Thursday, August 1, 2013
Teams that should have bought or sold
By Keith Law
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. decided not to make any deals at the trade deadline.
I hope everyone has recovered from the excitement of this year's trade deadline, which included all of three sellers -- Houston and the two Chicago teams. Here's a look at teams that didn't do anything but should have, or could have if the market had cooperated.
Sellers who didn't sell
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies couldn't even execute the biggest no-brainer trade of all -- dealing Michael Young, age 36 and an impending free agent, so they could play prospect Cody Asche every day at third and Darin Ruf at first for the rest of the year. Young could still move in August if, say, the Yankees claim him on waivers, but the Phillies also lost opportunities to deal other free agents-to-be, including Carlos Ruiz (age 34) and Chase Utley (34).
Utley in particular is baffling; the Phillies seem to be trying to work out a contract extension with him, even though he hasn't played a full season since 2009 and his defense is declining with all of his leg issues. If they absolutely must have him, they could trade him now for prospects and re-sign him in November. The Phillies are seven games out of the wild card and 11 out of first, with an aging, expensive roster and a farm system that's thin at the Double- and Triple-A levels. Ruben Amaro Jr. needed to start a rebuild. Instead he sat on his hands.
They could even have shopped Hisashi Iwakuma, signed for $6.5 million through next year, but potentially superfluous with the other starters in Seattle's system. And the Mariners stood pat. It's a lost opportunity to make the team better in the long run, with no upside beyond maybe a 75th win this year.
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies have the best record of the five teams I listed here, but their competitive position is so poor -- they are nine games out of the division (in the loss column) and eight out of the second wild card, and have to leapfrog more than one team in each -- that they should at least have been opportunistic sellers. Both Matt Belisle (age 33) and Rafael Betancourt (age 38) would have value in trade to contenders; Belisle is healthy and should have been made available, while Betancourt is on the DL and could be a waiver trade later this month.
The bigger bait they could have dangled is lefty Jorge de la Rosa, who has a club option for 2014 at $11 million that was triggered when he picked up his player option for 2013; de la Rosa ranks ninth in the NL in WAR (per FanGraphs) this year, his first full year back from 2011 Tommy John surgery, even though his velocity is down about 2 mph from where it was before the surgery. He would have intrigued some clubs.
Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers own the majors' fourth-worst record, so there is no question whether they should have been sellers. But they sold only one player (Francisco Rodriguez), and that was one they never wanted to keep in the first place. In Milwaukee's defense, however, it didn't have a lot of salable assets. I've heard they would love to move Rickie Weeks' contract but found little interest.
Yovani Gallardo might have torched his own trade value with his leg injury Tuesday, but given his declining velocity and $11 million contract next year, it would have made sense for the Brewers to put him out there before this week -- and to do the same with Kyle Lohse, whose three-year, $33 million deal has turned out to be the wrong move for the team this spring.
New York Mets: They didn't get an offer they liked on Marlon Byrd. Without knowing what the offers were, I would say I'd probably have just decided which one was the best and taken it. Bobby Parnell's trade value will still be there this winter, and it could make more sense for the team to package him and a pitching prospect to try to acquire a bat.
Buyers who didn't buy
Texas Rangers: The Rangers could have used another bat in the outfield, with or without the potential loss of Nelson Cruz to a suspension. David Murphy isn't an everyday player, and the solution in left isn't currently in the organization -- and that assumes the Rangers don't also have to fill right field. But the market didn't seem to offer an ideal corner bat, and the Rangers could be better off playing Jurickson Profar out there for the rest of the year.
Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates were in the same situation as the Rangers -- they have a black hole in right field, but unless Hunter Pence or Giancarlo Stanton became available, they might just have been better off standing pat, especially if the alternative meant trading one of their many power arms. The fact they're near locks to make the playoffs now also makes the lack of a move easier to accept.
Kansas City Royals: I liked the small move the Royals made, adding a platoon partner for David Lough in Justin Maxwell at the cost of a probable fifth starter in high Class A pitcher Kyle Smith, but I wish they'd been able to fill the larger hole they have at second base. Only Toronto has received less production from that position than Kansas City has, so little that even Rickie Weeks would represent a substantial upgrade.
But once again, we're looking at a market in which there was little available -- other than Weeks and former Royal Alberto Callaspo, who went to Oakland, the only second baseman who might have been available was Howie Kendrick, who probably would have required top prospect Kyle Zimmer as a return.