Here are some Phillies starting pitcher trade ideas

Photo by Johnmaxmena2, own work

We’ve said it a million times: The Phillies don’t have the highest-quality prospects, but they have a large quantity of second-tier guys.

And what do you do with second-tier prospects? You package and trade them for top-tier players whose teams are trying to get rid of them for whatever reason. That’s what the Phillies have in their back pocket as they head into next week’s Winter Meetings: a ton of second-tier prospects they should be getting ready to unload for a player or two that will help this team get closer to the playoffs.

So let’s see what these trades might look like.

Let’s start by saying we cannot overvalue these prospects. We’re closer to the situation and we’ve followed them, so we have an emotional connection. So if anyone comes back with, “Whoa, why do we have to give up so much??? The Rays would do Chris Archer for Sixto Sanchez straight up!!!” … no, they wouldn’t.

Dealing for controllable, No. 1 or No. 2 starters takes a huge package. For example, the Athletics received Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprelian in trading Sonny Gray to the Yankees. Fowler is a young, controllable major league outfielder; Mateo is a high-minors shortstop; and Kaprelian is a mid-minors pitcher. All are top prospects.

Also for example, in getting Chris Sale from Chicago during last year’s Winter Meetings, the Red Sox gave up infielder Yoan Moncada, pitcher Michael Kopech, outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and pitcher Victor Diaz. That’s a haul.

A package for the Phillies may include at least one major-league position player, maybe a second major leaguer, and then two of their top five or six prospects. So if the Phillies are planning to go out and get a big-time starter at the Winter Meetings, they are planning to put a substantial dent in the organization.

In other words, Tommy Joseph won’t be appearing in any of these fictional trades.

Phillies acquire Chris Archer for Aaron Altherr, Hector Neris, Adonis Medina and Adam Haseley

The problem with going after Archer is the Rays aren’t in sell-off mode. They’re in wait-and-see mode on young guys like infielder Daniel Robertson and outfielder Mallex Smith while they wait for the reinforcements of a somewhat formidable lineup of prospects. Unless they get into sell-off mode, Archer probably won’t be, or just shouldn’t be, on the block.

But let’s say he is.

Rays closer Alex Colome increased his saves from 37 to 47 in 2017, but he also regressed in his first year as the full-time closer. His K/9 dropped from 11.28 to 7.83, a startling drop for a closer. If that was accompanied by better control, you can live with it. But his walks per nine went from 2.38 in 2016 to 3.11 in 2017. That’s just too big of a jump. Neris will be able to come in and compete for the closer job, and perhaps move Colome back into the eighth-inning role where he may be more comfortable.

Smith looked incredible for two-and-a-half months to start the year. Then the bottom dropped out and he puttered through the second half of the year. That might make Altherr attractive.

One of the many problems in going after Archer is that Tampa Bay’s biggest hole this year – as it has been for years – is first base, even though they have Brendan McKay waiting in the wings. So they’d ask for Rhys Hoskins. The Phillies will turn them down. But just in case, let’s see …

Phillies acquire Chris Archer for Rhys Hoskins, Hector Neris and Adonis Medina

Nope. Let’s move on.

Phillies acquire David Price for …

I don’t care how much money the Red Sox have, but having a $30-million-a-year lefty specialist in the bullpen makes no sense. We’re not hearing anything about whether Price is healthy or whether he’ll move back to the rotation in 2018, so as of right now, we’ll have to take what we saw at the end of 2017 as status quo.

So why not take a run at him? The fact that he still has five years and $157 million left on his contract is a good reason as to why not, but maybe the Phillies can offer up another prospect for Boston to pay part of that salary. Or heck, maybe the Phillies just pay it all and hope he’s back to being David Price. It’s an expensive gamble to take, but if he’s even a little bit better than he was last year, there likely will be a team at the deadline willing to give up a small package of prospects similar to what the Phillies give up in a deal like this. Price also has an opt-out after 2018, so that’s a gamble either way.

Personally, I don’t think I’d sign off on a deal like this, especially if there is a double-secret Phillies plan to go after Machado next offseason, since this would tie up a significant amount of payroll.

It’s probably not realistic. So let’s try again.

