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?