With every loss, the Phillies playoff chances are becoming slimmer and slimmer. With tonight's loss, the Phillies have dropped the first 2 games in a pivotal July series with the current Wild Card leader. The Phillies are now 11 games under .500 and 11.5 games behind the Braves for the final Wild Card spot. They have played better baseball as of late, but expecting this team to play at least 20 games over .500 during the remaining 61 games is asking a lot (going 41-20 would get them to 86 wins, which still probably wouldn’t be enough to get a WC spot) is a stretch. It’s to the point where the 0.3% (according to ESPN) chances of a playoff spot isn’t enough to bank on. The best thing to do now is to try to build a team that can compete for a championship in 2013. Here is my mock plan from now until the start of the 2013 season.
Trade Hunter Pence and Juan Pierre to Pittsburgh for OF Starling Marte and SP Kyle McPherson
Why it makes sense for the Phillies: Pence only has one more year of team control and is likely to command close to $15 million in arbitration. The Phillies get a potential Star(ling) in Marte, who is cheap and under team control for the next few years. That is exactly what the Phillies are looking for. I was in attendance for McPherson’s last start against the R-Phils. He went head to head with Trevor May and clearly out shined him. McPherson could fight for the team’s 5th spot next season. He is currently 3-4 with a 4.19 ERA at AA Altoona.
Why it makes sense for the Pirates: The Pirates were interested in Pence last season but were hesitant to pull the trigger. They were reportedly unwilling to trade Marte last year but I think they will this season. After doing minor moves last season, the Pirates fell apart during the final stretch. Pence would give the Pirates a legit middle of the order hitter to compliment McCutchen. They also seem to be moving from a small payroll to a middle of the road payroll. Pierre might be enough to sway them and would give them a much needed leadoff hitter and could replace Presley in LF. The Pirates have a young team and this could be their chance to revitalize a fan base.
Trade Cliff Lee and $12 Million to the Rangers for 3B Mike Olt and OF Julio Borbon
Why it makes sense for the Phillies: Amaro has said that the Phillies will not trade Lee, but since when do we take Ruben for his word. I think it could be just GM posturing. Despite what Amaro has said, it will be difficult to fill holes while approximately $70 million is tied up in 3 starters. The Phillies get salary relief and their 3B of the future in 23 year old Olt. He is hitting .287 with 27 home runs this season at AA and is very close to being ready for the big leagues. Borbon is a speedy OF that may not be an everyday player but he would give the Phillies great speed off the bench.
Why it makes sense for Rangers: The Rangers have reportedly expressed interest in bringing the former Ranger back to Texas. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports went as far as saying that acquiring Lee would be a preferred option to Greinke or Hamels (both are off the market now). The Rangers were willing to give Lee a long term deal 2 years ago, so a 3 or 4 year deal would be a bargain. With the Phillies $12 Million, and including his $12.5 million buyout for 2016, he would be due $75.5 Million ($25.17M) over the next 3 years. Or if they pick up the option it would be $90.5 ($22.63) over 4 years. Despite Lee’s struggles this season, he is still a premier pitching in this league that is locked up for the next few years. To make it work, the Phillies might have to give more than $12 million. Olt is a promising player but he is blocked at 3rd and Borbon seems to have fallen behind their other young OF on the organization’s depth chart.
Trade Shane Victorino to the Reds for RP Logan Ondrusek
Why it makes sense for the Phillies: Victorino will be FA at the end of the year and it doesn’t look like the Phillies will bring him back. With the new CBA rules on FA compensation, he’s not going to get you more than a young reliever.
Why it makes sense for the Reds: The Reds are looking for an OF and someone who can hit at the top of the lineup. Victorino might be there best option. And while Ondrusek has pitched well (3-2 3.03 ERA), they have other options in the pen.
Trade Joe Blanton to the Orioles for IF/OF LJ Hoes
Why it makes sense for the Phillies: Blanton will be FA at the end of the year, so he has to be moved. The Phillies get a 22 year old who is already at AAA. He has played mainly in the OF this season but has also played 2B during his minor league career.
Why it makes sense for the Orioles: According to Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly, the Orioles had a scout at Blanton’s start tonight in Atlanta. Blanton has also been a 2nd half pitcher and would give their rotation a veteran pitcher with playoff experience. Hoes is a nice young player, but he isn’t a can’t miss prospect.
Pickup options on Carlos Ruiz and Ty Wigginton
Buyout options on Placido Polanco and Jose Contreras.
Sign Michael Bourn: 4 years $52 Million:
Bourn was originally a member of the Phillies organization before he was traded in the Brad Lidge deal prior to the 2008 season, so he is familiar with the organization and the organization is familiar with him. He is just 29 and would be an upgrade over Victorino in Center. Bourn’s speed and base stealing is something the Phillies could desperately use.
Other Options: If they fail to land Bourn, they could go after other big free agent OF like Melky Cabrera and B.J Upton, or a cheaper option like Angel Pagan.
Sign Anibal Sanchez: 4 years $48 Million
Last offseason, the pitcher with a comparable track record was Mark Buerhle, he signed a 4 year $58 million deal. Sanchez doesn’t have the big game track record his former teammate had but is much younger. Edwin Jackson was only able to get a 1 year deal at $10 million, so I think this should be enough to sign Sanchez. He gives the Phillies a solid middle of the rotation starter to go with Halladay and Hamels at the top.
Other Options: There are a lot of quality arms available. Edwin Jackson, Colby Lewis and Carlos Zambrano are available or the Phillies could go after former Phillies like Brett Myers or Kyle Lohse. Ervin Santana and Scott Feldman both have options that may not be picked up.
Sign Ryan Madson: 1 year $5 million
Some may think he could get more, but Madson was only able to get a 1 year $8 million deal after being a closer for a contender during the previous season. After coming off TJ surgery, he will get even less attention in FA. Madson comes back to the only team he has ever pitched for and the Phillies get an experienced reliever to pair with Papelbon.
Antonio Bastardo (first time eligible): $1.5 Million
Logan Ondrusek (first time): $1.5 Million
What my 2013 roster would look like:
Lineup: Bourn CF, Rollins SS, Utley 2b, Howard 1b, Ruiz C, Brown LF, Marte RF, Olt 3b
Bench: Kratz C, Mayberry/Bourbon OF, Nix OF, Wigginton, Fontenot/Galvis IF
With these offseason additions, the 2013 Phillies would be a lot younger. It would feature 4 of the 8 starters in their 20’s and 3 in their rookie seasons. It may seem scary to have 3 rookies in a lineup but all 3 have been elite prospects and 2 have already played in the majors. Depending on how Marte progresses and Rollins ages, Marte cold hit 2nd and they could slide Rollins down in the order.
Rotation: Halladay, Hamels, Sanchez, Worley, Kendrick
Bullpen: Papelbon, Madson, Bastardo, Ondrusek, and 3 of (Stutes, Diekman, Horst, Herndon, Savery, De Fratus and Schwimer.
The strength of this rotation is largely hinging on the arm of Roy Halladay. Will he regain his form and be an elite pitcher? If he does, this is a great rotation. They also have depth with McPhearson/Cloyd/Pettibone/May all getting very close to being major league ready. I would expect them to battle Kendrick Spring Training and push him for the 5th spot.
This version of the 2013 Phillies is significantly younger and cheaper. According to my calculation, with these trades and signings the payroll would be around $152 million and this leaves plenty of room for other improvements that may arise. In the end you would be paying approximately $32 million to Bourn, Sanchez, Madson, Olt and Marte compared to $40 million to just Lee and Pence and having holes at 3b and CF.