actually occur.

  2. Ben

    December 11, 2012 08:06 PM

    I have to disagree on several fronts here, Bill.

    First, just because the field manager is something of an idiot and doesn’t appreciate Dom Brown’s value doesn’t mean that the front office doesn’t appreciate his value.

    Second, the fact that one single report threw Brown’s name out there for Soriano doesn’t mean anything. Most of the time these rumors are complete BS.

    I think it’s also pretty apparent that the front office has staked quite a bit of its rep on Dom succeeding — this is the guy who wasn’t traded for Halladay, or Lee, or Oswalt, or Pence. To sell low on him when he hasn’t been healthy for two years and has dealt with substantially suppressed BABIP that has pushed down his hitting production would run counter to everything they have thought about him in the past.

    Additionally, they didn’t trade him recently when more appetizing names were in play (Headley, Willingham, Fowler, Revere to name a few). I don’t see Soriano as the guy who would make them change their minds.

  3. Bill Baer

    December 11, 2012 08:09 PM

    I know he gets criticized a lot, but I can’t remember the last time Jon Heyman reported on something that turned out to be false. Plus, it’s been picked up elsewhere. If it were false, it would have been discredited already.

    I don’t think there’s any correlation between their refusal to include him in previous deals and their view of him now.

  4. Danny Jackson

    December 11, 2012 08:13 PM

    Bill–I agree this would be a terrible deal.

    But I think you are way too invested in Brown to be objective about this. You act as though it’s all the Phillies’ fault that Brown hasnt been good. That they mishandled him, and if not for that, he’d be a superstar by now. But at some point, you’ve got a 25-year old player who has never hit above .250, never slugged above .400, and never played even league-average defense in a corner OF spot. How much is that guy really worth?

    You also act as though being cheap is good for cheap’s sake. But that’s not true, unless you’re related to one of the Phillies owners, in which case, congrats. A player being cheap is only as valuable as using those assets somewhere else in a way that helps the team. The Phils have spent a combined $6.5 million so far filling 3B and CF for the next year, and two years, respectively. That’s pretty good (the quality of Michael Young notwithstanding) and it’s saved them money. So 2 years and $10 million for Soriano isnt going to hurt the payroll in a serious way. You’re already on record as saying no to Hamilton, and no to spending money on the bullpen. So where exactly do you propose they spend money? I don’t think Soriano is any great shakes as a player, either. But to prefer Dom because he’s cheaper when you don’t want to spend the money elsewhere? That’s silly.

    Otherwise, great for the owners and their grandkids’ trust funds, but what the hell was the point in saving money elsewhere just to watch Dom hit .255 and Michael Schwimmer blow another game?

    This is a trap that I find a lot of intelligent baseball fans fall into these days–missing the forest for the trees when it comes to dollars and value. Unless you’re the owner, you should care about what’s best for a winning franchise, not just what saves you the most money. We aren’t the Rays. As fun as I’m sure you might find it to be a Rays fan, you aren’t.

  5. Danny Jackson

    December 11, 2012 08:21 PM

    Also, why exactly should they have been committed to playing Dom in 2011, when they were on pace to win 102 games and he was hitting .245/.333/.393 with poor defense at the time of the Pence trade?

    They gave up way too much dealing for Pence, but that’s a different issue. They were (justifiably) trying to win a World Series with the best team in the league. Upgrading the team at that spot was more important than two months of Dom’s development at that specific moment. Do you honestly disagree with that?

  6. Frank Reynolds

    December 11, 2012 08:27 PM

    I don’t think there has been a “a lack of organizational commitment” on the phillies part with Dom Brown. They have had every chance to trade the guy and they have not done that yet. I will say I don’t think they have done best the for him or the organization in his development process. When they called him this past season I felt like this was going to be it. They were going to give his opportunity and he would not have to worry about being sent down. They pretty much did that but for me it was not enough. They need at least another full year to see what they have with him. Again I repeat they need to give him at the least this year to see what he can do. If its ugly fine they can give up. I just don’t want them to trade him now especially for this guy.

