Chase Utley will probably remain a Phillie through the trade deadline, but trading him makes all the sense in the world. PHOTO: Phillymads63, CC license
Baseball’s trade deadline is less than 24 hours away, and other than Jake Peavy, it is not clear if any big name players will be on the move by Wednesday, 4pm EST. There are a number of players that would benefit both the giving and the receiving team in the right deal, and while these deals aren’t likely to happen, they ought to.
Phillies GM Ruben Amaro should have been shopping Lee for a while now so that he could know his options for what combination of salary and prospects he could get for his ace. With the trade deadline a day away, Lee could still get traded, but reports seemed to indicate that Amaro wasn’t listening too seriously, and now that he is, is asking for the initial, “let’s see if anyone gets desperate and bites” offer of Lee’s entire remaining salary (around $70 million through 2015 if a buyout is exercised, $82.5 million through 2016 if Lee is retained) plus four legit prospects, two of them monsters. Few teams can and no team will pay that for Lee. Amaro can still trade Lee in the offseason and get a serious haul for him, but by dawdling, he likely missed the chance to entice a contender in deadline-induced tilt.
Odds Lee will be traded: 15% by the trade deadline, 15% by the waiver deadline next month
Potential destination: Boston Red Sox
Marlon Byrd is showing that it wasn’t just the PEDs (or that the new ones are harder to detect) as the journeyman outfielder, a month from age 36, is enjoying an excellent season with a career-best 129 wRC+ (meaning he has been about 29% better than the average hitter on offense). He is making $700,000 for the entire season, so salary concerns are negligible. For a Mets team out of the playoff picture, and that will need a number of factors to break right for them to contend next year, now is the time to trade Byrd. A repeat performance next year seems unlikely, and Byrd will likely seek his last big paycheck off of this season. If Mets GM Sandy Alderson can turn Byrd into a promising minor leaguer before tomorrow's trade deadline, he should.
Potential destination: Texas Rangers
Odds Byrd will be traded: 30%
The San Francisco Giants maintain that they would like to sign Pence beyond this year instead of trading him. To do that, however, they will likely need to give him an annual salary of at least the $13.8 million they are paying him this year, which isn’t a bad rate for the production they are getting from Pence (119 wRC+), but to continue to be worth it, Pence will have to continue to offer this sort of production. He’s not a terrible bet to do that (or close enough), but he turned 30 this year, and these sorts of seasons will become rarer. The safest move for the Giants’ future is to flip Pence for an interesting prospect before the trade deadline.
Odds Pence Will Be Traded: 30%
Potential Destination: Cincinnati Reds or Texas Rangers
James Shields & Ervin Santana
The Royals two best pitchers are keeping them afloat. For the first time in a decade, the Royals could finish above .500, and at the moment, the second wildcard has not entirely fallen off the horizon. Furthermore, the Royals just gave up stud prospect Wil Myers to get Shields, and he is signed through next year. For all these reasons, Sheilds and Santana aren’t going anywhere by this season's trade deadline. Here’s why they should: the Royals aren’t going to make the playoffs, and both the values of both pitchers will never be higher. There is no way the team could stomach giving up Shields after giving up Myers for him, so let’s focus on the easier option. Santana is owed around $5 million through the rest of the year, after which he becomes a free agent. He is enjoying his best season since 2008, and at the end of the year he will seek what will likely be his last big contract. In a market with few good starting pitchers, Santana would return a decent haul. Yes, that would cut into the Royals’ playoff chances, but those chances are only 8.3%, according to CoolStandings.
Odds they will be traded: Santana: 10%, Shields: 0%
Potential Destination: Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox
Utley is no longer one of the best players in baseball, as he was for a chunk of the last decade, but the longtime Phillie is still really good. He has a 128 wRC+ while playing good defense at a position that most teams don’t count on for much offense. Really, the Phillies would love to unload their entire infield, but Utley is one player who could transform another team, and whose contract expires at the end of the year (unlike the guy who plays to his left). He’s worth an A- prospect from a playoff team. The only reason the Phillies shouldn’t capitalize on that is that I’m a Mets fan.
Odds Utley will be traded: 5%
Potential Destination: Oakland A’s