The paradigm has shifted in major league baseball. Savvy franchises tie up young game-changing talent. The Giants didn’t have to extend Buster Posey, who was under team control for years. But the Giants offered their home grown product a nine-year extension last season and the then 26-year old signed a deal worth at least $167 million.
The Angels did the same thing with Mike Trout in March. It’s about drafting well and keeping those precious prospects. Gone are the days when a package of highly packaged prospects are dealt for a superstar. Remember when the Braves rented Mark Teixeira from the Rangers for the final two months of the 2007 season for Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Matt Harrison and Beau Jones?
Saltalamacchia, who was the centerpiece of the deal, has become a solid catcher, despite an array of injuries. Andrus and Feliz were high upside teenagers. The former is a defensive whiz and a catalyst at the top of the Rangers order. Feliz became an elite closer and Harrison won 32 games in 2011 and 2012. That transaction is a big reason Texas won two AL pennants at the dawn of the decade.
Don’t feel bad for the Braves. Their crack scouting staff replenished the farm system.
But there is a shift in philosophy and all that is typically left in free agency are aging veterans, hello, Phillies. After the Phillies failed to make a deal before the trade deadline passed last week, Ruben Amaro uttered a curious statement.
“I don’t think the clubs were aggressive enough for the talent we have on our club,” Amaro said.
GMs are being careful with prospects. Look at the innovative Billy Beane. The A’s GM surprised the baseball world Thursday by not dealing a prospect to the Red Sox for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes but Yoenis Cespedes, who was Oakland’s biggest contract and likely to be dealt in the offseason. Beane built a monster rotation in July set to go deep in the playoffs and he also replaced Cespedes.
Amaro ultimately couldn’t deal A.J. Burnett, Marlon Byrd and Jonathan Papelbon due to the contracts he offered. The deals aren’t just lucrative. They’re also complicated. It’s difficult to deal those players.
Amaro is probably right about how little he was offered. He can’t just give the players away. Amaro already did that with Cliff Lee and the fanbase is reminded every time Phillippe Aumont fails, which he did Saturday night when the Nationals blasted the big Canadian all the way back to the Lehigh Valley.
“The Phillies are in a bad situation right now,” a NL scout said. “But they made this situation for themselves. They gave out a bunch of these (unwieldy) contracts. You can’t blame the players for signing them. You can’t be surprised that Ryan Howard and Jonathan Papelbon signed for such big money. The silver lining for the Phillies is that most of those deals end in two years. If they can draft well, they can start over.”
But that process can’t begin now. The Phillies roster is basically the same as it was when the squad broke camp in April. Perhaps the Phillies will work a waiver deal or two this month. Perhaps not. The future can’t come soon enough for this beleagured team.