A’s Trade a Blueprint for Phillies?

Billy Beane‘s somewhat shocking, all-in trade of Addison Russell, Dan Straily, and Billy McKinney to Chicago for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel last week signals the official start of trading season. Oakland has made a deal, similar to Milwaukee’s CC Sabathia trade in 2008, that includes an extra month to use its new players and build a lead for the stretch run. The deal also takes away valuable assets from other teams that are likely to make trades for starting pitching and other useful parts. The Phillies should exploit that competition as much as possible, as soon as possible, to both control the market (instead of waiting for it), and to give their trade partners more value.

Considering that Samardzija doesn’t have close to the track record of Cole Hamels, as our friends at The Good Phight have said, and that the Shark clearly wants a #1 starter contract in free agency after next season, the Oakland trade seems to give the Phillies the ability to – ugh – “replenish” the farm system. (Please rewind your brain to the Cliff Lee to Seattle trade.) Teams like the A’s geared to win RIGHT NOW are willing to absorb large financial obligations and/or risk in exchange for a shot at the World Series, and in return a hopeless team like the Phillies can rebuild its franchise.

Many of you already know that the returns for standalone trades of expensive veterans like A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd, and Jonathan Papelbon would be underwhelming, a topic we’ve covered previously in this space. But a package deal built around Hamels, including any combination you like of Papelbon, Byrd, or Burnett, should bring a more enticing return for the Phillies. As a fan who has had to endure agonizing baseball more often than not in recent seasons, would you prefer individual trades of Byrd and Burnett and Papelbon for maybe a couple of B-level prospects, or a Hamels package deal? Before you answer, consider the following:

  • Jeff Samardzija — he of the career 1.32 WHIP and ONE inning pitched in the playoffs — and Jason Hammel  (career 4.62 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) were just dealt for a still-promising future 4th starter in Straily, Oakland’s 2013 first-rounder and #2 prospect McKinney, and Russell, the crown jewel of the system and one of the top 5 or so prospects in baseball. Oakland also has to give up a player to be named later.
  • Samardzija is one year younger than Hamels.
  • Samardzija is good, but he’s had exactly two decent seasons as a starter before this year, and 2014 is his first with an FIP below 3.5.
  • Samardzija will be a free agent in 2016 and will seek a gigantic contract. Kinda like the one Hamels already signed.
  • The Phillies are terrible and have a ridiculous payroll.

Now, keep in mind there may not be another Addison Russell trade out there this year. But if the Phillies were to trade Hamels, and let’s say they add Burnett and/or Byrd and/or Papelbon, the market set by the Oakland trade shows the buying team can be expected to pay a heavy price. Hamels’ contract gives cost certainty too, since the going rate for a pitcher of his caliber is now well north of $23 million per season. While Oakland’s deal was never going to happen without cheap team control over Samardzija, the team also gave up Addison Russell’s entire career for 15 months of Jeff Samardzija. Maybe the Dodgers, who have a glut of outfielders, a win-now payroll, and a proven willingness to spare no expense for a title, would give up Joc Pederson and Zach Lee to get Hollywood Hamels and pals? Ruben Amaro might as well ask for Corey Seager too.

Detroit owner Mike Ilitch desperately wants to bring a title to the Motor City. The Tigers are on Hamels’ no-trade list, but such provisions can be negotiated away. Would Ilitch ask GM Dave Dombrowski to get Hamels — who would be great Max Scherzer insurance — and Papelbon, and maybe even Byrd, for a package including a mix of Nick Castellanos, Robbie Ray, Jake Thompson, Jonathon Crawford, Ian Krol, and Corey Knebel? I’m willing to bet Dombrowski could get Ruben Amaro to throw in Cody Asche to make that work.

The Phillies surely would like the Pederson/Lee package a lot more. Even if you felt conflicted, you’d probably be OK with a Hamels trade that brings back that kind of return and relieves the Phillies of that much salary. The Detroit deal would seem better if it were Burnett, Byrd, and/or Papelbon leaving town, leaving Hamels here to sweep up the pieces of the back end of his career in a half-empty stadium across the street from what will likely be the only remotely competitive sports venue in the city for the next several years.