  7. LTG

    December 11, 2012 08:27 PM

    “Also, why exactly should they have been committed to playing Dom in 2011, when they were on pace to win 102 games and he was hitting .245/.333/.393 with poor defense at the time of the Pence trade?”

    Because he was producing more than Ibanez, who was an everyday player. You might also think that a 102 win team could afford to play the young guy to find out what he’s got. But the first point is the best one.

  8. John Paul

    December 11, 2012 08:27 PM

    I would not miss Brown if he was traded away but I don’t see this happening. Amaro knows he can get away with trading for Young but two 36/37 year olds who had a crappy season who might have a come back year just for the Phillies? Doubtful gamble. Something a little more sensible might be trading Dom Brown for a decent set up man. I wonder what RAJ is doing about addressing our power needs…

  9. Phillie697

    December 11, 2012 08:27 PM

    @Danny Jackson,

    Pence didn’t cost Dom just two months of development. Did you forget that he played for the Phillies in 2012 as well? Or are you saying the Phillies didn’t know they were getting Pence for more than two months? At least compare facts to facts, not facts to made-up facts.

  10. gmopro

    December 11, 2012 08:32 PM

    Dom Brown has had a bunch of chances to produce. He just wasn’t good enough. Enough with the excuses and blaming the Phillies. That’s ridiculous. If you can play, you can play.

  11. Bill Baer

    December 11, 2012 08:34 PM

    @ Danny

    I agree with most of your points. I don’t view 25 as being too old; in fact, that’s still pretty young with plenty of time to grow.

    Re: value, I wouldn’t spend too much money on this FA class in terms of guaranteed years. Some of the more attractive names left are guys I am very uncomfortable with beyond two or three years (in Josh Hamilton’s case, it’s three). Additionally, the Phillies don’t have to hit their limit during the off-season. They can give themselves some breathing room to make a mid-season deal that may be more attractive and more helpful to their immediate playoff chances. It has nothing to do with caring about how much money the owners save and everything to do about balancing immediate returns and future gains.

    Re: Brown’s playing time, how do you expect your “top prospect” to grow if he has done all he has to do at Triple-A, but is spending his time riding the bench every day at the Major League level? Putting the scenario at Brown vs. Pence isn’t quite accurate, as I was advocating benching Raul Ibanez in favor of Brown at the time.

    crashburnalley.com/2010/11/04/dom-brown-needs-600-pa-in-2011/

  12. Phillie697

    December 11, 2012 08:35 PM

    @gmopro,

    I’m sure the Dodgers are glad you weren’t the one calling the shots for them in 2010 about Matt Kemp.

  13. John Paul

    December 11, 2012 08:38 PM

    Don’t forget Bill, the kid has never spent a full season at any level, so yeah the chance to develop has sucked for Dom. In that regard I feel bad for him. And also disagree he has had a bunch of chances to produce.

  14. Danny Jackson

    December 11, 2012 09:42 PM

    My overall point is not that Brown’s development didn’t get stunted. It did.

    My point is that it’s no ones “fault.” It is just an unfortunate consequence of being a slow-developing prospect on a team that was built to win right now.

  15. Bill Baer

    December 11, 2012 09:53 PM

    The Giants just won a World Series with Brandon Crawford at shortstop. You don’t need a stud in his prime at every position to win.

  16. Danny Jackson

    December 11, 2012 09:58 PM

    Bill: Good point on the Ibanez thing. I agree that was a better move. Still, there’s even a solid argument there that a Raul/Mayberry platoon produced more than Dom would have in LF.

    Again, I agree there’s a balancing of short-term and long-term. But August of a year when you’re competing to win a WS is a time when the scales tend to tip much more heavily towards the short-term.

  17. Ryan

    December 11, 2012 10:18 PM

    Dom/Mayberry was better than Ibanez/Mayberry at the time. They only played Ibanez because they’re stubborn idiots and he was a respected veteran who Charlie refused to bench.

