An Inventory of the Phillies’ Trade Assets
I knew you were there all along. You, who looked at the Phillies’ roster in March and squinted and convinced yourself that this team could win 80-plus games and then maybe, if everything goes right, could snag a Wild Card, and once you’re in, and you can throw a front three of Hamels, Lee and Burnett…who knows? But you knew you were deluding yourself. You knew, somewhere, that optimism is a coping mechanism and that the universe is governed by a single immutable law: that everything is going to suck. And in accordance with that law, I give you the Phillies, 21-26, in last place.
Now it’s time to start thinking about the rebuild, and if the Phillies decide to offload some established talent for future talent, who’s on the way out. And here, as on the field, there’s only bad news.
- Cliff Lee: 21-team no-trade clause, currently injured, guaranteed $62.5 million through 2015, including buyout for 2016. Phillies can exercise team option for 2016 for an additional $15 million. Option will likely become guaranteed if Lee’s elbow injury isn’t serious.
- Ryan Howard: 21-team no-trade clause, guaranteed $85 million through 2016, including buyout for 2017. Phillies can exercise team option for 2017 for an additional $13 million.
- Chase Utley: full no-trade clause through 10-and-5 rights, guaranteed $27 million through 2015, including buyout for 2016. Vesting options through 2018.
- Jimmy Rollins: full no-trade clause through 10-and-5 rights, guaranteed $11 million through 2014, plus an $11 million vesting option for 2015 based on a plate appearance threshold he’ll almost certainly hit.
Any of these players could waive their no-trade clauses, but Rollins and Utley seem to want to finish their careers here. Before the injury, Lee was probably the Phillies’ best trade asset, but in the Year of Tommy John Surgery, any team that would trade for him would want assurances that he’s completely healthy. I don’t know that there’s enough time left before the deadline for him to provide those assurances.
Howard, according to Cot’s Contracts, has something they call “most favored nation” trade veto power, which is an interesting phrase loaned from international diplomacy/economics/politics. His contract guarantees no-trade power equal to the most restrictive no-trade clause the Phillies give out to a free agent, which is Lee’s, in this case. It’s not tremendously relevant, because Howard’s not going anywhere, but I just thought that was an elegant way to state the concept.
The Why-Would-You-Trade-Them Club
- Cole Hamels: “limited” no-trade protection turns into 10-and-5 in 2017, guaranteed $108.5 million through 2018, including buyout of a team option for 2019. That team option is for an additional $14 million and turns into a vesting option given injury and innings thresholds.
- Miguel Gonzalez: guaranteed $12 million through 2016, plus a vesting option for 2017.
- Ben Revere: guaranteed $1.95 million through 2014, arbitration-eligible, becomes a free agent after the 2017 season.
- Domonic Brown: guaranteed $550,000 through 2014, arbitration-eligible this year, becomes a free agent after the 2017 season.
- Jake Diekman: guaranteed $516,000 through 2014, arbitration eligible after 2015, becomes a free agent after the 2018 season.
This group includes the players you’d hope would be on the next good Phillies team, or who are young and under team control. You could trade Domonic Brown or Ben Revere, but that would involve trading an underachieving young outfielder for another underachieving player. I love the My Garbage for Your Trash trade more than anything in the world, but I’d just as soon take my chances with Brown and Revere as whatever I’d get in return.
Hamels represents a sort of mental watershed for the rebuilding movement. Because of his age, he’s almost certainly the Phillies’ most valuable trade chip, but while he’d probably warrant a substantial return in a trade, the fact that he’s a homegrown guy who just signed an extension in the past 24 months would make trading him a difficult emotional pill to swallow. Feel free to disagree. I’m rational, but not that rational.
- The Former Fausto Carmona: guaranteed $4.5 million through 2014
- Kyle Kendrick: guaranteed $7.675 million through 2014
- John Mayberry
- Wil Nieves
- Tony Gwynn
- Jeff Manship
- Justin De Fratus
- Freddy Galvis
- Darin Ruf
- Cesar Hernandez
- Mario Hollands
- B.J. Rosenberg
- David Buchanan
- Jonathan Pettibone
- Reid Brignac
Roster filler. Either these guys aren’t under team control past this year or will never be good or both. I’ll list contract information where relevant, but my capacity for giving a shit doesn’t extend to actually writing down how much John Mayberry is making or when Jonathan Pettibone will be eligible for arbitration. You can consider all of these guys nonfactors as far as bringing back value in a trade. If I missed someone from this section, I assure you, it’s because he doesn’t matter.
