Report: Phillies Looking to Sell High on Domonic Brown

Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports:

At first blush, this doesn’t seem to make much sense. Domonic Brown is still not yet eligible for arbitration and won’t become a free agent until after the 2017 season. He’s coming off of an All-Star season in which he bashed 27 home runs and was the team’s most productive offensive player.

But the Phillies, as Michael Baumann illustrated in his latest post, aren’t going to be very competitive in 2014. It’s even likely that they’re not competitive in 2015 as well, in his first year of arbitration eligibility. That’s why the Phillies should be actively shopping Brown. He’ll mean little to the team when he’s cheapest and the most when he’s at his most expensive.

Despite Brown’s impressive showing last season, many still question his true talent level given that a bulk of his offensive contributions occurred in May and his walk rate, at only 7.2 percent, was markedly lower than many anticipated. He doesn’t add any value on the bases, and he subtracts value with subpar defense in either corner of the outfield. Ultimate Zone Rating, found at FanGraphs, graded his defense as abysmal, while Baseball Reference’s Total Zone merely had him below average. If 2013 was the height of what Brown can achieve, then 2.5 WAR (per B-R) or 1.6 WAR (per FG) is his ceiling. And if that’s true, then right now, perception of Brown’s value greatly exceeds his actual value. Thus, the Phillies would be right to try and capitalize on that.

As much as the Marlon Byrd signing might suggest otherwise, the team’s best chance to compete is not in 2014 or ’15, but in 2016 and beyond. If Jesse Biddle can contribute out of the rotation, if Maikel Franco lives up to the hype, if Cole Hamels is still effective several years from now, if Ben Revere has evolved into a table-setter, if a few of the young arms in the bullpen have become reliable late-inning options… then the Phillies could be a force in the NL East once again. The Phillies can further supplement that goal by trading Brown (and Jonathan Papelbon, for that matter) for prospects close to reaching the Majors (the heir to Jimmy Rollins, perhaps?) and serviceable pre-arb players.

That said, the Phillies don’t have to pull the trigger on a deal now. But it behooves them to take the initiative themselves because Brown is one injury or one bad half of the season from torpedoing his value.

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29 comments

  1. yizzit

    December 09, 2013 01:54 PM

    Or put in other terms, “Phillies looking to trade only one of 3 full-time position players under the age of 32.” Haha. This team is going to be atrocious to watch if this goes through, the next couple of seasons. Granted, it was going to be anyway, but it’s been a while since the Phillies have had the kind of excitement that was wrapped around D. Brown going HAM.

  2. Ryan

    December 09, 2013 01:55 PM

    I don’t trust RAJ to trade Brown for a good haul of prospects as far as I can throw him. We will most likely get ripped off or end up with a starter that won’t help us for more than two seasons (if at all)!

  3. Tom

    December 09, 2013 02:02 PM

    I think they need to trade him now. If he has a terrible beginning to next year, his trade value will be zero.

  4. yo

    December 09, 2013 02:11 PM

    why would we assume that a 25 yr old former top prospect in his first full major league season has reached the height of what he can achieve?

  5. yo

    December 09, 2013 02:13 PM

    Tom, so, whenever a good young player has a strong season, the Phils should trade him before he gets terrible? That’s the Marlins’ MO.

  6. Tom

    December 09, 2013 02:26 PM

    I’m just not sure that Brown can have another season like that one. I hope that I’m wrong and Brown turns out to be a fantastic player, but I just don’t see it. And if that’s Marlins’ MO then Ruben needs to be on the phone trying to get Fernandez.

  7. nik

    December 09, 2013 02:46 PM

    Fernandez lol. He’s probably one of the top 5 most valuable assets in baseball. Fernandez for Brown. HAHAHA

  8. Bill Baer

    December 09, 2013 02:49 PM

    You could offer the Marlins every player in the Phillies’ organization for Alex Fernandez and they would decline in a heartbeat, haha.

    Edit: Meant Jose but leaving Alex up for the lulz.

  9. Bob

    December 09, 2013 03:00 PM

    Dom Brown is 26 years old. In 2016, he will be 28-29. RAJ believes that talented players can be productive until the age of 36 based on his current signings. The league trend is to lock up players young and early; not to trade them. His ISO last year was .222 and Steamer and Oliver project close to .200 next year. For a team devoid of power, his absence will hurt. His wOBA was about .350 last year and projected about same next year. For a team that can’t get on base, this above average production will be replaced by who exactly? Choo? Cruz? There’s no one in the minors unless you think Altherr is ready.

  10. nik

    December 09, 2013 03:04 PM

    Only guy in the upper minors right now that has a shot at a corner outfield job anytime soon is Dugan, and he had a pretty shaky AA stint. Brown’s agent also has a lot to do with the team currently trying to trade him.

  11. nik

    December 09, 2013 03:05 PM

    If the Marlins want that much for Alex Fernandez, imagine what they’d ask for Jose Fernandez.

  12. Larry

    December 09, 2013 08:10 PM

    @ Bob,

    “His ISO last year was .222 and Steamer and Oliver project close to .200 next year. For a team devoid of power, his absence will hurt. His wOBA was about .350 last year and projected about same next year. For a team that can’t get on base, this above average production will be replaced by who exactly? Choo? Cruz? There’s no one in the minors unless you think Altherr is ready.”

    Darin Ruf had an ISO of 211

    His wOBA was .354

    He had a higher OBP than Brown

    Ruf has opposite field power, Brown hit HRs to right and center only, plus Brown is another lefty. You can say you need to see more of Ruf to see if he can continue that trend, but you can say the same for Brown. I’m not saying Ruf is better, but he replaces a bunch of things people liked about Brown with similar offensive production. Brown’s value is probably at his peak, maybe they could get David Price. Brown + mid level prospect for Price might be possible. Insert Ruf between Utley and Howard in the lineup breaks up the lefties.