As currently constructed, the Phillies major league team and minor league systems are not competitive. If Addison Russell can be traded for Jeff Samardzija, the Phillies pretty much have to trade Cole Hamels. Even if you project stardom for JP Crawford, that’s three or four years from now. Who else is hitting in that lineup, besides Ryan Howard of course?

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  1. Bob

    July 10, 2014 09:51 AM

    The crushing thing about these contracts is that RAJ signed a lot of these players to deals with easily obtainable club options needlessly tacking on an extra year to the deal while the player is in the throes of his decline stage. Most of the options are based on the overall health of the players – not on their actual production. So, any team thinking about taking these guys would have to consider that these players, with declining value, will clog up their roster for over a year. If the club options vest, which looks likely for all but Adams, their contracts will not come off the books until:

    Signed through the end of 2015 season (1.5 more years)

    Signed through the end of 2016 season (2.5 more years)

    Signed through the end of 2018 season (4.5 more years)

    Signed through end of 2019 season (5.5 more years)

    If I were a general manager, I could see trading for guys with 1.5 years left on their deal. But committing an eight figure salary for 2.5 or longer is risky in my mind particularly with players on the wrong side of 30.

    • hk

      July 13, 2014 07:52 PM

      Great point. One of RAJ’s biggest failing is that he almost always seems to give out an extra year or two in every deal starting with 2 years to the then 46 year old Jamie Moyer and 3 years to Ibanez following the ’08 season when every other bad fielding, corner OF type got 1 or 2 years.

  2. Mark

    July 10, 2014 10:50 AM

    Replace Pederson and Lee for Seager and Urias, then we talk

    • Adam Dembowitz

      July 10, 2014 01:20 PM

      I would be interested in that package, though Urias is much farther away from the big leagues.

  3. bigred

    July 10, 2014 11:38 AM

    Do you think Beane came calling to Amaro looking for Lee or Hamels? or did he just bypass us because they’re a small market team who doesn’t want to pay top $$ for what Hamels and Lee are getting paid? It would pain me if we find out Beane came a knockin and Amaro turned him away for a package of those top prospects.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      July 10, 2014 12:58 PM

      I don’t. Oakland thinks it has a two-year window with this group, and they won’t be able to compete for Samardzija’s services once he hits the open market. They don’t have the payroll flexibility to roster a $20+ million pitcher on a long-term contract.

  4. philly fan in NY

    July 10, 2014 12:02 PM

    I don’t get thoughts like this at all. When you are building a team you need to fill 25 slots well and some of those slots are harder to fill than others – like say, a top notch starter. Any team you are building for the next 10 years starts with Cole Hamels, so regardless of what you get in return, unless it is two above average WAR field players is silly and guess what, no one has that in their system. Prospects are prospects, they might be good or not, but Hamels has a great track record of health and is likely to be an above avergage WAR pitcher for the majority of his very fair contract. Trade Papelbon, Trade Byrd, Trade Howard for anything. Trade Kendrick – do you homework on teams and look for an upside prospect. The thought about taken a KNOWN for the hope of some unknowns is silly, especially a relatively young known like Hamels.

    • Tinman5

      July 10, 2014 01:01 PM

      Finally, the Voice of Reason! Hamels is only 29, and because he throws mainly fastballs and change ups, his arm should last for a long time. There is an adage that the 2 most important things in Baseball are money and left-handed pitching. Trade Kendrick, Burnett, Papelbon and Hernandez (if anyone will take him). Don’t trade players just for the sake of trading them and say it is to build up the Farm System. Prospects are nice but Singleton is hitting .200. Mike Olt was considered one of the best prospects in baseball. He may be but is hitting .149. It’s nice to say we want to clean house, but who can play shortstop or second base? Washington, Kansas City and the Marlins got a better farm system in part because they got number one picks like Strasburg. I do not want to wait 10 years. Pitchers can be signed in free agency. We were told the team was willing to go over the Salary Cap. Let’s see the money.

      • Adam Dembowitz

        July 10, 2014 01:20 PM

        Trade Hernandez. OK, for what?

        Don’t trade players for the sake of trading them? I never wrote anything to that effect.

        Singleton is hitting .200? He has 125 at bats. You’re going to judge his major league career off 125 at bats? He has the same number of homers this year as Dom Brown, but in half the at bats.

        Kansas City’s last #1 overall pick was 2006 and Florida’s was 2000.

        There is no salary cap in baseball.

        You got anything else?

