It’s that time of year again! The time of year where franchises mortgage the future for quick fixes. Teams are categorized into two different sections; buyers and sellers. The Phillies will find themselves categorized in the latter. It’s no secret really. With a record of 42-53, the Phillies find themselves 10 games back in the division and a wild card spot. Stars like Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and possibly Jimmy Rollins could all be playing in different uniforms a month from now. Today, I’ll focus on two of those players.
Cliff Lee is in his second stint with the Phillies, and the lefty ace is no stranger to being traded. Lee has been traded a total of four times in his career and he is fully expecting to be traded for the fifth time in the coming days (possibly weeks). The last time the Phillies traded the lefty ace, they got virtually nothing back. Ruben Amaro Jr. received Tyson Gillies, JC Ramirez, and Phillippe Aumont from Seattle. Aumont is the only player from that trade still with the organization, and his time is likely numbered. Ruben Amaro is likely going to be able to have a do over with Lee and look to restock a barren farm system.
Lee currently has a limited no trade clause, which will allow Lee to veto trades to 20 different teams. The teams that we know are on his no trade list are; Yankees, Red Sox, Rangers, and Orioles. One such team that is NOT on his list is the St Louis Cardinals. Lee is currently rehabbing an elbow injury but will make two starts before the July 31st deadline. Lee is owed $25 million for next season, along with a vesting option of $27.5 million for 2016.
The Philadelphia Phillies are the only organization Cole Hamels has ever known. The 30-year old Hamels was just 18 years old when the Phillies took him with the 17th overall pick in the 2002 MLB Draft. Having signed a seven-year deal in 2012, Hamels is owed $100 million through 2018. Hamels, like Lee, has a limited no trade clause. The teams NOT on Hamels no trade list are: Dodgers, Angels, Padres, Braves, Nationals, Yankees, and Red Sox.
Let’s take a look at potential suitors for either Lee or Hamels, and what the Phillies should be asking for. Remember, just because a player has a particular team on their no trade list doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t go to that team. It just means the team has to ask the players permission. For a player like Cliff Lee, having never won a World Series, waiving your no trade clause to go to a contender might be enticing.
St Louis Cardinals:
The Cardinals currently one game back of the division leading Milwaukee Brewers and a half a game out of a wild card spot. Looking at the numbers you might not think the Cardinals need starting pitching; after all, their starters ERA ranks fifth in all of major league baseball. But while the Cardinals have their ace in Adam Wainwright, they’ve been devastated by injuries. Michael Wacha is dealing with a shoulder injury and they aren’t sure when he will be back, Jamie Garcia is out for the season, and Joe Kelly just made his first start in two months last week. Right now, the Cardinals rotation is a big giant question mark. The Cardinals could be an excellent fit for either Lee or Hamels. Hamels can veto a trade to the Cardinals, but as I previously mentioned Lee can not.
Players the Phillies should target: The Cardinals have a strong system, with a AAA outfield that could start in the majors right now. Oscar Taveras is the Cardinals #1 prospect for a good reason. The 22-year old outfielder is hitting .318 at AAA Memphis with 8 HR and 49 RBI. His slash line is .318/.370/.502. Randal Grichuk is another one of those major league ready outfielders that Memphis has. Grichuk is now known for being the player drafted ahead of Mike Trout, but the Texas native has some tools that any team would love. His slash line is .270/.316/.505 for AAA Memphis. Grichuk smashed 16 HR, and driven in 49 RBI so far this season. The third outfielder is Stephen Piscotty, who the Phillies should also target. With a surplus of Major League-ready outfielders, to go along with no real openings at the Major League level, Grichuk and Taveras should be two names Amaro wants.
The third name is Marco Gonzales. Gonzaels, a lefty, has been rushed to the big leagues because of the injuries to the Major League rotation this season. The 2013 first round pick, 19th overall, started the season in High-A Florida State League and has been fast tracked. The former Gonzaga product has a great changeup and great command. To put it simply, Gonzales is a poor man’s Hamels. While Gonzales could be great in a few years, his inexpiereicne might be a hinderance this year. The Phillies would be smart to grab him in a trade for either Hamels or Lee.