    Personally, I’m intrigued by a Ruff/Dom/Revere/Mayberry outfield. I know that it’s short on proven players, but it has some potential, particularly with platooning. I question whether Soriano would really be an upgrade given his expected decline due to age. Honestly, Josh Hamilton might be the only free agent outfielder that’s really worth signing at this point. Honestly, I’d be willing to spend something crazy like $90m for three years to get him without being stuck with too long of a contract to get him. I just don’t know that the other guys are really worth the contracts that they might get as far as the impact that they would have. Bill might be right in that we should save our money and use the flexibility for an in-season trade when our options might be more attractive.

  18. Steve

    December 11, 2012 11:48 PM

    I was going to write a lot more but then I realized Danny wrote most of what I was going to say. A couple of quick points, though.

    –Is his power really much of a strength when you’re likening it to a catcher who has–by catcher standards–had average-at-best power marks for his career? I love Chooch to death but his ISO over the last three years is 14th out of the 17 catchers who have had at least 1200 PAs. Not exactly where you want a corner outfielder to be.
    –The walk rate is nice, but is it really that much better/worse than the other guys there? It’s only 1.1%–six or seven walks per season–better than Pence’s, which got him a reputation for not being able to hold back from swinging at anything.
    –His OBP in that time is lower than anyone on the team other than Wilson Valdez. Even if you give him a mulligan for 2010 and only include the last two years, it’s only better than Polanco, Mayberry, and Valdez. Again, not where you want your corner outfielder to be.

    None of which is to say I don’t think he should get a chance this year (quite the contrary–depending on what happens with one of the corner OF spots in free agency, I think he and Ruf pretty much HAVE to get a chance). But I feel like the amount of credit and benefit of the doubt he gets is disproportionate to what he’s actually shown on the field. Have the Phillies handled him perfectly? Absolutely not. But you can’t just act like in all the time he spent in AAA over the past two seasons he forgot how to play baseball and therefore it’s all RAJ’s fault that he hasn’t played well in the majors. He deserves at least some of the blame for, y’know, not really playing well. I think there’s time for him to improve, but he’s got to show it this year. Projections seem to be modestly optimistic for him, so I’d like to see it work out. (And hell no, don’t trade him for Soriano. That would be very bad.)

    Oh, and FWIW I also kind of think that last quote there from Charlie was blown out of proportion when it first came out last week. That was at the end of a string of five or six straight questions about Dom and Ruf and the corner outfield, and the the last question–which prompted that quote–was flat out “would you not want Ruf and Brown as your two starting corner outfielders next year?” I don’t think that’s a strategy that any of us would wholeheartedly endorse, but Charlie just worded his response a bit unfortunately.

  19. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 12:19 AM

    @Danny,

    Then let’s get back to your original point. You acknowledge Brown has been mis-handled. You acknowledge we made some choices that resulted him not developing thus far. Yet your original post implied that it’s time to give up on him. For what? For us mis-handling him and not letting him develop? Exactly what’s your rationale for that then, if you acknowledge we never really found out what we have?

    It’s like knowing that you have a lottery ticket from a store that you KNOW sold the winning ticket, and instead of checking to see if it is indeed the winning ticket, you decided, “you know what, it’s not worth it, so I’ll sell it to you for the original price, $1. You want it?” Ahm, yes please?

  20. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 12:30 AM

    @Steve,

    Again, like Bill, I refer you to the WS winning Giants, who had a young 24 year old player who showed tremendous promise in the minors but hit only .316 wOBA AT FIRST BASE no less last year in 209 AB. Guess what THEY did with their stud? Right… Exactly what good teams do, they gave him EVEN MORE, to the toon of 472 AB. So please, don’t tell me the only way to win the WS is what the Phillies did. Giants just gave all of those who are defending the Pence trade as “we wanted to win” a big F-U.

  21. pedro3131

    December 12, 2012 03:50 AM

    @Phillie, I seem to remember a guest post by a SF blogger at some point talking about how badly SF mishandled Belt’s career. That said they did finally give him his chance this year and it paid off.

