The One Trade Amaro Needed To Make

This morning, David Murphy of The Daily News did an excellent job laying out the reasons why inaction by the Phillies at the trade deadline would neither be surprising nor irresponsible. The entire article is rather short and well worth reading, but the following excerpt gets to the crux of the issue:

“It is absolutely possible that the Phillies are over-playing their hand. They haven’t always displayed the greatest self-awareness in the past. At the same time, they are not in the position as most sellers. Remember, the lubricant of the trade deadline is teams trying to shed salary… The Phillies only motivation for dealing players is to add younger pieces that have a chance to help them in the future. If they can’t get those pieces now, they might as well wait for the offseason.”David Murphy

Murphy hits the nail on the head. The biggest obstacle facing the Phillies right now is not that their high payroll will prevent them from picking up the final pieces needed to propel themselves back into contender status, but instead their greatest weakness a severe lack of depth and top tier talent in their farm system. Given that none of their potential trade candidates are facing free agency at the end of the season, there’s no incentive to rush a move if the return isn’t ideal – which is to say there was no need to make trades that trim payroll without getting back young talent the Phillies desire whether they be elite prospects in a Hamels deal, lower tier guys, or intriguing lottery ticket types.

There were further complications that made this trade deadline particularly quirky for the Phillies including full no-trade clauses through 10-and-5 rights for Rollins and Utley, injuries to Lee and Burnett, cumbersome contracts, and the fact that many of their tradeable assets are expected to clear waivers in August. While lacking the short term good feelings Phillies fans desperately crave, inaction today doesn’t mean deals won’t get done either before the August 30th waiver trade deadline or over the offseason.

That said, there was one move that Amaro needed to pull the trigger on today and didn’t – trading Marlon Byrd. When the Phillies signed Byrd to a 2-yr/$16M contract last November, my gut reaction was something along the lines of rolling my eyes and whining. It was one of the first free agent signings of the offseason and it felt like Amaro moved much too quickly on a 36-year-old outfielder coming off a career year. I was wrong and Amaro’s office was right.

Byrd has made significant adjustments throughout his career and presumably the Phillies scouting department correctly anticipated that his new found success was a sustainable trend and not a mere fluke. The best part of the deal was that if everything clicked for the 2014 Phillies, Byrd was a nice complementary piece of the puzzle but if things went badly for the team, he could be traded.

Concerns about Byrd’s 2013 being a fluke and his age being a hindrance have been quieted by his impressive production in an otherwise lost Phillies season. The only National League outfielder with more home runs than Byrd this season is The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton and with the Phillies sitting 14 games below .500, moving him should have been an inevitability. So what went wrong? The way I see it there are three basic possibilities:

  1. Amaro’s camp overvalued Byrd and rejected reasonable offers from other teams.
  2. The contract structure backfired. Byrd’s a vesting option for 2016, his age 38 season, turned off otherwise interested suitors.
  3. The market for an outfield bat never materialized and Amaro received no viable offers.

#3 is far and way the least likely. Baseball teams want to win, so if talent is to be had the market will always be there. There is no doubt Marlon Byrd would be a welcome addition to any of a variety of contending teams, meaning the problem was either the asking price or the contract, either way the fault lies with the Phillies organization.

Failing to move Byrd was a mistake, albeit one that’s not guaranteed to backfire. If he keeps producing at this level his trade value could continue to rise through to the 2015 trade deadline. However, when a team is as desperate for farm system revitalization as these Phillies are, failing to move their easiest chip is an unnecessary risk. While the Phillies may still make moves in August, it’s possible that Byrd will not clear waivers and, therefore, remain off the trade market until the offseason. With aging induced performance decline hanging over the head of 36-year-old Byrd like a black cloud, it has to be acknowledged that his trade value may never be higher than it is at this moment and failing to act was a risk not worth taking.

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  1. eddie

    July 31, 2014 06:00 PM

    “If he keeps producing at this level his trade value could continue to rise through to the 2015 trade deadline. … his trade value may never be higher than it is at this moment”

    Umm… pick one.

    FWIW, I agree with the latter.

      • jauer

        August 01, 2014 01:44 AM

        They’re not even close to mutually exclusive. Why does she have to pick one? I feel like Corinne may have overstated the case for trading Byrd, but picking out those two lines as if they present a contradiction is preposterous.

        Eddie is demanding that Corinne should know how to predict the future.

  2. Hal

    July 31, 2014 06:16 PM

    To sign him, they seemed to of needed to include the 3rd yr option which is most likely what cost them with trading him so once again, RAJ’s good acquisition wasn’t so good. Another bad signing in the end.

    • Timber

      July 31, 2014 07:10 PM

      If the option year was the holdup in a deal, I’m gonna lose it. The Phillies advantage is money. If the issue was the option year, pay down that option year in a deal. That way, you’re using the financial advantage you have over most other teams to essentially buy prospects.

