Prior to Placido Polanco‘s sports hernia diagnosis, the Phillies were a team with few holes. At 75-40 with a first place lead more than twice as large as the next closest division leader, this was a team in no hurry to make a move.
But now Polanco is out, possibly for an extended period of time. He will have an anti-inflammatory injection today, the results of which will be available Friday. If Polanco reacts positively to the shot, he might be back next week. If the shot doesn’t work, Polanco would require corrective surgery that would sideline him for 3-4 weeks.
The 2011 has been a post-April disaster for Polanco. In the opening month, he batted .398/.447/.524 and no major leaguer had tallied more hits. Polanco produced 1.8 WAR in just one month, when 2.0 for the year is considered league average.
Since the 1st of May, however, Polanco has hit .223/.280/.264 and increased his WAR total by only 0.1. A fast start was derailed by an extended slump and several nagging injuries. Polanco’s current hernia, originally diagnosed as a sore hip, has nothing to do with the back injury that sidelined him for 26 days in July. Or so he says.
With the Phillies’ starting third baseman likely out a month, Ruben Amaro could initiate another trade. He said last night that Martinez and Valdez would be his guys if Polanco is out for long, but the Phillies’ GM has a tendency to say one thing and do another.
How Post-Deadline Deals Work
Traditional trades cannot be made after July 31, but players placed on waivers can be claimed by another team with the intent of working out a deal. For example, let’s imagine the Dodgers place Casey Blake on waivers. The team with the worst record in the NL gets first dibs on Blake, while the NL team with the best record (Phillies) receives the last crack at him.
If a team were to claim Blake, the Dodgers could a) let him go for nothing, simply ridding themselves of a contract; or b) work out a trade with the claiming team.
An example of “a)” would be Alex Rios moving from Toronto to the Chicago White Sox in August 2009. The Blue Jays needed to get out from under a massive contract and the White Sox sought centerfield help. Both teams benefited.
But Who Gets Placed on Waivers?
Now, most players are placed on waivers. By most I mean that any team might place 15-20 players on waivers. Why? Because there is no risk. If the Phillies place Ryan Howard on waivers and the Pirates claim him, the Phillies simply pull him back, no questions asked. One would presume that so many players are placed on waivers just in case another team feels obliged to make a godfather offer.
There are, however, a bunch of players placed on waivers whose team fully intends to trade them. Just last year there were 14 August trades. Manny Ramirez switched teams, so did Derrek Lee and Brian Fuentes.
Who are some of the third base replacements that figure to be available?
Two will face the Phillies this week.
Blake is 37 years old and has had injury problems in 2011, but averaged 149 games per season from 2007-10. He is often described as a “statue” at third base, i.e. he can only field balls hit directly at him, but he is worth more offensively than either Michael Martinez or Wilson Valdez. (530 words before the first mentions of Mini-Mart and Valdez.)
Blake is a .260-.270 whose OPS will hover around the upper-.700s. An .848 lifetime on-base plus slug vs. opposite-handed pitching suggests that he hits lefties well.
Blake is in the final year of a three-year pact with the Dodgers. He has a club option for 2012 at $6MM that no team will pick up. The option carries with it a $1.25MM buyout. In most cases, you’d assume that the buyout would have to be picked up by the Dodgers in order to get a somewhat decent return, but this is a team in worse financial shape than Greece (or the United States, for that matter.)
Percent chance the Phillies trade for Blake: 25%
2) Jamey Carroll
Another Dodger that figures to be available, Carroll can play second, third and short, and provide a .280 batting average and decent patience. But he is not the type of player Ruben Amaro or Charlie Manuel tend to go after and unless Martinez really struggles playing 5 of every 7 games there is little reason to expect Carroll to outproduce him. At least not by a margin significant enough to part with a minor leaguer.
Percent chance the Phillies trade for Carroll: 7%
3-5) Greg Dobbs, Wes Helms, Miguel Cairo
4) Ty Wigginton
He can play first, second, third, left and right. He has 14 home runs and a .794 OPS for the Rockies, but his batting average and on-base percentage are much lower away from Coors Field. (His slugging percentage is the same; Wigginton’s hit two more homers on the road.)
None of the defensive metrics like Wigginton, nor do the eyes of anyone who has watched him play third or the corner outfield.
Wigginton’s bat would be an upgrade over Martinez, and based on Polanco’s inability to drive the ball since April, I’d go as far as saying that Wigginton would be slightly better than Polanco offensively. At least in 2011.
The Rockies are going nowhere, and if they chose to trade Ubaldo Jimenez, something tells me they aren’t too committed to Ty friggin’ Wigginton.
What would deter the Phillies is Wigginton’s contract status: he is scheduled to make $4MM in 2012 and has an option for 2013 as well. That’s just too much to pay a man of his services, especially for a team dangerously close to exceeding the luxury tax threshold.
Percent chance the Phillies trade for Wigginton: 10%
Aside from these men, there are a bunch of nothing players that are barely even interesting enough to discuss. Juan Uribe, Miguel Tejada, Brandon Inge, Chone Figgins (what a precipitous fall from grace), Kevin Kouzmanoff. Yuck. Pass.
The only intriguing and maybe available name is Chase Headley. But if he is placed on waivers, you better believe he’ll be claimed by a team far ahead in the priority list than the Phillies. Headley is an OBP maven who plays great defense and has yet to enter his second year of arbitration. He is cheap, young and talented, and is the exact type of player the Padres should keep around.
The flipside of that statement is that he is one of the few remaining Padres who could fetch a decent return. Either way, a move for Headley wouldn’t be made by the Phillies and it wouldn’t be made during the month of August. Having Chase Utley and Chase Headley would be too confusing anyway.
Based on what is available and what the Phillies have, there is little reason to trade for a third baseman. The only possible way it would make sense is if Martinez goes down with an injury. Wilson Valdez simply cannot be counted on to play everyday.
When it comes to available third basemen, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. It’s brown and hasn’t seen moisture in months.