The Big Picture
Stop me if this sounds familiar. A team with championship aspirations faces a slew of injuries to their best players. They find themselves last in their division but hope that the players return will boost them back into contention. At the trade deadline they must make a tough decision: stick to the plan or write off a season in a championship era whose window could be closing.
Yep - the Phillies are having the year the Twins had last year. But instead of a fan base of Minnesota stoics, they play in the City of Brotherly Love. You can imagine how pleasant that is.
Why They Will Trade With The Twins
The Phillies are walking a delicate line. Despite injuries to superstar second baseman Chase Utley, first baseman Ryan Howard and ace pitcher Roy Halladay, the Philadelphia is only six games under .500 and just 5.5 games back of the wild card. They hope to have Utley back on Wednesday, Howard beginning a rehab assignment this week and Halladay returning in the middle of July. If they get healthy, and the Phils simply tread water for the next month, it will be awfully hard for them to give up on the season.
Traditionally, the Phillies have had trouble finding good right-handed hitting to offset Utley and Howard’s left-handed bats. But they traded for Hunter Pence last year and he has an 803 OPS and catcher Carlos Ruiz has a (unsustainable) 978 OPS to lead the team. Add in that Juan Pierre is playing left field (and hitting .322) and it’s hard to see a fit for Josh Willingham, though in previous years he would’ve been an obvious fit.
But what if Howard can’t come back strong, or if this injury (which has repeatedly defied expectations) looks like it might take more time than just this season to heal? If so, Justin Morneau would be a hell of a replacement for him, and it’s not like his $14 million salary would be much of a problem for the phree-spending Phils.
Other options include Ryan Doumit if Carlos Ruiz' ribcage strain becomes a problem. The Phillies setup men – primarily Chad Qualls and Antonio Bastardo - have both been unreliable. If Halladay can’t recover, history suggests that the Phils aren’t afraid to chase high-ceiling pitchers like Liriano. Finally, there is one Twins player that could be interesting even if the Phils decide to pack it in this year. Their center fielder Shane Victorino will be a free agent at the end of the year and the Phillies don’t know if they’ll be able to re-sign him. Denard Span might be of interest as he’s under contract through 2015.
Why They Won’t Trade With The Twins
The most likely scenario is that the Phils do exactly what the Twins did last year: stand pat. It’s hard to give up on a year when expectations were so high and it’s easy to blame injuries. Plus, management can trot out the great cliché that they’re trading for three superstars just by getting healthy.
They’re worth watching, to be sure. The Phils have been very aggressive around the trade deadline in acquiring talent, and they haven’t been afraid to trade away significant prospects for the right pieces. But outside of Morneau as a Howard replacement, there doesn’t look like a great fit here.
But if you're interested in what the Twins could get back in return, I'm listing three three possible trade targets over at Twins Daily, along with lots of other ideas from our community.
Also at Twins Daily, Nick Nelson previewed last night's win talking about how critical Francisco Liriano is to the Twins success.
Meanwhile, Parker Hageman is critical to Twins Daily's success, and his story about Trevor Plouffe's swing was called out by ESPN Baseball Tonight's podcast. Congratulations Parker!