Antonio Bastardo, who is 3-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 45 games, could bring a good return to the Phillies in a trade. (USA Today Images)
Being in sell-mode doesn’t always mean a team has the ability to replenish its farm system or build for the future. Having pieces other teams want is one thing, but having pieces teams are willing to trade young difference-makers for is another.
Michael Young won’t bring back a huge return. Nor will Carlos Ruiz or, based on a disconcerting decline and an enormous contract, Jonathan Papelbon.
Nor will Chase Utley, because the Phillies are no longer shopping him.
You know who could bring back a nice return? Antonio Bastardo.
Relievers of Bastardo’s ilk don’t often become available. He’s 27, left-handed, under team control for a couple seasons and has electric, strikeout stuff. There will likely be significant interest in him leading up to Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline because no team can ever have enough bullpen help in October, nor can it have an over-abundance of late-inning lefties who throw hard and have experience setting up and closing.
Bastardo’s contract status is equally appealing. He’s due less than $500,000 the rest of the season. Next year is his second year of arbitration -- he’ll likely see a raise from $1.4 million to around $3-4 million -- and 2015 is his third and final year of arbitration.
A team that would acquire Bastardo would have him for the stretch run, plus two additional years. That’s value.
Bastardo has boosted his stock lately, allowing just three runs and 15 baserunners over his last 16 2/3 innings. His strikeout rate has dropped significantly this season, but is still at an impressive 9.8 batters per nine.
You also have to consider the grass-is-greener effect. The Phillies and their fans know Bastardo’s act very well. He’s a hard thrower who has trouble locating, and is prone to wildness at any time. He’s not a guy you trust with the bases loaded because even when a strike is required, he can’t always throw one. Sometimes his mechanics get out of whack. Sometimes his fastball doesn’t stay down.
Still, Bastardo is an appealing piece for practically every contending NL team. The Pirates could use another late-inning reliever, especially one who throws from the left side. Same goes for the Dodgers, Cardinals and Diamondbacks. The Indians, Rays and Red Sox could use one more bullpen piece. The Tigers might not be done after acquiring Jose Veras.
Shopping Bastardo would make sense for the Phillies because there just aren’t too many ways they can bring in young talent otherwise. What might derail a move, however, is the Phils’ lack of relief options in coming seasons. A lot of these guys haven’t progressed.
Phillippe Aumont, Justin De Fratus and Jake Diekman have all developed slower than expected. All have failed to a certain degree when given late-inning opportunities. Aumont and Diekman have exceptional swing-and-miss stuff, but just haven’t clicked. If the Phillies trade Bastardo, who do they turn to in the bullpen in 2014?
It’s not an easy situation to figure out, especially when you consider that Papelbon and Mike Adams are due a total of $20 million next season. Ruben Amaro Jr. would need a significant return to deal Bastardo, and force his own hand in future bullpen construction.
It’s an outside-the-box consideration, sure. But the box itself contains very few ways for an aging, expensive team to get back to winning games.