Could Phillies Make Big Move Again?

It has been reported that the Philadelphia Phillies are looking to trade for a right-handed bat to improve their lineup and its ability to hit left-handed pitching.  If the Phillies indeed make a deal, then the big question remains:  who is leaving?

Raul Ibanez

Ibanez is 39 years old, has limited range and an unimpressive arm in left field.  For these reasons, he is a good candidate to be traded; however, I question whether or not the Phillies would move him.

First of all, Ibanez has a pricey contract (estimated to be over $11-12 million).  If any team takes Ibanez and his salary, it would be a team in need of a left-handed hitter; however, anybody who trades for a 39 year-old left-handed hitter would be a team using Ibanez as a rental player to get into the postseason.  Nobody is going to pay top value in a trade for a player they would treat as a rental.  Furthermore, I do not see the Phillies trading Ibanez simply for the sake of dumping salary.  Any trade they make will be with the intention of improving their chances at winning the World Series.

Secondly, despite his flaws as a fielder, Ibanez has been the Phillies’ best hitter recently.  Sure, his .246 AVG looks unimpressive; however, that is the byproduct of a career-worst 0-for-35 slump.  Since May 4, Ibanez hit 45-for-157 (.287 AVG).

Ibanez is a streaky hitter, 39 years of age and an unimpressive outfielder with a high salary.  His recent hot hitting is a good reason to keep him; however, his flaws are good reasons to trade him.  Nevertheless, I find it unlikely that Ibanez is dealt simply because Ibanez would be treated as a rental by any team that trades for him; rental players generally do not fetch great returns in trade negotiations.  Ibanez is likely staying in Philadelphia until he becomes a free agent or retires.

Shane Victorino

If the Phillies are looking for a right-handed bat to play in the outfield, one would assume that means the Phillies are thinking about trading one of their outfielders.  Could Victorino be the odd man out?  While I do think it is possible to see Victorino traded, I would be against moving Victorino (unless approached with an offer that cannot be refused).  Victorino is the Phillies’ best outfielder, has great speed, some pop in his bat and is a respectable hitter.  Also keep in mind that Victorino is a switch-hitter and is currently hitting 16-for-42 (.381 AVG) against left-handed pitching this season.  Over the past three seasons, Victorino hit .305 against left-handed pitching.

Due to his stellar play in center field, his ability to hit for contact and power, his ability to swipe bases and his ability to hit left-handed pitching, I simply do not see the Phillies trading Victorino unless they are presented with an offer they cannot refuse.

Domonic Brown

My thoughts on trading Brown will be quite short:  it’s not happening.  The only way I see the Phillies trading their prized prospect is if they were met with an offer they could not possibly refuse.  If the Phillies were offered a superstar in his prime, then and only then would I foresee them trading Brown.

Ryan Howard

Yes, Ryan Howard.  Yes, the first baseman who signed an enormous contract extension.  Yes, the man who routinely hits 40 or more home runs in a given season.  That Ryan Howard.

As unlikely as it may seem, I do consider it to be within the realm of possibility that the Phillies trade Howard to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-handed Albert Pujols.  With all due respect to Howard, he does not measure up to Pujols in any way on the baseball field.  The only way you will see Howard traded at all is if the Phillies land Pujols and agree to a long-term deal with him.  This is only possible as long as Pujols contemplates leaving St. Louis (he is a free agent after this season) and agrees to waive his no-trade clause.

The others

If the Phillies do not trade Howard to acquire Pujols or any of their outfielders to acquire a right-handed bat, then who would be moved if a deal is reached?  Kyle Kendrick (4-4, 3.12 ERA) is doing well this season.  As a starter, Kendrick is 2-2 in five starts with a 3.91 ERA.  Due to Kendrick’s solid pitching, I think there is a possibility that he or Joe Blanton may be traded.

Kendrick is a young and promising pitcher who has had his ups and downs.  The fact that he has not blossomed as a star and therefore cannot command a high salary should be appealing to some teams.  Blanton is in the second year of a three-year, $24 million contract.  While Blanton’s salary is a pricey one, the fact that his contract is not long-term should keep some teams interested in him.  If he fails to perform to a team’s expectations next season, at least he is overpaid for one season (as opposed to 10 seasons) and they can part ways when he becomes a free agent.