New York Yankees: This is going to shock you I’m sure, but the Yankees are buying and they need starting pitching. The Yankees needed starting pitching before Mashahiro Tanaka went down with a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Tanaka is out for a minimum of six weeks, if not the entire season. The Yankees traded for Brandon McCarthy, but he is far from the answer. The Yankees starting pitchers currently rank 20th in major league baseball in ERA. An addition of Lee or Hamels is crucial for the Yankees playoff hopes. The Yankees are currently five games back of the AL East leading Baltimore Orioles and three and a half out of a wild card slot. The Yankees have a desperate need for starting pitching and the money to do so. Lee can block a trade to the Yankees, but Hamels has left them off his list.
Players the Phillies should target: If I am Ruben Amaro Jr. any trade for either Lee or Hamels starts with the Yankees number one prospect, catcher Gary Sanchez. Sanchez is currently at AA Trenton, and is holding his own at the age of 21. Sanchez’s slash line is a respectable .270/.339/.420. The slugging catcher has shown some pop, hitting 9 homeruns, while also driving in 45. The reason the Phillies should target Sanchez is he could be their catcher of the future. That was supposed to be Tommy Joseph, but with concussion problems, Joseph will likely have to change positions.
Another player the Phillies should look at is Luis Severino. Severino came into the season ranked as the ninth best player in the Yankees system, but he has had a breakout season. The 20-year old is currently pitching for the High-A Tampa Yankees, after starting the season with the Class-A Charleston River Dogs. Between both teams Severino has a 2.45 ERA in 18 starts this season. The righty has given up just two home runs, and is striking out more than a batter an inning (98 K in 88.1 IP). Severino is probably three years away, but with a fastball that can get up to 98 MPH, you would have to ask for this kid. Severino also was a Futures Game selection this year.
The last name the Phillies should look at is Ian Clarkin. Before I get ripped, I’m not picking Dellin Betances because I don’t think the Yankees will trade him, and I don’t like the “he was a starter, but lets bring him up as a reliever. Oh wait hes having great success as a reliever, do we keep him a reliever?” yo-yoing that teams love to do now a days. Granted sometimes it works, paging Chris Sale, but sometimes it doesn’t, where’s Joba Chamberlin these days, and I just don’t want any parts of it. Anyway, back to Clarkin.
I thought the Phillies could target Clarkin in the draft in 2013, but they elected JP Crawford and Clarkin fell to the Yankees at #33 because of singability concerns. Clarkin, like Severino, is years away from the big leagues, but hes had success so far. Coming right out of high school, he was thrust into the Charlestown River Dogs rotation and has held his own. In 56.2 innings of work he holds a respectable 3.49 ERA. Opponents are hitting .249 off of him, but as he develops that number will go down. Devestating curveball, and can hit 94 as a lefty.
Toronto Blue Jays: After years of being much of an after thought, the Blue Jays are finally contenders. They entered the break just four games back in the division, and two and a half out of a wild card spot. GM Alex Anthopoulos made a big splash before the 2013 season when he acquired R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, and Jose Reyes. He gave up a lot of prospects, but that didn’t leave the cupboard bear and the Phillies could take advantage.
The Blue Jays rotation currently ranks 16th in Major League Baseball in ERA and a big reason it is not lower is through the overachieving contributions that Mark Buehrle has provided. The Blue Jays are currently a staff that doesn’t have an ace. They have two former aces in Dickey and Buehrle, but they need that guy who you go into a Game Seven with. That’s where Lee or Hamels come in.
Players the Phillies should target: Would the Blue Jays give up Marcus Stroman? Doubtful, as he is currently their fifth starter, and pitching well. So, let’s go with the guys in the minors. The first name is Aaron Sanchez. He is the #1 ranked prospect in the Blue Jays system, and the Blue Jays have deemed him “untouchable”. Maybe they just want to play hard to get, maybe he really is available, but for a hefty price like Hamels or Lee.