      • Adam Dembowitz

        July 10, 2014 01:28 PM

        I’d also like to point out that for any bad prospect trade you can think of, there’s a great one to refer to for hope. For every Cliff Lee to Seattle trade, there’s a Zack Greinke to Milwaukee trade (Jean Segura) or a Mark Teixeira trade (Elvis Andrus).

      • Pat

        July 10, 2014 04:57 PM

        “I’d also like to point out that for any bad prospect trade you can think of, there’s a great one to refer to for hope. For every Cliff Lee to Seattle trade, there’s a Zack Greinke to Milwaukee trade (Jean Segura) or a Mark Teixeira trade (Elvis Andrus).”

        Adam – That’s absolutely not true. The majority of trades involving prospects for established major leaguers usually do not work out for the team receiving the prospects.

        I think you’re severely underrating how difficult it would be to replace even the 2016 or 2017 version of Hamels. The chance of Hamels declining in the next few years is still less than one of the pitching prospects you would get for him developing into a player of his caliber.

        The minor league system, mostly due to the improved draft position, will probably be a top 10 system after next year’s draft. We have three or four (depending how you feel about Biddle) legitimate prospects who’ll hit the major league level in the next two years, plus next year’s high pick, plus a bunch of interesting guys at the lower levels. The cupboard is not so bare that we need to trade our best player in his prime.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      July 10, 2014 01:13 PM

      It’s hard to fill 25 slots with good players when you’ve committed $74 million annually to three guys (Hamels, Lee, Howard), and $124 million to seven guys (Hamels, Lee, Howard, Utley, Papelbon, Burnett, Rollins). Not coincidentally, the Phillies have a $178 million payroll and are one of the worst teams in baseball. As we’ve seen with so many pitchers, including our own Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, with age comes injury. Some guys are blessed with long, productive careers with minimal injury, but that’s the exception to the rule. Trading Hamels now, at the peak of his powers, will get the best return possible and minimizes the injury risk. If you want to hold him for the rest of his contract, you’ll be paying him $23 million a year to pitch for a 75-win club. If he gets hurt, you now have a 72-win club, no Cole Hamels, and $23 million burning away.

      Howard is untradeable. In a dream scenario where another team would actually want him, the Phillies would have to pay his entire contract. Kendrick will bring minimal value right now, but I’m sure most Phillies fans would be happy to see him go.

      The only way the Phillies can accelerate the process of returning to relevance is to make hard choices.

      • philly fan in NY

        July 10, 2014 02:32 PM

        Ok, so you’ve traded Hamels, assuming you get two top 50 prospects back, are they better than D. Brown, Revere, Altherr, Dugan, Franco, C. Hernandez, Galvis, Asche, Crawford, C. Sandberg, Z. Green, Couzens etc… The point is, unless they are LOCKS, like Felix Hernandez or Bryce Harper, they aren’t going to help in the next two years anyway and are likely as well rated as our farm system. Currently we are rated middle of the pack. We are missing a LOCK pitcher and one other LOCK player from having a top system. They don’t grow on trees and they rarely get traded and your chances of finding one out of a trade bin (when that teams knows the players better than the trade partner) is very low. The Phillies can rebuild and I don’t believe that money is the problem (Lee and Hamels is money WELL spent). Howard is a problem and unfortauntely he simply has to step aside for Franco and have those dollars eaten (when I said trade him, I meant literally for anything – he is probably a reasonable DH for an AL team). Lee and Hamels are the anchors to a rotation, which will keep it from being bottom 10 in the league, without one of those pieces, very little chance to avoid that, so you have to improve the OTHER 3 spots. Burnett was a solid signing in the offseason, we’ll need something like that again. I like how the bullpen has performed over the last two months – so assuming Papelbon is gone and Adams is done as a Philly, I’m okay with bullpen and assume we get one prospect back in the top 100 for Paps. Bastardo, De Fratus, Diekman, Giles and Hollands is a nice young core and probably ought to be augmented by and experience RH who can go 2 innings at least. Now we get to the problem – the offense. Utley stays, great value for production and a solid contract – plus you know what you get in the clubhouse and in terms of effort. Rollins stays because Crawford needs one more year, who are you going to get as a one year rental (roughly Jimmy or worse). Asche keeps going at 3B and Franco plays first (I believe in the kid and it’s nice to see his bat coming around recently). Ruiz catches, Rupp backs up. Outfield – yikes, D. brown is a conundrum, I confess to being not sure if we ought to give up or not. I like Altherr in CF for the pop and the defense and the arm – I think he is a slight upgrade. Byrd has been alright, but we have to assume he’s gone as well. Do you go with Dugan (probably not ready yet) so here I’m not sure either – maybe a new FA. Revere becomes bench and PR. Anybody can fill Mayberry’s shoes, Galvis is the utility (or C. Hernandez). So you might ask, how does this improve the team… Believe it or not I think the difference between success and failure in baseball is based more on trend and chemistry than anything else. Paps is a clubhouse cancer, You can feel the collective let down when Howard comes to plate, people expect the strikeout now – remove those things, add some energy with a few younger players and I think the 2015 team has a shot at the wildcard with some luck and some outperformance.

