Variety of trade options available for Phillies
With Deadline approaching, decision time looms for Amaro
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Rollins takes no offense when he hears people say the Phillies must improve their offense before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"You can have a perfect team and they're always going to try to find something else out there to add to it," he said following Wednesday's 9-1 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley Field. "They like to talk, and we like to play. As long as we do our part and [the front office does] their part, it'll all come together for the betterment of the team."
The Phillies are looking for a right-handed bat and a relief pitcher, although it is unlikely they add both. It still seems to make the most sense to add a bat, with Philadelphia's .660 OPS against left-handed pitching ranking 14th in the National League. The Phillies could use an extra arm in the bullpen, but Brad Lidge and Jose Contreras are expected back at some point. If they come back healthy and pitch effectively, they would provide the bullpen plenty of depth. Of course, Lidge and Contreras could come back and struggle or end up back on the disabled list. There is gray area there. But there is no gray in regards to a right-handed bat. The Phillies have been searching for one since the beginning of the season -- they know they need to improve.
There have been plenty of names mentioned recently, but one that has picked up considerable steam is New York Mets right fielder Carlos Beltran. There are many reasons Beltran makes sense, but many why he does not appear to be a fit.
The Phillies typically do not acquire two-month rentals. The last three trades they have made before the July 31 Trade Deadline -- Joe Blanton in 2008, Cliff Lee in 2009 and Roy Oswalt in 2010 -- they made because they could retain them at least through the following season. The last time they acquired a rental, they acquired Kyle Lohse in 2007, but he only cost them Matt Maloney.
Beltran certainly figures to cost the Phillies more than a talent like Maloney. But it would be very surprising to see the Phillies forfeit a talent like Domonic Brown, Jonathan Singleton or Jarred Cosart for somebody that will become a free agent following season's end. Especially concerning for the Phillies is Beltran's contract, which states a team cannot offer him salary arbitration, meaning that if the Phillies acquired him and he signed with another team, they would receive no draft picks as compensation.
Hunter Pence's name has been mentioned since Opening Day, but for months it seemed like a pipe dream. First, why would the Astros trade arguably their only marketable player? Second, could the Phillies and Astros really make another trade? The odds of another blockbuster between the Phillies and Astros would seem small. But there are reports Pence is available, and ESPN.com has reported the Phillies would like to center any deal for Pence around Vance Worley.
Trading Worley would be somewhat surprising because the Phillies place a high value on pitching, and there are questions about the rotation moving forward. Roy Oswalt could retire after the season, Joe Blanton is having elbow problems and Kyle Kendrick could become too expensive in the Phillies' minds as he hits his second round of salary arbitration. In essence, the Phillies could have two holes to fill in the rotation next season. Worley would seem to be a perfect fit for one of those spots.
That said, the Phillies might consider a big league pitcher a fair price for Pence because he cannot become a free agent until after the 2013 season.
In other words, like Oswalt, Lee and Blanton from Trade Deadlines past, he is a controllable player.
The fact that the Phillies are in the hunt for players like Beltran, Pence and Padres closer Heath Bell indicates the Phillies are willing to exceed the $178 million luxury tax threshold for the right player, just like they were willing to go over budget to sign Cliff Lee in December.
But if the price remains too high for the Phillies, they have alternatives to improve the lineup. Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson is hitting .336 with a .940 OPS. He has a .978 OPS against left-handed pitchers. Ryan Ludwick, Josh Willingham, Melky Cabrera, Jonny Gomes and Jeff Francoeur remain available, too. It is believed Tampa Bay would trade B.J. Upton for the right price.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. could feel less pressure to add a bat if the offense keeps hitting. The Phillies have hit .275 with a .342 on-base percentage and a .420 slugging percentage in 15 games this month, averaging 5.7 runs per game. That is a marked improvement from the first three months of the season, when they hit .244/.318/.374 and averaged just 4.0 runs per game.
But even if the Phillies continue to hit up to the Trade Deadline, can Amaro move forward convinced that this team will continue to hit?
He has 10 days to make up his mind.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.