Tradeable, But You Won’t Get Much
- Cody Asche: guaranteed $500,000 through 2014, arbitration-eligible after 2016, becomes a free agent after the 2019 season.
- Mike Adams: guaranteed $7 million through 2014, $6 million club option for 2015 that becomes guaranteed with 60 IP this year
- Jonathan Papelbon: guaranteed $26 million through 2015, plus a $13 million vesting option for 2016
- Carlos Ruiz: guaranteed $26 million through 2016, including a buyout for 2017. Phillies can exercise the 2017 option for an additional $4 million
- Antonio Bastardo: guaranteed $2 million through 2014, arbitration-eligible, becomes a free agent after the 2015 season
- Marlon Byrd: guaranteed $16 million through 2015, with an $8 million club option for 2016 that vests with plate appearance thresholds
- A.J. Burnett: limited no-trade clause, guaranteed $16 million through 2014, (though about half of it is split up into signing bonuses and frontloaded) including the buyout for his 2015 option. The mutual option for 2015 is an additional $14 million, and if the Phillies turn it down, Burnett can exercise a $7.5 million player option that increases with certain thresholds for games started. This is the most confusing one-year contract I’ve ever seen, so if you’re that curious, go to Cot’s and figure it out for yourself.
Asche would be on the rebuilding block list if not for Maikel Franco breathing down his neck. The hope with Asche was that he’d hit enough to overcome a below-average glove. Well he’s been terrible defensively and streaky offensively so far. The jury’s still very much out on him, but I don’t know why the Phillies would trade him, nor do I think they’d receive a substantial return for doing so. Ruiz is the last homegrown player the Phillies brought up who’s been worth a crap, and he’s 35, so let that sink in for a second. He’s still good, but he’s still a catcher with a contract through his age-37 season. I imagine the Phillies could find a taker for Chooch if they wanted to shop him, but what’s the market for a player his age at his position?
Adams and Papelbon have been good this year, but they’re old and expensive, and about 25 other teams caught on to it not being a good idea to sign players like Adams and Papelbon to contracts like theirs long before the Phillies did. Tony No-Dad is also a useful bullpen piece, but again, you’re not getting a top-10 organizational guy for a year and a half of a decent middle reliever.
I loved the offseason signings of Burnett and Byrd, in part because I believed they could be flipped for something useful. Either one could improve a playoff hopeful with a hole, and while Burnett at least would be picky about his destination, the Phillies would stand to turn excess cash into at least some players with upside. Last year, the Pirates gave up Dilson Herrera and Vic Black for Byrd and John Buck at the deadline, and while that was viewed as a coup for the Mets, that’s two potentially useful prospects for a rental player. In 2012, the Pirates gave up a package including Robbie Grossman, who was once on the back end of BP’s top 100, for Wandy Rodriguez. If the Phillies got the equivalent of that for Byrd and Burnett at the trade deadline, I’d be thrilled. It’s not a lot, but it’s not nothing, either.
Legitimate Fodder for Franchise-Altering Prospects in Trade
That’s the problem. If you want to get multiple potential first-division starters in a trade, you need an All-Star who’s at the very least not declining yet and is under team control for some time to come. James Shields. Justin Upton. Mat Latos. That kind of player. Either that or you need to fleece one of a shrinking number of sucker GMs, which won’t work because the Diamondbacks are running out of prospects to trade, the Dodgers don’t have any holes to fill and the Phillies can trade with themselves.
Everyone the Phillies have to trade is either old or bad or expensive or all three, and that’s not a problem you can overcome with sheer numbers. The Phillies can’t trade 16 quad-A guys who are worth half a win each for, say Josh Donaldson or Chris Davis. Trade value is not strictly additive in that way. If the Phillies hadn’t gutted the farm system in 2010 and failed to develop any of the players they had in the meantime, maybe they’d have someone to trade. Then again, maybe they’d have a better team and not be in a position to rebuild in the first place.
But as it stands, here they are. How can the Phillies restock the farm system externally? By trading Cliff Lee, if he were healthy and they were willing to eat some salary. By trading Cole Hamels, if they’re willing and would eat a lot of salary. Incrementally, by trading Burnett, Byrd and (if they’re willing to eat some salary) Jonathan Papelbon and a few others. Apart from that, they’re left at the mercy of their scouting and player development departments, which have failed entirely since 2007 or so. It’s not good news, but it’s where we stand. Maybe the delusion of contending this year wasn’t a bad place to be after all.