      • edwin

        July 10, 2014 05:23 PM

        Trading Hamels for anything other than top line players who are starting an producing now is a waste of time as far as I am concerned. The rebuild would take longer than the past few years you have had to endure. As the other readers have pointed out you have to rebuild around something and as someone who endure a lot more shitty years of Phils baseball than I care to remember and all this talk of shipping out one of the best players in the organization and the league for prospects is asinine and quite irritating. Patience is a virtue. Trade the flotsam and jetsam of this team, gets some bats and see what happens. The Phils have never been and never will be the A’s for a number of reasons for a variety of reasons so…

      • eddie

        July 10, 2014 07:58 PM

        “The point is, unless they are LOCKS, like Felix Hernandez or Bryce Harper, they aren’t going to help in the next two years anyway and are likely as well rated as our farm system.”

        There is no such thing as a lock, and nothing is going to help in the next two years. This is a bad team, and getting worse. There is a 95% chance the team will miss the playoffs next year; hoping for “energy” and “young players” to magically appear gives you about a 5% chance.

        I got no problem giving up that 5% if it makes the team better in 2016 and 2017, when we might actually have a shot.

  5. Scott B

    July 10, 2014 09:14 PM

    Adam what would you think of a Hamels to NYY for a combination of Nova/Pineda, Betances, Solarte or Gary Sanchez? By the sounds of it the Yankees are damn near desperate to get to the postseason for Jeter’s last season and with the injuries that decimated their rotation something along those lines sounds realistic.

    • hk

      July 11, 2014 06:31 AM

      The only combination of the players that you mention that I would even remotely consider in exchange for Hamels is Betances and Sanchez.

      1. Nova is in the midst of rehabbing from TJS.

      2. The injury-prone Pineda has thrown 19 2/3 MLB innings during the last 3 seasons.

      3. Solarte was signed by the Yankees as a minor league free agent after posting a 91 wRC+ in 1,140 AAA PA’s in 2012 and 2013. He had a crazy April fueled by a BABIP and BB% that were bound to regress – which they did – and does not project to add much to the equation.

      4. Betances is interesting. I have not read one scout who thinks he can be an effective SP, so if you trade for him, you have to do so on the basis that he’s going to be a reliever, either in the role that Girardi is currently using him (high leverage situations in the 7th inning or later) or as a closer. He has produced 2.1 WAR in a little more than 50% of the season and in 53 1/3 IP. If you think he can be a 100 to 110 IP per season, 3 to 4 WAR RP, it’s worth considering. Of course, if Brian Cashman thinks the same thing, he probably won’t trade him.

      5. I would love for the Phillies to acquire Sanchez.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      July 15, 2014 07:43 PM

      That package isn’t even close to what Hamels is worth. The NYY stuff is just national media filling up space.

  6. Nate

    July 12, 2014 03:34 PM

    Braves fan here, and this is very simple. Dangle Hamels out there after all the big time names are traded, see if a team that lost out on allot them will overpay. If not, keep him. That deal wasn’t just Andrus to TEX, it was also Feliz, Saltalamacchia and Harrison that we sent over there. I have no regrets; we had a shot and we took it. You’re in a different position. People overpay all the time like OAK did, so go to the team that missed out on Price and see if you get a top 10 prospect. As was pointed out, keeping him isn’t exactly a horrible situation for you. Getting cheap young talent for him is ideal, but you totally need to be more patient with this, it’s not a must trade.

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