Sanchez has been brought along very slowly by the Blue Jays, and because of that he has never pitched more than 90 innings in a year. The righty works his fastball in the upper 90’s, and has a delivery similar to another top MLB prospect, Tommy Hanson. Scouts think Sanchez should be a top of the rotation starter in the future, but right now he is in Triple-A Buffalo and pitching pretty mediocre. After a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts at AA New Hampshire, the Blue Jays promoted Sanchez to AAA where in six starts he has a 4.18 ERA. His command has been a problem this year, as he has walked 57 batters in 98.1 innings pitched. One reason the Phillies should target him is he tends to keep the ball on the ground. This season Sanchez has a combined 3.24 GO/AO between AA and AAA.
If Sanchez is, in fact untouchable, the next guy the Phillies should look at is Daniel Norris. Norris, a lefty, was a second round pick in 2011 out of high school. While the Blue Jays have been reluctant to part with Sanchez, they are said to be willing to part with Norris. A Futures Game selection this year, Norris started out the season with the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays. Norris dominated the 13 starts he made at Dunedin, going 6-0 with a 1.22 ERA. Opponents hit just .209 off of him, and then he was promoted to AA New Hampshire. In four starts at New Hampshire, he is 1-0 with a 4.24 ERA, but batters are hitting just .210 off of him. That leads me to believe its only a matter of time before that ERA is low again.
The last name the Phillies should target is the lead-off hitter for the World Team at the 2014 Futures Game. His name is Dalton Pompey, and if the Phillies want him they’ll have to stand in line. Reports are that teams are calling the Blue Jays inquiring on the Mississauga, Ontario native and it’s for good reason.
The 21 year old Pompey crushed Florida State League pitching this year while he was playing for the High-A Dunedin Blue Jays. His slash line was .319/.397/.471. He showed a bit of pop, smacking six homers, but his game is on the base paths; the outfielder stole 29 bases. Pompey reminds me a lot of Tyson Gillies. Not Phillies Tyson Gillies, but Mariners Tyson Gillies. And that Tyson Gillies was a monster. Pompey was recently called up to Double-A New Hampshire. The Phillies could use some OF depth in the upper levels of their minor league system and Pompey would be a step in that direction.
Seattle Mariners: When the Mariners acquired Lee for the 2010 season they thought they were ready to compete. They were not. But this year they might be and they certainly have the pieces to do so if they wanted a reunion with the ace. The Mariners are currently eight games back in the division, but currently have a Wild Card spot locked up. Will they be able to keep that Wild Card spot though? They’ll definitely be buyers at the deadline and they could use one more guy in their rotation.
Seattle’s starters have done well this season. Their 3.52 ERA is good for eighth among starting rotations in the majors. Their one-two punch of Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma is a formidable one, but a rotation of Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Lee/Hamels is just scary. The Mariners have been said to be looking at Phillies outfielder Marlon Byrd, but they could be looking at Hamels or Lee as well.
Players the Phillies should target: If the Phillies were to trade Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels to the Mariners there is one guy that I desperately want and that’s D.J. Peterson. Peterson would immediately become the future first basemen of the Phillies, but if Maikel Franco or Cody Asche don’t work out then Peterson can always play a little third.
Peterson was a lock to go at #12 to the Mariners in the 2013 MLB Draft. The New Mexico product had been taken by the Mariners out of high school, but choose to be a Lobo instead. He was the most advanced hitter in his draft, and his bat has allowed him to reach AA already in his first full season. Peterson started out with the High-A High Desert Mavericks where he had a very impressive slash line of .326/.381/.615. Peterson has smashed 18 homers and drove in 73 RBI. He even managed to steal six bases. Peterson was then called up to the Double-A Jacksonville Generals where he hasn’t slowed down. In 66 at-bats, he is hitting .303 with three more homers. His combined totals this season are impressive: slash line of .322/.374/593, 21 homeruns, and 80 RBI. He isn’t Kris Bryant and he isn’t Joey Gallo, but hes a guy the Phillies should want.
