August 1, 2012

Interesting trades considered.

This is what happens to a team that's 45-57 at the trade deadline.

You have a five-tool player like Shane Victorino who's about to hit free agency, and you have an arbitration-eligible, name-value bat like Hunter Pence.

And you trade them both.

Maybe you don't get an excellent return. Certainly nothing close to what the Phillies gave up for Pence a year ago.

But you get what you can, and you move on.

Although we don't know what else was out there, the haul can be certainly critiqued. There's no Jonathan Singleton or Jarred Cosart coming back, and there's nobody who'll make a big difference next season.

The crown jewel is Tommy Joseph, who should unseat Sebastian Valle as the "catcher of the future." Baseball America had him as San Francisco's number two prospect. John Sickels had him at number three. Everyone agrees that he's got some pop.

As for the rest, Nate Schierholtz is probably just good enough to avoid being shot into the sun. Seth Rosin has actually been called the "real steal of the deal." And Josh Lindblom is a cheap right-handed reliever who's already accustomed to pitching in the late innings. Try to ignore the fact that he kinda stinks.

Maybe they should've moved Victorino weeks ago, if only to shake things up. Maybe they'll really miss Pence in 2013, even though his OPS this year is lower than Pedro Alvarez's. It's more likely that his .954 OPS in 2011's 236 plate appearances was the real aberration; he's a complementary player, and soon to be an expensive one at that.

For better or worse (and it's looking like worse), Ruben Amaro Jr. really went for it last season. The Phillies were 68-39, six games up in the division, before throwing Pence onto the pile. If that team wins a championship, the second in four seasons, nobody cares about a post-title meltdown.

They didn't win a championship, though, and now they suffer the consequences. Key pieces have been sold at auction, and they're still short (at least) two outfielders and a third baseman for 2013.

Throwing gigantic contracts at stars won't solve the problem. There are a few decent guys available this offseason, but no one who will singlehandedly put the Phillies over the top. And there's no guarantee they'll want to come to Philadelphia, either. Much like his mentor Pat Gillick, Amaro is going to have to fill in the margins. So far, that hasn't been his strong suit.

Doesn't mean he'll have to dumpster dive; the team's under the luxury tax, and I'm sure those in charge are well aware that the winning needs to resume post-haste. Offer some of those outfield bucks to Michael Bourn. Make a run at trading for Chase Headley. Maybe sign someone injury-prone but talented, like Shaun Marcum, to fill out the rotation (ensuring that Kyle Kendrick will remain a very expensive long-man). Try not to splurge on expensive relievers, but if you must, bring in someone a little more reliable than Chad Qualls.

A few moves like those would strongly reinforce my belief that the window hasn't slammed shut just yet. A lot internally still has to go right. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard need to get -- and stay -- healthy. Domonic Brown must become a legitimate everyday outfielder. Roy Halladay needs to summon up at least one more ace-like season. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels must pitch like Cy Young candidates again.

But the potential is there. There's some hope that 2012 isn't the beginning of the dark ages. A savvy general manager should be able to take his barrel of cash and turn three aces, 30 homers from first, two solid (when healthy) veteran middle infielders and a top closer back into a contender. I guess we'll see how savvy Ruben Amaro Jr. really is.

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