Phillies acquire Gerrit Cole from the Pirates for Hector Neris, Scott Kingery, JoJo Romero and Maikel Franco

The Pirates are in a weird spot. They decided to pick up Andrew McCutchen’s 2018 option, which tells me two things:

  1. They are going for it.
  2. They wanted to sell a ticket this season.

But even if they’re going for it, they might have to deal with the reality of losing Cole (his agent is Scott Boras) before his 2020 free agent season. The sooner they do it, the more return they’ll get for him.

The issue with this trade is that the Phillies would offer young outfielders, which the Pirates have a bevy of, even if/when they lose McCutchen. So that might not be too enticing to them. If Franco is on the block, the Pirates may be the kind of team that would be interested. They have a recent history of turning around careers of the downtrodden (even if they gave up on Jose Bautista too early), and David Freese ain’t cutting it at third base.

Kingery is the tough piece to give up. But Josh Harrison can be a free agent after 2018 if the Pirates don’t pick up his $10.5 million contract – and let’s face it, they’re not doing that – so Kingery could slide into second base for them for the next 10 years starting in 2019. This trade places a serious amount of value on Kingery.

The upside for the Phillies is that they really aren’t giving up anything that sets them back as a franchise. They’re only giving up on potential. If Kingery equals Chase Utley, so be it. Cesar Hernandez has proven he can be a very good starting second baseman, and this now allows the Phillies to extend him at a modest price and give him second for the next decade, hoping he only continues to improve and possibly becomes an all-star someday. This also allows the Phillies to hold onto payroll flexibility for the Machado bidding.

Phillies acquire Danny Duffy and Kelvin Herrera for Dylan Cozens, Mickey Moniak, Tom Eshleman, Roman Quinn and Franklyn Kilome

Now here’s an interesting case. The Royals likely are losing three of their core from their recent World Series teams, and what they have left isn’t very good. They also have a barren minor league system that may appreciate quantity of prospects over quality. And that’s what the Phillies have. This trade gives the Royals three (mostly) major-league-ready guys the Phillies don’t need and two possible future building blocks that won’t see arbitration for years.

Kelvin Herrera is a free agent after the 2018 season, so he won’t be a Royal in 2019. Now or at the deadline, the Royals deal him and he’s the veteran bullpen arm the Phillies covet. But everyone and their brother is going to come calling on these two, so the Phillies would have to overspend to beat the market. Something like this could get it done, and I’m not averse to throwing something else of significant value in, too. Maybe Romero? You may even be able to put me over a barrel to give up Sixto Sanchez in a deal like this. Basically, if these two guys are available, and the Royals will accept a package of what is clearly organization excess from the Phillies, then they should make it happen.

Phillies acquire Marcus Stroman and Troy Tulowitzki for J.P. Crawford, Sixto Sanchez, Cole Stobbe and Dylan Cozens

Like the Pirates, the Blue Jays are in a weird spot. They have the roster to go for it this year, but it’s an aging roster whose members seem to all be coming up on free agency at the same time. If they go rebuild, it starts with unloading Tulo for whatever they can get. That’s where the Phillies come in and say, “OK, we’ll take Tulo … but let’s talk Stroman.” And that’s when they hit them with a Godfather-type package to see how serious the Jays are.

In a perfect world for Toronto, Crawford replaces Tulo, Cozens replaces Jose Bautista, Stobbe could be the answer at third base down the line, Sanchez is the top-of-the-rotation starter-in-waiting. This works. This trade might not look like much, but taking Tulo should be worth a lot. He doesn’t come off the books until 2021 at $20 million, $20 million, $15 million and $14 million for the next four years. And let’s face it – if he plays 400 games in those four years, it would probably be a miracle. Whether the Jays go into rebuild this year or next, finding someone to take Tulo is the first step.

The Jays still have a good roster for 2018 if they do this trade and can still go for it if they stay healthy. They get rid of Tulo’s dead weight and let him be someone else’s problem. The Phillies can afford to take on that problem and hope that he stays healthy for four years, even though we know he won’t. But getting Stroman, one of the best young starting pitchers in baseball who may only benefit by moving out of the AL East, is worth it. He’s controlled through 2020, and that gives you three years to work out an extension.

The plain fact is that while the Phillies may not have the highest quality prospects, they have quantity. And at some point, they have to use that quantity to their advantage. This offseason would be a good time to do that to improve and help entice that 2019 free agent class that the Phillies mean business.

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