MLB trade deadline: What to watch

Hunter Pence

For the first time since 2006, the Phillies will be sellers at the non-waiver trading deadline. Take a minute, let that settle, now breathe.

Yes, the Phils will be cleaning house today — at 4 p.m. — after being swept by Atlanta this past weekend. There be some big names leaving town, too. Shane Victorino, Juan Pierre, Joe Blanton, Cliff Lee (depending on which “source” you believe/subscribe to) and Hunter Pence are all reportedly being shopped.

The reality is that the Phillies aren’t going to win a World Series this season. They are (at press time) 16.5 games behind Washington for first in the NL East, and 12.5 out of the wild-card race.  With that in mind, let’s review the best (and worst) possible outcomes:

Shane Victorino

The deal: The Flyin’ Hawaiian has long been a fan favorite and one of the
centerpieces from the 2008 World Series team. However, he’s a free agent after the season and the Phils simply can’t afford him (he could command as much as $10 million). Losing Victorino will cause a big hole in the lineup — and a bigger one, defensively, in the outfield — but if they don’t trade him now, they’ll walk away uncompensated after the season ends. This is a no-brainer.

Landing spots: Cincinnati, L.A. Dodgers and Pittsburgh have all scouted Victorino in recent days. Of the three, the Dodgers seem to be the top destination. GM Ruben Amaro could try and pull off a heist and get reliever Josh Lindblom and outfielder Tony Gwynn, Jr. in return.

Cliff Lee

The deal: Sources, namely ESPN’s Buster Olney, think the left-hander is on his way to Texas. Problem is that Lee carries one of the richest contracts in baseball, at an average of $24 million per year — one that the Rangers probably can’t afford, and the Phils can’t absorb. Add to the equation that the team spoke glowingly of keeping its three-headed monster of Lee, Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels in tact just last week.

Landing spots: Texas. It’s really the only place that makes sense. If they were willing to take on Lee’s contract and give up two stud prospects (think third baseman Mike Olt, outfielder Leonys Martin), then Amaro pulls the trigger. However, that seems highly unlikely.

Joe Blanton

The deal: The Phils should have traded the portly right-hander after his hot start, but he’s still a pretty valuable piece to a contender, as a long reliever once the playoffs begin. Blanton is due $3 million, which is the Phils’ primary reason for moving him, but will that high price tag scare off some teams?

Landing spots: Baltimore, St. Louis, Toronto are all in play. The Orioles lack serious depth in their starting rotation and Blanton (8-9, 4.59 ERA) can still deliver a solid start here and there. His 1.19 WHIP is better — O’s best is at 1.22 — than any starter Baltimore has right now.

Hunter Pence

The deal: He’s the biggest chip the Phillies have to offer, really. Pence is still fairly young (29) and is enjoying a successful year as he looks to shatter his career marks for home runs and RBIs. He’s also arbitration-eligible after this season and should rake in about $12 million in 2013. While that’s a huge chunk of change for a team looking to avoid the luxury tax, the Phils don’t have many options in the outfield without him. Without Pence (we’re assuming Victorino leaves) they would be forced to start John Mayberry Jr. and farmhand Dom Brown. If that happens, say goodbye to that sellout streak at Citizens Bank Park.

Landing spots: San Francisco, Pittsburgh. Reports ran wild late Sunday night that the Giants had a “deal in place” for Pence, but they soon turned out to be false. Still, shipping Pence to San Francisco for a hot prospect, like catcher Tommy Joseph, is a viable option. Or they could look to get San Diego involved in a three-team swap that could net them third baseman Chase Headley.


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