    Brown doesn’t seem durable so far in his young career. Maybe possibly RAJ was planning ahead when he signed Byrd? The outfield is too crowded. Keeping Mayberry in an already crowded outfield seems to reinforce that Brown was going on the trading block.

  13. Schufan

    December 09, 2013 08:35 PM

    But Amaro won’t deal Brown for any prospects. He’ll just deal him for a veteran pitcher and then hand Nelson Cruz a 3 year/$45 M contract to be barely a league average player on the occasions he’s not injured.

  14. Bob

    December 09, 2013 10:40 PM

    His wOBA was/ .003 higher than Dom’s. Out of all the offensive categories last year, the only category Ruf performed better than Dom was that .003. Ruf’s K rate was 31%, which is insane high. Ruf hit two oppo-boppos, and one landed at a little more than 340 feet. Brown’s WAR was 1.6 and Ruf’s was .1. And that’s with a .324 BABIP for Ruf as compared to a .287 for Brown. Even fielding, Ruf was a -26.9 UZR/150 and Brown, who’s awful, had a -12.6. Ruf had only one less GIDP than Brown in 250 less PA. Brown is a superior player than Ruf in almost every respect. The projections support this as well as Brown is pegged to have a much better season than Ruf.

    As for durability, I don’t know how breaking a hamate bone in spring training counts as injury prone. And Price is a 4-5 WAR pitcher. He’s worth much more than Brown and a throwaway.

  15. Bob

    December 09, 2013 10:49 PM

    I would like to see more of Ruf, but his defense is too brutal. He can’t play the OF; he’s a 1B. And the Phillies do not need a 1B as currently constituted. I would say trade him; however, 1B is not a premium position and the more valuable option for Phils would be for him to ride the pine in case TBP gets injured because we all know they will not platoon TBP.

  16. Phillie697

    December 10, 2013 01:42 AM

    Ryan has the right idea. I think the idea of trading Brown would be palatable if it’s someone other than RAJ doing the trading.

    Although this gives me a chance to play fantasy GM. So since we signed Marlon Byrd, what are the chances that a package of Domonic Brown and Cliff Lee get us Gerritt Cole?

  17. derekcarstairs

    December 10, 2013 01:57 AM

    If a package is coming back for Brown, it’s a package of marginal prospects. The Phils should be satisfied with a return of one good young major leaguer or one very good major-league-ready prospect.

  18. Bubba0101

    December 10, 2013 07:15 AM

    Derek,

    Not trying to argue here but Dom Brown is the “very good” major league ready prospect/ good young major leaguer. No need to trade him if all you’re getting back is one guy. Hes controllable and very cheap for the time being. Lets just see if this guy can anchor a lineup because from what I saw last year, he can.

  19. hk

    December 10, 2013 08:04 AM

    Derek,

    Would you be satisfied if they trade Brown, who put up a .351 woBA / 123 wRC+ season in his first full season at age 25 and who is scheduled to make next to nothing by MLB standards, for that type of return? I wouldn’t. I am all for trading Brown (or anyone else) for what I think is a suitable return, but I don’t understand why so many people – including the GM apparently – seem to think that they better trade Dom now before his value plummets. Is it because he’s a Cowboys fan?

  20. yo

    December 10, 2013 09:12 AM

    the only way it makes sense to trade Dom is to get an even younger Dom-level player(s)

  21. hk

    December 10, 2013 09:16 AM

    According to mlbtraderumors.com, rumor has it that the Phils are willing to discuss Hamels and Lee in trades. These next few days could be very interesting…..or not.

  22. hk

    December 10, 2013 09:16 AM

    I guess the “rumor has it” part was redundant.

  23. derekcarstairs

    December 10, 2013 09:29 AM

    hk – I would be satisfied if they traded Brown for another young guy who is either 1) an OF who can play defense or 2) a SP.

    For example, I would trade Brown + a prospect for Desmond Jennings. Jennings is young, right-handed, plays defense and steals bases.

    If you want a package, I think some team would be willing to trade three guys with .5 WAR potential for Brown.

  24. hk

    December 10, 2013 09:31 AM

    derek,

    Yes, Desmond Jennings > Dom. I would be on board with that. I would not be on board with three 0.5 WAR potential players for him.

  25. yizzit

    December 10, 2013 09:51 AM

    @ whoever mentioned Gerrit Cole and getting Fernandez,

    It has been proven time and time again, most other teams in the MLB do not value Phillies players the way Amaro does. Gerrit Cole!? He’s been a phenom-level prospect since the Pirates drafted him, and the team is moving in the right direction.

  26. hk

    December 10, 2013 10:47 AM

    Peter Gammons tweeted: One club says Phils will attach D. Brown if someone takes Papelbon, use $ for a starter

    If this is true – and that’s a big if, I would not call using Brown to get rid of Papelbon as selling high on Brown.

  27. Phillie697

    December 12, 2013 12:53 PM

    @yizzit,

    That’s why I didn’t propose a one-for-one Brown for Cole trade. Pirates aren’t that dumb. However, Cliff Lee > Cole, especially if we take some of Lee’s money (like, most of it). Any long-term loss of value is then mitigated by getting Dom Brown, or the theory goes. It’s a move I would consider making if I’m making a World Series push this coming season, which the Pirates rightfully should.

  28. Alex I. Wood

    December 16, 2013 03:45 PM

    It would have taken more money for the Phillies to pry Johnson away from his west coast desires, maybe something like one-year, $10MM with the chance to earn $12 million. All along, Johnson was seeking a one-year contract that would allow him to reestablish his value for next offseason, when he hopes to sign a long-term deal.

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