  3. JonCheddar

    July 31, 2014 06:28 PM

    The problem with “waiting for August” or “waiting for the offseason” is that sellers never have more leverage than the July trade deadline.

    In July, many teams are still in it, and there is no other avenue for upgrade.

    Come August, several teams have fallen out of the race, and others have strengthened their postseason chances, so deals are less impactful.

    In the winter, lack of clarity (around how good your team actually is) and abundance of options (free agency, other trades) reduce a seller’s leverage.

    The last two July deadlines have been disasters of the highest order.

    • Greg

      August 01, 2014 10:40 AM

      I thought this exactly. One need look no further than the Astros completely fleecing the Phillies in 2011 in the Pence trade. They got the absolute maximum return from a contending team that wouldn’t have given up anything near that in the off-season for the same guy. Selling the big chips while they could to hungry contenders would have gotten at least better prospects than they’ll get in the off-season, though the Phils would’ve still needed to eat money (not that big of an issue since that is the one strength this team has anymore) There were many trades that should have been made, this is just one we all thought was the most obvious needed to happen.

      I also may be acting very pessimistic, but I have little to no faith Byrd will hold this level of play up for one more year, making this an even more egregious error.

  4. Matt

    July 31, 2014 08:16 PM

    I don’t see how anyone can have any faith in this front office to make smart moves for the future, be it at the deadline, waiver deals or in the offseason. I certainly don’t.

  5. Pete

    July 31, 2014 11:54 PM

    Can we agree that the phrase “The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton” has officially become a cliche and should be retired? Can he just be called Giancarlo Stanton? Please.

    • Framed_Ace

      August 01, 2014 12:28 AM

      Sorry. I can’t agree with this at all. Mostly because it is still fun and true. Sorry that you hate fun though. Hope things get better for ya bud.

      • Pete

        August 01, 2014 03:16 AM

        Wow. You are incredibly incisive. You could have just disagreed, but you took the time to go deeper. Took the time to pluck the defining characteristic of my psyche straight from the ether. A characteristic which I never realized before — but I do hate fun. And now that I think about it. I hate Christmas too. And children. And dimples. And dungarees. And the ambidextrous. And cow bell. I…hate…fun. It’s not that the phrase “The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton” has been used almost continuously for years now and has been run into the ground and is no longer fun unless you spend 23 and a half hours a day in solitary confinement on death row and missed its first 10,000 or so uses. Not that at all. So you’re right. Yes. More “The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton” and more cow bell please!!!

    • Carmine

      August 01, 2014 09:07 AM

      I still call him Mike.

    • Pete

      August 03, 2014 11:00 PM

      Well, the people have spoken: “The Mighty Giancarlo Stanton” is still fun. But, if you’ll pardon my ignorance and my belaboring the point, I still don’t see why. I’m assuming Crashburnalley readers are generally Phillies fans, right? So why would Phillies fans take such pleasure in bestowing a player on a division rival with such a deferential “title”? Phillies fans (and Philadelphians) have often been saddled with a reputation for an inferiority complex, but this Stanton thing is a weird (and uncomfortable step in my opinion) into something akin to cuckholdery.

  6. Oops

    August 01, 2014 12:38 AM

    especially since Dom Ben Ruf and Grady all need playing time, AND there’s cuban outfielders to be had.

  7. Rich

    August 01, 2014 06:30 AM

    I think Byrd has been a bright spot on this team, he goes out there and hustles and anymore, with numbers like he is putting up, he is a bargain at $8M per, now Ryan Howard on the other hand is the guy I thought I would be reading about in this article.

    Howard is the guy the Phillies have to move at any cost, he’s sopping up salary like a big lap dog, and not putting up the numbers that he needs to put up, and it doesn’t even seem like it bothers him at all with a few of the interviews he did last week.

    Start with the big fish that aren’t doing what they are supposed to, and deal Revere too, the guy can’t throw anyone out, and most of the time he can’t hit the ball out of the infield – he only has 13 RBI this season and that is deplorable.

    • Matt

      August 01, 2014 08:34 AM

      The only place Howard is going is his castle in Palm Beach, and he’s going with everything we owe him. Nobody is taking him off our hands. The only option is to release him, and unless he somehow has a miraculous August and September, they should certainly consider it just to open up 1B for Franco next season. IMHO.

  8. ccss

    August 01, 2014 05:55 PM

    Just wondering what anyone else thinks of this. Itis all from piecing together rumors so garin of salt. But it was said that a deal for byrd with the yanks was close right before the deadline then it was said to be dead. Word was ruben wanted too much, of course. Right after yanks get prado for the aa cather o’brien. Does it seem that that was the offer for byrd and when ruben insisted on more cashman offered ot elsewhere for a bat? If that is the case then rub made a huge mistake in my opinion. Can’t picture byrd ever bringing back more than a catcher with enormous power ( even with reported defense concerns)

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