Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sell! Sell! Sell! - The Trade Deadline 2012

It’s hard to even know where to start when you’re writing about the Philadelphia Phillies these days. Last week they gave us a glimmer of hope after knocking around that minor league bullpen the Milwaukee Brewers have put together. It was the first 3 game sweep of the season for the Phillies and every fan in town was geared up for a showdown in Atlanta with the Wild Card leading Braves. If the Phillies swept the Braves, they would have been 6 games back of the Wild Card and riding a ton of momentum. If they won 2 out of 3, they would still be 8 games back but at least momentum would still be on their side. And when you’re more than 10 games back of a playoff spot, momentum is what you live for.

Well, 3 games and 4 runs later and the Phillies officially became sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in over half a decade. The Braves swept the weekend series and have now beaten the Phillies 6 games in a row. What did this mean for the Phillies and their chances this season?

Ruben Amaro finally threw up the white flag.

Shane Victorino. Gone to the Dodgers.

Hunter Pence. Gone to the Giants.

Cliff Lee. Staying with the Phillies. (Thankfully) Trading Cliff would have been a panic move, unless it put Josh Hamilton in red pinstripes.

The money printing factory that is the Philadelphia Phillies finally decided to scale back a bit and unloaded two-thirds of their starting outfield. I understand the moves Ruben made with Shane and Hunter, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with them.

For at least a month now, it was thought that Shane Victorino would be traded some time before the deadline. I had resigned myself to this fact. Shane has been part of the core group of players that brought this team to prominence. Since Gary Maddox roamed the gaps in Veteran’s Stadium, nobody patrolled centerfield better than Shane Victorino. He had a cannon for an arm and routinely threw runners out at the plate. When the Phillies made their World Series run in 2008 he played an integral role. In game 2 of the 2008 NLDS against CC Sabathia and the Brewers, Shane swatted a grand slam into left field sending Citizen’s Bank Park into a frenzied state. In the Matt Stairs game against the Dodgers in the 2008 NLCS, it was Shane who made it possible for Stairs to hit the go ahead home run. Shane tied it late in the game with a 2 run home run.

Shane was part of a group of 5 players that started EVERY postseason game the Phillies have played for the last 5 years, that’s not something a lot of teams accomplish (Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ruiz being the others). He was always energetic and maybe sometimes a little too jittery on the field but that’s what made Shane the ball player he is. He was a fan favorite for his unique personality, and he made shaving cream pies to the face for any player who happened to come up big that night the norm. Some nights it was Shane getting that pie in the face. He will be missed.

Shane getting traded was an obvious business decision, and a prudent one at that. I do agree with this move, and hopefully the pieces we got back in the trade can work out. Josh Lindblom, 25, should be able to add some stability to the crumbling foundation that is the Phillies bullpen. Ethan Martin is a right handed pitcher picked in the first round by the Dodgers who is still working his way through the minor leagues. Time will tell.

Shane will enter free agency at the end of this season, and the bottom line is he just was not doing much at the plate. He will be due a multi-year contract worth probably close to 8 figures a year. Moving him now allowed the Phillies to get something in return and saved them from looking like the bad guys when they did not offer Shane a contract, or a contract anywhere near what the 2 time All-Star will warrant in the free agency market. It will also allow for players like John Mayberry (Editor’s Note: Mayberry really has had the chance all season, he’s hitting .230) and Domonic Brown to get a chance to develop at the Major League level, and those guys don’t carry the price tag that Shane would.

Hunter Pence is a different story altogether. Pence certainly did not carry the history with the team that Victorinio did, but at this point in his career he’s a better ball player. Pence is still in contract arbitration years so he probably will make close to the same amount next year as he did this year (10,400,000). The Phillies moved him to free up about that amount of money from their payroll next year, but I am not standing by this move. We got a backup outfielder in Nate Scheirholtz in return (the guys has 5 home runs this year, but 2 were against the Phillies in the same game!). We also got back two minor league prospects, a catcher, Tommy Joseph, and a wet behind the ears pitcher in Seth Rosin. In other words, the Phillies didn’t get back anybody who will have much of an impact on their team for a guy who has had, and would have had in the future, a major impact on their team.

Sure Pence does some goofy things and just constantly looks awkward, be it at the plate, going after a fly ball, or throwing a guy out at home with what looks like a discuss throw, but he has been their clear cut second best player all season long. People like to point out that his batting average and RBIs are down this year. Well, I’m of the opinion that if he’s batting 5th or 6th all year behind Howard and Utley those numbers could and should be much better. For the first half of the season, it was Pence and Chooch and praying for somebody different to come through that night. It didn’t happen often enough, but that wasn’t Hunter Pence’s fault.

I know that trading Pence basically does the same thing that trading Victorino did. It will free up some money to sign different guys this offseason, and it will give the current guys the Phillies have a chance to showcase some of their talents.

There are two things about the Pence trade that I’m sticking on and for these reasons; I feel it’s a bad trade. 1. The Phillies are in desperate need of a third baseman that can do some damage at the plate AND make a play at the hot corner. Placido Polanco was washed up when we got him, and that was 3 years ago. Why did we not get the Giants best third base prospect for a guy who is clearly going to help the Giants immediately? 2. We are not going to sign anybody next year (be it for the same or less money) that is better than Hunter Pence. So what was the point of giving him up if we didn’t get anything we needed in return? I’m not so sure about this one Ruben.. I hope you know exactly what you’re doing.

It’s funny to think that if the Phillies had won those 3 games in Atlanta rather than losing them that most likely none of this would have happened. Maybe Victorino still gets sent packing, but if the Phillies were 6 games out of the Wild Card when they took on the Nationals Tuesday night you can bet your ass Hunter Pence would have been playing right field. Pence really had a great quote on his way out of town yesterday, it summed up what everybody basically already knew about this season, but it is nice to hear it from the player’s perspective.

"I don't think anyone really anticipated the season that's gone on. It was the perfect storm of injuries and things didn't go right for us, so that's the way the business of the game is and you have to understand that.”

That’s for damn sure Hunter.

* * *

It only took Cliff Lee until the last day of July to get his second win of the season! He pitched 7 innings of shutout ball and the Phillies beat the Nats 8-0 Tuesday night. I cracked a smile for this game, but that’s about it.

This has nothing to do with anything but you should still click it.