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If Phillies make major trade, perhaps it shouldn't be for an outfielder

By Tim Kelly, Sports Talk Philly editor  

With a strong young core starting to develop at the major league level, a stocked farm system and a ton of financial flexibility, there seems to be a growing sentiment around the sport that the Philadelphia Phillies are likely within the next 15 or so months to make a major acquisition. If that acquisition comes via a trade, it doesn't seem to make sense for it to be for an outfielder. 

For much of this summer, the Phillies were connected - both through speculation and credible reports - to Miami Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. With the Marlins ownership change likely to be concluded in the near future, the team will put in place their new front-office and presumably be willing to listen to trade offers on Stanton, Yelich and two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna. 

No one's debating the impact that any of those three would have on the Phillies or any team. Trading for an outfielder may simply not make the most sense for the Phillies. 

Let's start with the fact that the Phillies seem fairly set in the outfield. They may not have a superstar in their outfield, but they appear to have a pretty formidable starting three heading into 2018. Nick Williams, acquired in the July 2015 Cole Hamels trade, is slashing .288/.337/.479 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs in 288 at-bats in 2017. Aaron Altherr has had issues staying healthy, but has been quite effective at the plate when healthy, as he has 19 home runs and 61 RBIs in 344 at-bats in 2017. And Odubel Herrera, save for a horrendous month of May, has hit extremely well in 2017. FanGraphs also says that despite occasional blunders in center field, he's been one of the five best fielders at his position since 2015, the first three years he's played center field. 

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On top of the outfield depth that the Phillies have at the major league level, they aren't thin on outfielding talent in the minor leagues. They've spent three consecutive first-round picks on outfielders - Cornerlius Randolph in 2015, Mickey Moniak in 2016 and Adam Haseley in 2017. Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs outfielders Roman Quinn, Dylan Cozens, Carlos Tocci and Andrew Pullin all have a chance to appear at the major league level in 2018 as well. 

The feeling that you are left with is that outfield really isn't a position of need for the Phillies organizationally. They could probably transition into a contender with the outfielders currently in their organization. That's not to say that an upgrade couldn't be made - of course it would be nice to have Giancarlo Stanton launching home runs at Citizens Bank Park. But trading for Stanton wouldn't be free, not to mention you would be assuming most or all of the $295 million owed to him after this season. Yelich is signed through 2022 on a team-friendly deal, but that means that the Marlins are less motivated to trade him and it would probably take a bounty to acquire him in a trade. 

If the Phillies want to make a major transaction involving an outfielder, Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper can become a free-agent after 2018. Harper will have plenty of suitors - which means he'll likely get a record contract - but acquiring him wouldn't entail trading a bulk of the best players in your farm system. General manager Matt Klentak, should he choose, can make a play for Harper next offseason. If the team signs him, great, they have a superstar player and then can use some of their outfielding talent to trade for pitching. If not, they have enough outfielding talent as it is to win. 

Speaking of pitching, while the Phillies are deep in outfielding talent at the upper levels of their organization, they aren't in pitching. While their bullpen has improved in the second half of the season, Aaron Nola appears to be their only sure-thing in the rotation moving forward, perhaps along with Jerad Eickhoff, who had a rough 2017 season.

The good news is that Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, Franklyn Kilome, JoJo Romero and Ranger Suarez are among the prospects in the organization that give the Phillies hope that they will have a playoff-caliber rotation at the end of this decade. No prospect is 100 percent untouchable, but Sanchez is probably about as close as you can be, as the Phillies envision him at the top of their rotation with Nola in the 2020s. The rest of the prospects listed may join him, or they could be used to acquire another front-of-the-line starting pitcher to join Nola and Sanchez, such as Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays

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Using those pitching prospects to trade for Stanton or Yelich wouldn't seem to set the Phillies up to be a better team. Sure, it would be fun for the team to have a perennial All-Star-caliber outfielder, but the Marlins have three perennial All-Star caliber outfielders right now and it hasn't translated to them being a championship (or really even playoff) caliber team. The reason? Despite what's been an impressive season from RHP Jose Urena, the team simply doesn't have the pitching to compete. So even with Stanton pushing 60 home runs, Ozuna quietly pushing 40 home runs and Yelich having a very productive year, the Marlins are going to finish below .500. That's not a blueprint that the Phillies want to follow. 

