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:
- Amaro’s camp overvalued Byrd and rejected reasonable offers from other teams.
- The contract structure backfired. Byrd’s a vesting option for 2016, his age 38 season, turned off otherwise interested suitors.
- 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.