Trading Away the Phillies

Much has been said on Twitter about Jim Bowden and the trade scenarios he throws out there, much of it insults his work as a General Manager before going on to work at ESPN (though if you bash the trades, acknowledge that he has nailed FA contracts the last few years).  His newest article looks at trading away all of the Phillies tradable assets and what the returns could be in this scenario for a complete rebuild.  I think some of his trade values are off, others are very reasonable.  They do however represent the pinnacle of what the Phillies could obtain in trades for their entire core.  This gives an interesting thought experiment, can a complete blow up and rebuild would work, and what does it entail for the future.  I will add that this scenario does align with my thoughts that once you trade away Cole Hamels you must trade everything that won’t be around in 2017 to help, because you have rendered it valueless.

Now onto the trades, there are seven of them.

  1. Cole Hamels to the Dodgers for Joc Pederson and Julio Urias
  2. Cliff Lee to the Yankees for Aaron Judge and Luis Severino
  3. Chase Utley to the Athletics for Renato Nunez and Chad Pinder
  4. A.J. Burnett and Jonathan Papelbon to the Orioles for Hunter Harvey, Tim Berry, and Parker Bridwell
  5. Marlon Byrd to the Mariners for Gabriel Guerrero
  6. Jimmy Rollins to the Tigers for Corey Knebel and Hernan Perez
  7. Antonio Bastardo to the Braves for David Hale and Edward Salcedo

Many of these trades can be argued value wise, from both sides.  That isn’t the point of the article.   For the most part they greatly favor the Phillies.  Lets start by ignoring the impact on the 2014 Phillies because it would just be a AAA team and easily the most unwatchable team in baseball.  But just for fun lets look at the 2015 squad.

C: Carlos Ruiz, Cameron Rupp
1B: Ryan Howard, Darin Ruf
2B: Cesar Hernandez
SS: Freddy Galvis
3B: Cody Asche, Maikel Franco
OF: Domonic Brown, Joc Pederson, Ben Revere
SP: David Buchanan, Jonathan Pettibone, David Hale
RP: Jake Diekman, Corey Knebel, Ethan Martin, Ken Giles, Justin De Fratus, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Mario Hollands

This might be the worst starting pitching team of all time, the offense is pretty putrid too (though the bullpen may be disgustingly good).  You are going to get some help on the way from a farm system that would be one of the top in the minors, in this case the Top 10 prospects may look something like this.

  1.  Julio Urias
  2. J.P. Crawford
  3. Hunter Harvey
  4. Luis Severino
  5. Aaron Nola
  6. Maikel Franco
  7. Aaron Judge
  8. Renato Nunez
  9. Jesse Biddle
  10. Gabriel Guerrero

Now lets jump over 2016, where the team will also be putrid, but at least exciting with prospects arriving and look at 2017.  This is the “projected” 2017 lineup if everything pans out.

C: Andrew Knapp, Tommy Joseph
1B: Renato Nunez
2B: Chad Pinder
SS: J.P. Crawford
3B: Maikel Franco
OF: Joc Pederson, Roman Quinn, Aaron Judge, Kelly Dugan, Gabriel Guerrero
SP: Aaron Nola, Julio Urias, Hunter Harvey, Luis Severino, Jesse Biddle
RP: See the murders row above, plus maybe Severino

So where is the downside?

This is an ideal scenario.  Given the current trade market it is likely that the Phillies won’t get this prospect group and it will be short a couple of guys listed above.  We are also assuming optimal prospect development, we know that all, some, or none of these prospects could hit their ceilings, and the lower number is more likely.  Once you start subtracting players the holes start opening up.  Also part of this deal is that the historically bad in 2015 and just horrible in 2016.

So what do we do?  Start by replacing guys in 2017 scenario with their trade returns.  Reversing the Hamels trade makes the 2017 team better (but not too much the future past that), essentially saying that you shouldn’t trade Hamels for less just to trade him, you need to get back impact talent.  More so it makes no sense to trade players just for salary relief.  As you can see, it takes maximum returns just to field a good-looking team, free agency is barren, if you aren’t getting maximum return you are left with money to spend and not a lot of room to spend it.

In the end you can push all in on a rebuild, it is going to be really ugly and risky.  Moving guys to just move guys makes no sense, you need maximum return or you are better off keeping them.  Rebuilds are less glamorous than they are made out to be.  Personally I would look to make similar moves to everything but the Hamels and Utley deals.  I know the Hamels return is really sexy in terms of prospect names, but his value and contract are worth it.

Photo by Roger DeWitt

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.


  1. Paul

    So… The phillies won’t sign another free agent for 3 years?

    • Matt Winkelman

      It is hard to project free agency, but more importantly there is a real dearth of free agents hitting the market in the next few years. To rely on free agency to rebuild is a foolish strategy if you don’t have a core in place, it ends with a lot of mediocrity.

  2. Bob S

    The only other “upside component ” to a blow up would be the 3 years of high draft picks to restock the farm once this proposed grouping listed above all get to the bigs in 2017

  3. gtrego

    Matt, this is a fun idea/article. From my perspective, while I mostly agree that free agency is barren, I like the Cubs roster construction philosophy of focusing on position players (whether intentionally or not). Though finding real aces will be rare, it seems like it will be more likely in the coming years to get second tier starting pitching talent through free agency than any real quality position players. Teams seem less inclined to pay $20M+ for guys that pitch every 5th day (and probably suffer from a greater risk of injury) than everyday guys. The Phillies luxury is that they may have more $ to throw at those available SPs than other teams. I bring this up because I think a couple of those signings to supplement this strategy makes 2016 much more bearable or respectable and allows for more failure, injury, or fluctuation between the bullpen and rotation from the young arms in 2017 and beyond. Overall, I like this approach given the current state of the league.