In the front office, the first thoughts for next year are forming in private conversations, and some involve Cody Asche, the third baseman of the Philadelphia Phillies. Will he be in Ryne Sandberg’s lineup next April?
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Most fans do not consider the budget, prospects on the radar, the organization’s weaknesses, the track record, the competition and the other intangibles.
There will be a published storyline each week.
This review is an updated posting: See Walk-Off Squeeze Play at the end.
Groundwork for December:
With repeated patterns and targets, a decision-maker reveals his main strategic aim and a backup plan.
Since inheriting the reins in 2009, Ruben Amaro Jr. has a track record of major acquisitions. He shipped out 12 players and retained the only prospect to make an All-Star appearance. In return for mostly untested treasures, he received a dominant October from an ace, a 20-game winner with a no-hitter and a perfect game, seven victories plus a sub-2.00 ERA during a stretch run and a .324 bat. Of course, he has disappointed many because he did not bring home the ultimate hardware even once: He has yet to prove in five years he is equal to 1980’s general manager Paul Owens or 2008’s head honcho Pat Gillick.
If Carlos Ruiz re-signs, he would rejoin the other current regulars: Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cody Asche, Domonic Brown, Ben Revere and Darin Ruf. Meanwhile, the bench could be Erik Kratz, Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, Kevin Frandson and a left-handed pinch hitter. After Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee, the rotation hopefuls include Miguel Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick and Roy Halladay. Today, the seven seats in the pen would belong to Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Antonio Bastardo, Jake Diekman, BJ Rosenberg, Justin De Fratus and Ethan Martin.
According to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News, Amaro supplied one-word answers to two questions: He answered in the affirmative about exploring his usual crazy options and replied negatively to a quiet offseason. That said, money is a lesser problem than it was in 2013. Also, talent ready for the show is not an issue either. The ingredients in this hot-stove stew might reach the boiling point between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The interesting thing about third base is the distance between two franchises. The Phils have Asche and Maikel Franco’s arrival could be next July. Meantime, Miami has struggled to fill the position with Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs. Dealing Asche with Galvis as a stopgap is a real possibility, but their demand could be Franco.
If the target is a powerful right fielder, the partnering organization would receive Ruf in the swap. However, if a left fielder is in the exchange, Brown would return to his previous position. Since the market for this specific talent is thin, moving the all-star to the other corner is a strong secondary consideration.
Center of Attention:
The opinion here is that Amaro will prefer Revere over Hernandez for next summer. Revere was a terror on the bases before his freak accident at the plate, while Hernandez has shown little in that department. Even though Hernandez has .300 potential, the jovial incumbent has produced averages of .294 (AL) and .305 (NL) to the rookie’s .314 at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Either could be part of a package to secure an offensive prize, but Hernandez is more controllable, which means a more attractive choice for a rebuilding GM.
Jesse Biddle would, no doubt, top the list of a divisional rival surrendering a slugger to a familiar foe. Preferably, Amaro would rather trade Jonathan Pettibone and Phillippe Aumont instead of the local southpaw. Biddle, however, was 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA at Double-A Reading, and his prior stats were a 2.61 ERA (Single-A Williamsport), a 2.98 ERA (Single-A Lakewood) and an advanced-level 3.22 ERA (Single-A Clearwater).
On the plus side, Biddle is only 21, a lefty and number one in the club’s pipeline, which are three valuable considerations. However, due to some struggling, he’ll open his next tour in Double-A, but he could achieve a promotion to Triple-A in June after two solid months or so. That stated, it probably will take his inclusion to pry a major scoring threat from another organization.
Vices and Prices:
Miami owner Jeffrey Loria fired his general manager, but he will continue to make his meddlesome personnel decisions. He wants to build his team around Giancarlo Stanton, but does that still apply without a contract extension? The right fielder does not like that pitcher-friendly park with a homer-killing dome, and he probably isn’t willing to accept any unwritten promises. If the impulsive Loria has to face the threat of three arbitration-eligible years, he could sour on the hard-hitting stud.
Stanton is the next bull’s-eye for Amaro, and that’s not totally unrealistic either. Even with questions about overwhelming competition for the slugger and a lack of trade chips, the Phillies and the Marlins are a match after an unclouded evaluation. The Fish need a third baseman (Asche), a leadoff man (Hernandez) and a replacement outfielder (Ruf), while young pitching is never a deal-breaker. The prediction here is that some combination of Asche, Hernandez, Ruf, Franco, Biddle, Pettibone or Aumont is enough to interest Miami.
One wrinkle could crimp this plan and his name is third baseman Colin Moran, who was the Marlins’ top draft pick in 2013 and sixth overall. After joining the franchise, he performed for Single-A Greensboro. Although he is not a gold-glove fielder, he could play the hot corner or switch to first base. The Fish, however, are expecting a four-level jump from him by 2015, which is faster than Pat Burrell, a number-one selection overall.
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The head honcho suggests each available athlete, observers his peer’s reaction, measures his offer with fairness, and establishes his parameters. He has a history of having a plan B running simultaneously: Lee and Papelbon are prime examples. In this case, that could involve a similar package via a three-way trade. Even so, Miami still has the preferred star.
A barter with a divisional foe is usually a no-no; however, the red pinstripes would not want to face Biddle, Franco or Asche for many summers either.
Walk-Off Squeeze Play:
With Mark Trumbo on the block, the Angels are looking for starters and David Price is available. His team is always ready to add inexpensive prospects for pricey veterans, and they could have interest in Franco as a first sacker, Biddle and some of the other green Phils’ talent. On the other hand, because Albert Pujols wasn’t healthy, Trumbo mostly manned first base again. He also appeared in right field, left field and third base. In his first arbitration-eligible year, he should command around $4.7 million to Stanton’s approximately $4.8 million.
Pieces for power:
- The Halos would receive Price.
- The Phillies would accept Trumbo.
- The Rays would acquire prospects from Philadelphia and Los Angeles of Anaheim.
Firstly, Tampa Bay has third sacker Evan Longoria, and they want more than they got for James Shields. Price, however, will be worth about $13.1 million through the arbitration process, meaning the Rays will prefer an offseason swap instead of paying him $8.7 million for the four months before July 31. A year ago, for example, they moved James Shields two weeks before Christmas.
Most young players going to the Rays will come from Philly; however, the Angels cannot receive Price for Trumbo alone. That translates to Los Angeles supplying a farm product or two.
Trumbo hit .254 (2011) and .268 (2012) before his dip last season, but he will probably bounce back average-wise. With Pujols at first base in 2012, Trumbo played right field (23.2 percent) and left field (44.3 percent) for 67.5 percent total.
Considering a time limit, Amaro will not wait to possibly acquire Stanton in January. After the decision-maker lays the groundwork during the GM/Owners Meetings and the Winter Meetings–they end on December 12–the general manager will concoct a winning formula if possible.
The red pinstripes and the Halos must improve quickly, while the Rays will want roster certainty before 2013 ends.
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