From Stanton to Lee, not too early for Phils to think trades

From Stanton to Lee, not too early for Phils to think trades

May 3, 2013, 9:30 am
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The Phillies don’t have to deal with Giancarlo Stanton in their current four-game series against the Miami Marlins, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t on the minds of club officials.

According to a major-league executive with knowledge of the situation, the Phillies over the last several months have made “multiple” inquiries to the Marlins about Stanton’s availability in a trade. The Phils, like every other team salivating over the 23-year-old slugger, have been told he’s not available.

The feeling around baseball is that Stanton could become available at some point and the Phils have let it be known they want to speak with the Marlins when and if they decide to move the young, power-hitting rightfielder.

Stanton is the most talented player on a Marlins’ roster that was gutted in a fire sale over the winter. He is making $537,000 this year, but his salary will jump significantly as he becomes eligible for salary arbitration in the coming offseason. Stanton is not eligible for free agency until after the 2016 season.

The Phillies view Stanton as a player that would provide power and youth in a much-needed outfield upgrade. It would take several top prospects to get Stanton. That would be a problem for the Phillies, who do not have a deep farm system. Close-to-major-league-ready pitching (Jesse Biddle, Adam Morgan, Jonathan Pettibone) is the Phillies’ strength, but the team could be reluctant to move too much of that supply as the core of its big-league pitching staff gets older. Other clubs are deeper in young talent and would have a better shot of landing Stanton, but the Phillies, desperate for productive outfield help, will (and have tried) to put a package together for Stanton.

Another hurdle in the Phils’ pursuit of Stanton: Miami may be reluctant to deal him within its own division.

Stanton has 96 home runs, 241 RBIs and an .893 OPS in 393 big-league games. He is currently on the disabled list with a strained right hamstring. He also did not play against the Phillies last month in Miami.

Entering Friday night’s game, Phillies outfielders (excluding pinch-hitters) were hitting .215 (ranking 28th in the majors), with a .285 on-base percentage (28th) and a .330 slugging percentage (29th).

While Phillies officials plot ways to upgrade their outfield, they have to be mindful of the possibility of being out of contention in July. That could lead to a fire sale of their own.

So who could go if the Phillies sell?

• Cliff Lee would have significant, hired-gun value because teams that pursue him would do so for one reason: To win the World Series. Lee is owed $62.5 million after this season and the remainder of $25 million for this season. Clearly, he’s expensive, but again, teams that pursue him would do so to win a World Series. Texas, the Dodgers and the Red Sox would all be teams to watch. The Red Sox inquired about Lee before the winter meetings and were told he was not available because the Phillies believed they needed him to make a run in 2013. If that run fails the Phils will likely change their mindset and Lee will become the prize of July trade market. Lee has a limited no-trade clause, but these things have a way of being resolved.

• Jonathan Papelbon will be another pitcher to watch. He is being paid $13 million this season and will make $13 million in 2014 and 2015. A closer that expensive is a luxury that a non-contending team does not need. There are always contending teams with closer issues. The one to watch this summer: Detroit. The Tigers have a deep-pocketed owner and big World Series aspirations. The hitch: Papelbon has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to stipulate 12 teams to which he will accept a trade. According to a source with knowledge of Papelbon’s contract, the Tigers are not on his list.

• Jimmy Rollins was in play last summer and could be again this July for a team looking for a shortstop upgrade. Rollins, however, has full no-trade rights. He’d want to call his own shot to agree to a trade.

• Chase Utley is in the final year of his contract. His bat could help someone, but there seems to be a sentiment to keep Utley, a character player on a team that could use some, provided he can continue to successfully manage his knee condition. Utley has a limited no-trade clause, but will gain full no-trade rights when he becomes a 10-and-5 man in late August.

• The Phillies would likely move Ryan Howard, but his price tag ($85 million over the next three seasons plus the remainder of $20 million this season) would be prohibitive.

• Carlos Ruiz is also in the final year of his deal. If the Phils fall out of contention, they could listen on him and look to start the transition to Tommy Joseph.

• Roy Halladay will be a free agent at season’s end. He’s making $20 million this season. Inconsistency could hurt his value.

• If Delmon Young produces, he could be attractive to a team looking for a second-half bat. He’s on a one-year deal and would be a cheap acquisition for a contender.

Of course, the Phillies hope they are that contender. We’ll see if that happens. In the meantime, it’s never too early to think about trades, the ones that could bring in players like Giancarlo Stanton and the ones that could subtract players like Lee, Papelbon and others.