While Blanton is not an ace, he had been an innings-eater over the past few seasons, as he pitched 197 innings in 2008, 195 innings in 2009 and 175 innings in 2010.  Blanton is struggling this season with a 5.50 ERA in only six starts; however, he is 37-19 in his career with a 3.90 ERA after the All-Star break.

Blanton’s penchant for a strong second half coud be appealing to teams in need of a pitcher to help them get into the postseason.  Perhaps the Minnesota Twins might be willing to trade right fielder Michael Cuddyer for Blanton; Cuddyer could split time in right field with Domonic Brown.

Michael Cuddyer, Minnesota Twins (.281 AVG, 10 HR, 28 RBI)

Cuddyer recently announced that he would be willing to waive his no-trade clause if the Minnesota Twins were to trade him.  Cuddyer is hitting 25-for-66 (.379 AVG) against left-handed pitching this season while hitting only .244 against right-handed pitching.  He regularly bats fifth in the Twins lineup and is hitting .282 in the fifth slot this season.

Despite having 21 more at-bats in 2010, Cuddyer saw his home run totals dip from 32 to 14; however, he was still good for a .271 AVG and 81 RBIs (he hit .276 with 94 RBIs in 2009).  Cuddyer’s ability to hit left-handed pitching would make him a welcome addition in Philadelphia.  If the Phillies were to acquire Cuddyer, I foresee Brown and Cuddyer sharing time in right field with Brown starting against right-handers and Cuddyer starting against left-handers.

Josh Willingham, Oakland Athletics (.231 AVG, 10 HR, 42 RBI)

Although Willingham is a right-handed bat, he is only hitting .211 against left-handed pitching this season while hitting .241 against right-handed pitching.  Although some may point to the Oakland Athletics ballpark as a contributing factor to Willingham’s unimpressive .231 AVG (.230 at home), it must be noted that Willingham had not been much better on the road, either (.233 on the road).

Willingham’s AVG dipped each month this season, as he hit .247 in April, .233 in May and is currently hitting .204 in June.  In addition to his plummeting AVG, Willingham is currently coping with a strained Achilles tendon injury.  I would rather start Domonic Brown in right field every day than to take a chance on the hobbled Willingham at this time.

Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers (.328 AVG, 20 HR, 57 RBI)

I believe the acquisition of Los Angeles Dodgers centerfielder Matt Kemp would be nothing more than a pipe dream; however, the Phillies’ signing of Cliff Lee showed us that general manager Ruben Amaro will do whatever he thinks is necessary to win and fans can dare to dream big in Philadelphia.

With the Dodgers unable to make June payroll, could the Phillies make a big pitch for Matt Kemp?

Simply put, Kemp is one of the best outfielders in today’s game.  He can hit for contact, hit for power, run the bases and play his position very well.  A deal sending Kemp to the Phillies is not even a blip on my radar at this time; however, it would be an ideal move for the Phillies in my opinion.

Kemp is only 26 years old and will be in the prime of his career for the next several years.  His numbers would likely see an impressive increase at the Phillies’ hitter-friendly ballpark.

Although I do not foresee acquiring Kemp in the future, it is a move that I think Amaro should attempt nonetheless.  The Dodgers are a financial mess and their ownership is currently unable to make the June payroll.  I would not be surprised to see the Dodgers raffling off their players in a fire sale.  If need be, I would gladly trade Shane Victorino, Domonic Brown or any prospects currently in the minors to acquire Kemp if I were in Amaro’s shoes.

If I had to venture a guess as to what move would be made (if any), I would assume Blanton gets traded to the Twins for Cuddyer.  Cuddyer would likely not be an everyday player in Philadelphia, as he would share time with Brown.  Cuddyer would more than likely start against left-handed pitching while Brown starts against right-handed pitching.

With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in the pitching rotation, the Phillies’ chances for success will not rely on a fifth pitcher like Blanton or Kendrick.  Furthermore, Vance Worley has shown a lot of promise this season in the rotation and could easily take Blanton’s place or Kendrick’s place.

Although I find any deal for Pujols or Kemp highly unlikely, fans should continue to dream big, just as Amaro did when he re-acquired Lee.  For all we may know, Amaro may be dreaming big right at this moment about a Kemp or Pujols deal.  Whether or not either dream becomes a reality remains to be seen.

Christopher Wenrich is a senior fantasy baseball contributor for BaseballDigest.com and can be reached at philliesmuse@yahoo.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @DuggerSports.

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