While the team has scuffled mightily in St. Louis, the last two days have provided us with a whirlwind of Phillies news.
The Jayson Werth trade rumors have picked up a ton of steam, looking more and more plausible, and the once-impossible notion of Roy Oswalt in a Phillies uniform is now realistic.
In this article, I will outline possible deals that could happen. But before doing so, let’s get a few things out of the way.
Capitalizing on Value
It does not matter if Jayson Werth helped this team win a World Series in 2008, or if he helped the Phillies come close to repeating in 2009. It does not matter if his 2010 salary is manageable, either.
The cold, hard truth is that Werth is a free agent after the season and will be too pricey to keep. His deficiencies have been sorely evident after a solid two months, but not so much as to dissuade other teams from pursuing the rightfielder. Therefore, trading him to a team in need of an outfield bat makes sense.
Those of us that watch Werth play everyday have seen him go through a prolonged cold spell and struggle mightily to get out a funk that has been defined by looking at fastballs right down the middle and swinging at bad pitches.
Since his time in the low minors, Werth’s best trait has been plate discipline. But with the Phillies struggling to score runs and stay healthy, he has been needed more so as a run producer than as the patient count-worker he is, and Werth has simply failed to produce.
Werth is hitting .160 with runners in scoring position – a number that is only magnified by his more important role in the lineup with Chase Utley out.
None of this is designed to knock Werth or call him a bad player. He is not really doing anything different than he always has (aside from the small sample of bad RISP average), but we simply expect more out of him because we’ve seen him steadily progress as an everyday player.
This is his first real step back, and the only reason it is so unbelievably infuriating is because the team is struggling as well.
Simultaneously Buying and Selling
Ruben Amaro has done a poor job since taking over as the Phillies General Manager.
He inherited a World Series champion, traded for Cliff Lee, traded Cliff Lee, traded for Roy Halladay, and now finds himself in a self-made precarious position as a result of trying to win now AND rebuild his farm system at the same time.
The Phillies are not the Red Sox. They do not have a brilliant team of talent evaluators and they do not have an endless supply of funds. The Red Sox are able to rebuild and win at the same time. Mostly every other team is not.
Having his cake and eating it too has put Amaro in a position where he has to trade for a starting pitcher and admit the mistake of dealing Cliff Lee. There’s no two ways about it.
Trading Werth, J.A. Happ, and other prospects for Roy Oswalt is the complete opposite approach Amaro took prior to the season. He did not foresee all of the injuries and inconsistency, and placed too much confidence into a team that had compiled the fewest DL days to major players of any in baseball the last several years. Health is due in large part to luck, and that luck sure caught up with the Phillies in 2010.
Make Up Your Mind
As followers of this team, we’ve longed for an admission to the mistake of trading Lee. Well, these rumors in and of themselves are your admission. But now, that desire for an admission has turned into an insistence that Amaro stay the course and not cancel out his offseason move. Now, the fans want to have their cake and eat it too.
Which is more important to you, Amaro making the right decision at this time or not making a deal for the sake of continuing along a path he should have never went down in the first place? Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Selling Werth to the Rays
Nearly every rumor involves trading Werth to the Rays, and either packaging those prospects and sending them to the Astros for Oswalt, or using the Rays’ prospects to replenish the loss of their own prospects (a la the Halladay/Lee companion trades.)
The Rays’ two biggest minor league names are pitcher Jeremy Hellickson and outfielder Desmond Jennings. The Phillies will get neither player. Those pipedreams should end now.
If the Phillies are able to get either Hellickson or Jennings, I would go as far as saying no trade for Oswalt should be made, since each player is a young difference-maker that at least accomplishes the goal of a full re-build.
After trading Werth, the goal appears to be sending a package of prospects and J.A. Happ to Houston for Roy Oswalt. Many fans are now groaning about the potential loss of Happ.
In a conversation with my dad, he echoed those sentiments, asking, “What does it accomplish if you have to trade prospects AND a young starter that you need for an old starter that you need?”
Well, first of all, Happ has been extremely unimpressive in the minor leagues since recovering from an early-season elbow injury. Based on his peripherals, Happ has long been a pitcher the advanced stats community has deemed lucky. He allows a lot of baserunners, has poor control, average strikeout numbers, and a ridiculously high strand rate.
Last year, Happ’s strand rate was 85% while the league average was 71%. In ten innings this year, Happ allowed 17 baserunners but stranded 94% (one unearned run), thus the 0.00 ERA.
Simply put, the low ERAs have been a result of either incredible luck or some superhuman ability of Happ to pitch like Cy Young with runners on base.
Trading Happ, a realistic #4 starter, along with two prospects for Oswalt is a move that needs to be made. It helps in 2010, but more importantly, helps in 2011.
By trading Werth now, the Phillies will be able to call up the best prospect in baseball, Domonic Brown. Giving Brown two months in right field will prepare him for everyday duty next year and let the Phils know whether or not a righthanded platoon bat is necessary.
Trading Werth also lets the Phillies capitalize on value that would be lost if Werth were held on to and allowed to walk after the season, and it addresses the bigger need – starting pitching.
Right field is the one area the Phillies are ready and willing to replace. A move that replaces Werth, Happ, and a prospect or two with Oswalt makes too much sense.