The next guy I would want is Taijuan Walker. Walker has been the Mariners #1 prospect for a few years now and for good reason. But if they want either Lee or Hamels they should give up on their dream of a Hernandez, Walker 1-2 punch in the future.
Walker has battled injuries this season, but he is back pitching with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. He was called up for his Major League debut last season and in 3 games (just 15 innings) he posted a 3.60 ERA. Walker has ace stuff that is hard to come by. There are injury concerns because of this season, but that talent should be too much for Amaro to pass up on.
The last guy is Nick Franklin. Franklin is a 23-year old second basemen with no where to play after the Mariners signed Robinson Cano. In his first pro season, Franklin was pretty good, with a slash line of .225/.303/.382. In 369 at bats, he hit 12 home runs and drove in 45. I am a firm believer that the Phillies should trade everyone right now, and that includes Utley. If the Phillies trade Utley I would want Franklin to be his replacement. I like Cesar Hernandez, but I just think Franklin gives you more offense from the second base position. A guy like James Paxton might make more sense. Either way, I don’t think you can go wrong.
Baltimore Orioles: Buck Showalter deserves a raise for the job he has done this season. The Orioles enter the break atop the AL East division despite a pitching staffs ERA that ranks 23rd in the Majors. In the offseason, the orange birds tried to address their need for starting pitching by signing Ubaldo Jimenez and Johan Santana, which would’ve been great moves had it been 2007 and not 2014. Neither move panned out, as Ubaldo has been a huge bust thanks to a 4.5 ERA and Santana’s career is likely over after yet another injury. The only starter that they have right now who has an ERA under 4 is Kevin Gausman and he has only made seven starts. To say the Orioles need starting pitching is like saying the Titanic needed more life boats. It is that bad. The Orioles shouldn’t just be targeting Lee or Hamels, but both of them. Especially with their division rival, the Blue Jays, needing the same thing.
Players the Phillies should target: Kevin Gausman is the easy name, but how do the Orioles justify trading arguably their best pitcher, who is young and cheap and under team control for years? While I would love Gausman, I don’t see it happening. So the first name I want is Dylan Bundy.
If you follow minor league baseball, or the draft, you’ve heard Dylan Bundy’s name. He was the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft out of high school. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and has just gotten back to work in the minors. But if you trade Hamels or Lee, Bundy is the guy you want.
His advanced stuff made it all the way to Baltimore as a 19-year old, but then he got shut down with Tommy John. He is a front of the line pitcher, a future ace. Bundy is what you want plain and simple.
The next player I would target is Hunter Harvey. Harvey, like Bundy, is a former 1st round pick, 22 overall. Harvey’s bloodline is strong, as he is the son of former Closer Bryan Harvey. Harvey is in his first full pro season, pitching for the Class-A Delmarva Shorebirds. With the Shorebirds this season, Harvey has a 3.01 ERA and very impressive strikeout numbers. In 77.2 innings pitched he has struck out 93 batters. Hitters are hitting just .202 off of him to boot. This is pretty impressive considering a little more than a year ago he was graduating high school. Most high school kids are in short-season ball, but Harvey is dominating full season. Harvey is a few years away, but so far, he is impressive.
The last name I would want is Christian Walker. Do you remember that video of a sophomore Bryce Harper at a home run derby at Tropicana Stadium? Walker won that. You would not know it because of the hype Harper got, and deservedly so, but Walker was the winner of that derby. He also beat out another target, Randal Grichuk. Walker then went to South Carolina and proceeded to win two National Championships and get drafted in the fourth round by the Orioles in 2012.
Walker could be the Phillies first basemen of the future if they decided to get rid of Ryan Howard this year. He is currently at Double-A Bowie and has a slash line of .301/.367/.516. He has hit 20 HR so far and driven in 77. Walker would fit in nicely at Double-A Reading, and if Howard is traded, Philadelphia in 2015.