The Phillies Should Explore Trading Cody Asche
Third baseman Cody Asche hit a pair of solo home runs in Tuesday night’s 6-2 win against the Miami Marlins. It’s the first multi-homer game of his three-year career. Surprisingly, it was also his first multi-hit game since August 14.
Asche currently holds a subpar .303 weighted on-base average. The National League average for third basemen is .323 and the average for left fielders is .320. He would rank ahead of only Pablo Sandoval (.288) among qualified third basemen and ahead of only Michael Taylor (.280) and Ichiro Suzuki (.259) among left fielders with 400-plus plate appearances.
The Phillies moved Asche to left field to create room at third base for Maikel Franco, but he moved back to his previous position once the prospect hit the shelf with a wrist injury. He’s been abysmal defensively at both positions according to both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. As a result, he’s been worth -1.5 WAR per BR and -1.0 per FanGraphs. Asche is tied with Ryan Howard in BR WAR and only Danny Santana, Rene Rivera, Angel Pagan, Victor Martinez, and Wilin Rosario have been less valuable to their respective teams than Asche has been to the Phillies.
Asche, 25, won’t become eligible for salary arbitration until after the 2016 season. He doesn’t have a position on the Phillies as Franco will man third base after healing up during the off-season, and the corner outfield spots will be spoken for by younger, better players like Aaron Altherr. As a result, he’ll head into spring training as a bench bat. Asche will be cheap, earning not much more than this season’s $517,500 salary, but money won’t be an object for the Phillies as they currently have only $64 million committed, not including their 10 potential arbitration cases.
Asche’s low salary and remaining four years of team control don’t hold much value to the Phillies, but they might to another team. Given how ubiquitous analytics have become in baseball, the Phillies won’t fool any team into thinking Asche is a commodity, but a team like the Marlins (if they unload Martin Prado) or the Milwaukee Brewers could value his ability to play two positions at a cheap cost without much in the way of salary commitment.
With every passing season, Asche’s trade value — whatever small amount of it exists now — will erode as he gets older, more expensive, and creeps closer to free agency. The Phillies won’t get a top prospect for Asche, but they could finagle a potentially useful player to toss into the lower level of the minor leagues and see what happens. The Phillies aren’t lacking in immediate depth, and they won’t miss him.