    The problem with Dom is it seems like Charlie almost has a vendetta against him and is hell bent on sabotaging his career. At the organizational level he’s the guy we wouldn’t trade, instead sending out multiple prospects to make up for his perceived potential. But at the day to day level, it appears as if Charlie just doesn’t like the guy and isn’t ever going to let him develop at the major league level. Maybe that’s why he’s being shopped around. Amaro realizes he needs to recoup something from him because he’s never going to develop into the player we want him to be with Charlie calling the shots.

  22. Joss Murdoch

    December 12, 2012 03:53 AM

    Aww no, he looked pretty damn good this last year though, more interesting than any of the other corner outfielders we have going at the moment. Could we not get them to take Mayberry Junior instead? Or, you know, not hire a 37 year old outfielder to add to our DL list?

  23. TomG

    December 12, 2012 09:00 AM

    Why would anyone see a Brown-for-Soriano deal as anything other than a truly horrible trade for the Phillies? Personally, I don’t think they’ve given Brown the chance he needs; he could still very well turn into a useful tool. But even if I thought it was time to give up on him, the Phillies ought to be able to get a lot more for him than Soriano. A LOT more.

  24. Richard

    December 12, 2012 09:58 AM

    anyone who talks about Brown’s lack of evident power to date without addressing his broken hamate should henceforth be banned from the topic

  25. Richard

    December 12, 2012 10:02 AM

    (one disagreement I have with Bill: I don’t think Brown strikes out too much… K rate was 16% this year, which isn’t bad at all, especially if the power and BABIP come around, which they’re bound to)

  26. Richard

    December 12, 2012 10:03 AM

    (Oh, not to defend Soriano, but his defense rates pretty well, perhaps surprisingly… I wouldn’t have minded the Phillies acquiring him instead of Michael Young, for example, in the same sort of deal… a Soriano – Rever – Brown outfield is kind of intriguing…. but, no, no way do you trade Brown for him)

  27. LTG

    December 12, 2012 10:56 AM

    So, when I took a look on the internet, the most useful info I found on hamate injuries said the loss of power could last *up to* a year. Last year Brown was beyond that 1 year window and had a .160 ISO, which is insufficient to make him a valuable everyday player given his skill set. There are probably many reasons not to put much stock in a .160 ISO being his ceiling, but the hamate injury is no longer one of them.

    Thus, when I go on to say that, while I don’t like this proposed trade (and it sounds like the Phils don’t either), I am no longer confident that Brown will be an everyday player (at least for more than a couple seasons) because he does not hit for enough power, I expect not to be banned from the topic.

  28. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 10:58 AM

    @pedro,

    You know my response to that? Fire Charlie. If RAJ had the balls to do that, I would forgive him for the Howard deal, his biggest blunder. Then he’ll only have the Papelbon deal to make up.

  29. LTG

    December 12, 2012 11:05 AM

    After reading that interview, I wonder to what extent RAJ has to manage Charlie’s proclivities rather than simply put together the best possible roster as he sees it.

    Sympathy for Smuggy.

  30. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 11:14 AM

    @LTG,

    League average ISO for all OFs in 2012 was .165. Even just assuming Brown has only slightly more power than his .160 ISO last year suggests (which btw is also artificially deflated because of a .260 BABIP; more BABIP = more hits = more extra-base hits = more ISO), he would be league average. Did I miss something or did league average players stop being everyday players? Now if you say we might not have a star anymore, that’s certainly understandable.

  31. Richard

    December 12, 2012 11:15 AM

    in the early part of his season at AAA, Brown was showing no power whatsoever, before it started to pick up mid-season

  32. Richard

    December 12, 2012 11:24 AM

    it’s worth noting that Brown’s LD%, and low BABIP on line drives (insert batted ball bucket caveats here) suggests that he indeed should have had a higher overall BABIP, after which the rest of Phillie697’s comment follows naturally

  33. LTG

    December 12, 2012 11:54 AM

    1. Brown’s BABIP has not been very high in his ~500 PAs, while his batted ball profile has remained basically the same. I’m not sure he has a high BABIP ceiling, although he probably should have had a higher one last season and suffered some bad luck. More like .280 than .260.