Outfielders truly are the most replaceable players on the field. Think of the 2007-2011 Phillies. During a five year stretch, albeit one that was the most successful one in franchise history, the Phillies had Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, Pat Burrell, Raul Ibanez, Aaron Rowand, Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence all play for their team. As mentioned earlier in this piece, the Phillies have strong organizational outfield depth as it is. Should they need more in the future, there will be productive, yet replaceable pieces like Ibanez and Burrell around. Heck, J.D. Martinez, who has 43 home runs, was available for a pretty affordable price this past trade deadline. 

The points made in this piece won't stop speculative articles and serious reports from connecting the Phillies to Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna or otherwise this offseason. And to be clear, the Phillies should always be checking in on the price for any star players, that's how building a team works. But barring an unforeseen bargain, if the Phillies do make a major trade this offseason or in the near future, it probably shouldn't be for an outfielder. 

Comments

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Andrew

If you have a chance to get one of the best players in the game, you do it. If you can upgrade either Altherr or Williams with Yelich, you go for it. I don't see what the problem is.

Chris. I

The problem is our outfield minus Herrera is costing us practically nothing at the moment. And not to mention the fact that Altherr and williams (especially Altherr has a higher ceiling than Yelich at the moment). We have one more "preview" next season before we actually see what these guys are capable of, before we're in position to go "ALL IN"" for 2018. It's been awhile since the team has been in a position like this, to have the chance to control its own destiny. Of course we have the money to burn, but why burn in toward an area that doesn't need upgrading? Our offense going into next season just got a lot more scarier with the presence of Hopkins. Our areas of need Are pitching. And lots of it!! Let's get a guy like Arieta or Otani from FA, AND trade for a guy like Stroaman (right there we'd have a nasty top 3). Sign Rodney to a one year deal (slot him into closer) that way we can save our bullets for Kimbrel for 18 FA. and one more Reliever like Drew Storen to a 1-2 year deal. That right there would set us up nicely to go all for the 2018 shopping spree with a championship team. Cheers

Andrew

Yelich is younger and better and it's not even close. What if guys take a step back? How are we going to go "all in"?? Nobody's gonna wanna play here unless we have some stars to build around. Arrieta? He's been getting worse since two years ago. Haven't Lee and Halladay taught us anything about workhorse pitchers who enter their mid-30s? Come in man, and Rodney? Drew Storen? Isn't he injured for all of next year? Get a grip, dude.

Jim

I think you sink or swim with your current pitching. Young pitchers have to go through adversity to become better. If you start with them next year, and past the half-way mark in the season, they haven't improved, then you know in the future, they are not part of your plans. And not mentioned in the article is that Cole Irvin (LH pitcher) will be with the team at some point in 2018, maybe even starting the year with them, if the Phillies do not have that archaic mentality that every player must go through all minor league levels. Give me a break.

Don Schell

Need a#1 SP followed by Nola-Pivetta- Eickhoff. Maybe Thompson-Eflin-Velasquez [if healthy]The rest are junk ball pitchers not able to get out of the very low 90's and no command.

Larry Degnan

I don't understand why people harp on about the money remaining on Stanton's deal yet casually throw out Harper who is going to cost likely $35-$40M/year on a 10-year deal with multiple opt outs.

One of the major reasons this team has been so lousy since 2012 is the corner OF play which has been among the worst in MLB.

I can understand the reluctance in having to give up a lot of talent to acquire Yelich and take on Stanton's deal or a large portion of it especially given Stanton's opt out.

This idea that the Phillies shouldn't acquire a corner OF bat simply because of Williams or Altherr (let alone Quinn or Cozens) is highly flawed thinking. Upgrades should always be pursued or examined especially in the Phils' present situation.

Don Schell

Phillies OF is full of strike out players. They are loaded in MiL OF. Trade for Stanton/Yelich and still have replacements in 3-4 years

Chris. I

I mentioned guys like Rodney and storen simply because there veteran guys who could help with such a young team. Not to mention they'd both come with cheap, one or two year deals which wouldn't hurt other potential signings

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