The Philadelphia Phillies are not a bad team. At four games under .500 entering play this weekend, the Phillies find themselves 7.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League East. The problem is, while they are not a bad team, they are riddled with some bad contracts. The Phillies will not catch the Braves or the Washington Nationals in their division this season, and, probably not in 2014 either. They know that it is a time for a change, having already traded some of their more valuable players in 2012. The time is now to move some more players who could fetch some top prospects, with Cliff Lee and Jonathan Papelbon as the top two potential trade pieces to bring in an influx of future stars. While the 2013 MLB Trade Deadline is still over a month away, it is never too early to start thinking about which teams will be buyers and which will be sellers, as well as what potential blockbuster deals may be rumored to occur. With that being said, could the Phillies trade Lee and Papelbon to the Detroit Tigers for a package of major and minor league players?
Before you write this one off, think about a few different reasons why it may be crazy enough to make sense.
The Phillies are paying Lee a ton of money to win games for a team who is not going to the postseason. He receives little run support, and has openly said he wants to play for a winner. He is also not getting any younger. If they could move his contract, it would have to be considered a major victory for Ruben Amaro.
The same can be said for Papelbon. Sure, he is still an effective closer, but his contract is far too large, especially on a team likely to miss the playoffs once again this season. Trading him now would make sense, instead of possibly running the risk of watching him either lose it overnight, or what may be more likely, watching him shoot off his mouth one too many times.
As if that hasn’t already happened, right?
Now, look at it from the Tigers’ angle. Lee would not be a top priority for Detroit. With starting pitchers such as Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister in the rotation, the Tigers are stacked in that department. But here they are not stacked is the bullpen. More specifically, the back end of the bullpen in the closer spot. Jose Valverde was just designated for assignment, as he has already blown three saves and has gotten lit up on more than a few occasions as of late. He is likely not the answer to the Tigers’ closer woes.
Detroit has also clearly demonstrated a propensity to absorb big contracts in an effort to win a World Series soon. They are clearly all-in, but are lacking that key component that could push them over the edge. Adding Lee and Papelbon would likely do the trick.
Of course, adding those two players would not come cheaply for Detroit. Not only would they have to take on two extremely large contracts, but the Phillies will not give these players away either. Philadelphia could ask for Nick Castellanos, who is the top prospect for Detroit. He is a third baseman, and will not likely be able to crack the big league team for quite some time playing behind Miguel Cabrera. They could change his position one day, but that has not yet been discussed. The Phillies could also ask for Bruce Rondon, who was rumored to be the Tigers’ closer in 2013. With the way things have gone, if they do not make a trade, he still might. While they may be reluctant, Detroit also may have to consider moving current players on the big league roster, including Avisail Garcia, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly.
Whether or not this deal takes place will remain to be seen. But it is a safe bet that both the Phillies and the Tigers will be key players at the 2013 MLB Trade Deadline.