    2. Brown, unlike other outfielders, needs to hit for power to be valuable. His fielding and baserunning will drag his value down, so he has to overcome that. Plus, he doesn’t play CF. CFs don’t need to hit for as much power.

    3. When I looked at MLBers with the injury, 12 months looked more like the recovery time than 18.

    4. Brown’s numbers in 2010 are inconclusive regarding his power ceiling. And his numbers since then are also unreliable. But, at any rate, that’s not a reason to keep wearing roseate glasses when looking at him. To say one is no longer confident is not to say one thinks he won’t do it.

    5. My main point was that Richard’s “banned from the topic” decree was rather unreasonable.

  34. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 11:58 AM

    @LTG,

    Hyperbole isn’t always meant to be taken literally :P

  35. LTG

    December 12, 2012 12:02 PM

    Oh and I guess I should have said that by August and September he was at the tail end of the 18 month window. Since recovery is not a light-switch, we were seeing just below full strength, if not full strength, Dom Brown. So the results are not that distorted by the hamate injury. Of course, as I noted in the first place, there could be other reasons to expect that .160 or even .180 is not his ceiling. Again, I only really wanted to quash this “banned from topic” decree and allow room for reasonable disagreement where it should exist.

  36. LTG

    December 12, 2012 12:04 PM

    Tell me how to understand Richard’s comment such that it is just hyperbole and not excluding a reasonable position from the discourse?

  37. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 12:06 PM

    Towers said Gregorius reminds him “of a young Derek Jeter.”

    Someone please tell me Towers hasn’t lost all signs of sanity…

  38. Eric Longenhagen

    December 12, 2012 12:07 PM

    When Brownie was first returning from his hand injury you could see how weak it was. He struggled to muster the strength to close his glove on the ball and there was a noticeable kick-back on his bat when he contacted the ball. His break was BAD.

  39. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 12:09 PM

    @LTG,

    For whatever it’s worth (SSS), Brown’s ISO at the end of that 18 months, in Sept., was .215, and that’s with an unbelievably unlucky .225 BABIP.

    This kid still has talent written all over him. We need to set him loose and see what he can do.

  40. LTG

    December 12, 2012 12:27 PM

    “This kid still has talent written all over him. We need to set him loose and see what he can do.”

    I actually agree with this. Both the talent part and the set him loose part. But with all kinds of caveats about the range of expected outcomes. It was rather sobering to see Brown do a decent job at the end of last year and still come away with a negative fWAR. He’s got a ways to go just to get to league average corner OF.

  41. Richard

    December 12, 2012 12:28 PM

    yeah, my comment was not hyperbole at all

    though it’s not meant to say that you have to agree he’ll have more power, just that the hamate injury must be addressed

  42. Bill Baer

    December 12, 2012 12:53 PM

    I defer to Eric’s scouting expertise, particularly on the subject of Brown. And remember, the suggested 12-18 month recovery period is only in general; it is not unexpected that some people recover much faster while others take longer (think of recovery time following a bell curve). Brown took longer to recover from it.

  43. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 01:32 PM

    Sign either Capuano or Villanueva and call it a day. Or better yet sign both and put KK back into the pen.

  44. Phillie697

    December 12, 2012 01:36 PM

    Nvm, didn’t realize Dodgers re-signed Capuano.

  45. LTG

    December 12, 2012 02:16 PM

    BB, that is speculative. There are other possible reasons for his struggles to hit for power. Some of them might even be related to the Phillies screwing with his approach. At any rate, if you are relying on a speculative claim to make your projection you’ll have to admit other reasonable speculative claims that lead to other projections. Hence, the variety of expected outcomes.

  46. hk

    December 12, 2012 02:48 PM

    Phillie,

    Rumor has it that Capuano is on the block and might be a pretty good target depending upon what the Dodgers want in return.

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