Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How the worst team in 2015 can compete in 2016

They hold a record of 29 wins and 57 losses and sit seven games behind the next worst teams in baseball the Miami Marlins and the Milwaukee Brewers.  If you guessed, the Philadelphia Phillies, which I am assuming most readers did, you are correct.  In terms of team offensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) they rank 29th in all of baseball at 2.4 well behind the most potent offensive in baseball of the Toronto Blue Jays, who sit at 17.5.  However, the Phillies do not only struggle offensively but also rank 29th in terms of pitching WAR and 28th in terms of defensive rating.

For the last year or so Phillies fans have called for the trade of their ace Cole Hamels and had it not been for the extremely high price on his head set by the organization he would have most likely been a Yankee or Dodger at last year’s trade deadline.  Now in 2015 if the Phillies are not going to receive top prospects and not have to pay any more than what Hamels is still owed for this year, they should once again hold on to their ace.  But, before you stop reading and conclude on post one that I have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain.

The Phillies have Cole Hamels signed at $22,500,000 through the 2018 season and for the 2019 season have a team option of $20,000,000 for a total salary still owed of $87,500,000 for four years (excluding this year and including 2019).  If you break that down to yearly averages it pays him $21,875,000 a year, which sounds like a lot, but it is below the open market value of a left-handed pitcher of Hamels’ caliber which I project to be upwards of $27,000,000 a year.

Money however is not the only reason I believe the Phillies should hold on to Cole Hamels, they are closer to being able to compete than their record shows or people give them credit for.  Their rotation in particular has the ability to be top ten in all of baseball thanks to some offseason trades and their last couple of drafts and while I believe they would be able to compete without Hamels they could compete as soon as next year with Hamels.  With Hamels their rotation projects to be: Hamels, Nola, Eflin, Lively, Biddle with this rotation they would have the ability to bump Severino Gonzalez to the bullpen and solidify Tom Windle as their closer of the future with Ken Giles as his setup man.  With this rotation, they also have the ability to wean themselves off Hamels when Matt Imhof is ready to step into the rotation, which could be as early as the end of next season.  This might sound like putting a lot of hope on guys who have yet to pitch an out at the major league level and while I will admit it is, I believe that it is a risk the Phillies must take if they hope to compete as early as the 2016 season.

            The Phillies also need offensive help and the first step in this would be trading Jonathan Papelbon.  There are three contenders who are seeking bullpen help at the deadline, who also have the farm system depth to make the type of trade the Phillies are looking for.  The first potential trade and the most likely of the three I will lay out is Papelbon to the Chicago Cubs for first baseman Dan Vogelbach.  Vogelbach, the Cubs second round pick in 2011 has the raw power and hitting ability from the left side of the plate that would immediately help the Phillies offensive deficiencies as he is already major league ready but is stuck in the minors because of Anthony Rizzo.  The second potential trade is Papelbon to the Toronto Blue Jays for third baseman Mitch Nay.  Nay helps the Phillies in the same way that Vogelbach would because his size and raw power combined with his quick hands make him a consistent hitter who the Phillies could stick in the middle of their order in the near future.  While he plays third a position, the Phillies do not need help at thanks to Maikel Franco, Nay’s bat is the main attraction.  It is for this reason that they could have him make the switch to either first where he could come up as soon as 2016 or right field where his strong arm would allow him to play in 2017.  The last potential trade is Papelbon to the Houston Astros for shortstop Nolan Fontana and RHP Asher Wojciechowski.  Nolan Fontana projects as a utilityman while Wojciechowski projects as either a back-end of the rotation guy or middle relief, both are already major league ready.

The Rays rank 29th in terms of WAR from the catcher position and dead last from first base but still sit in first place in the AL East.  It is for this reason that I believe they should trade 2B Ryan Brett to the Phillies for 1B Ryan Howard, C Carlos Ruiz, and OF Cameron Perkins with the Phillies eating the vast majority of both Ruiz’s and Howard’s contracts.  The Rays get the production they need from their two positions of need, catcher and first base, and they also receive a young OF who projects as a middle of the order hitter in the near future.  The Phillies win this trade however for the sole reason that they will not have to pay out all of the two contracts, while receiving Ryan Brett is just a bonus.

2016 projected mid-season Phillies lineup and rotation:
1. Ben Revere – LF
2. Roman Quinn - RF
3. JP Crawford – SS
4. Dan Vogelbach – 1B
5. Maikel Franco – 3rd
6. Ryan Brett – 2nd
7. Aaron Altherr - CF
8. Andrew Knapp – C
9. Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively, Jesse Biddle

*The projected line-up includes the potential trades listed above and excludes any possible free agent signing

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