As spring officially gets closer and closer, major league teams look to fill holes and trade away spare parts. For some teams, there are more holes to fill than there are spare parts to offer. For others, lineups and rosters are almost set and it's just a matter of some fine tuning.
In the first of a two-part series, PhillyBaseballNews.com takes a look at the spare parts that could become trade bait. Will the Phillies consider young prospects to be spare parts or will they return to the days of refusing to give up any young players in an effort to rebuild their farm system? Here is a look at some Phillies that could be elsewhere in the not too distant future.
Placido Polanco - Is he an insurance policy against David Bell's bad back or is he trade bait? The word on Bell is that his back is feeling "100 percent" and he should be back in the lineup before anybody even expected. That doesn't mean that his back won't cause more problems down the road, it just means that for now at least, he is on his way back and Polanco may be expendable. Odds are though that the Phillies will try to wait a while before making any sort of official determination. That will give them time to see if Bell does indeed appear to be okay and if Juan Richardson can handle AAA and appears ready for emergency duty if Bell were to go down after Polanco would be traded.
Marlon Byrd - The Phillies tried to deal the deposed center field prospect this past winter, but couldn't get it done. He's having an impressive spring and there are a number of teams scouting him. You have to believe that the asking price is higher now than it was a couple of months ago, but the Phillies have to be careful not to look for too much and kill any potential deals. One possibility is to send Shane Victorino, who the Phillies added in the Rule 5 Draft, back to the Dodgers and then deal Byrd to L.A. for Victorino if the Phillies decide that they like Victorino better. It would give the Dodgers a more experienced outfielder to add to their roster and give the Phillies some needed speed off the bench. It would also give the Phillies the ability to send Victorino back to AAA if they felt he wasn't ready for the major league duties.
There are other things to consider with Byrd. What if Pat Burrell continues to struggle or gets hurt and Ryan Howard isn't ready to take over the left field job? At that point, the center field platoon of Kenny Lofton and Jason Michaels could be disrupted and Michaels would be needed in left field. Enter Marlon Byrd to fill in the right side of the platoon in Michael's absence. Of course, the same could occur if Michaels were to go down with an injury. In fact, some worry about Lofton himself. He's not getting any younger and there are no guarantees that he'll produce for the Phillies.
Rheal Cormier - The Phillies are somewhat intrigued by Aaron Fultz. Would they consider dealing Cormier - possibly in a package deal - to improve elsewhere? Keep in mind that Cormier was one of the few Phillies that flourished under pitching coach Joe Kerrigan. The best times in Cormier's career were when Kerrigan was his pitching coach and there are concerns that Cormier will again struggle as he has done at times in the past when Kerrigan wasn't around. Fultz and Mike Bacsik are interesting possibilities to fill the left-hander's spot out of the bullpen, but the Phillies may be more interested in adding either Fultz or Bacsik with Cormier than having one of them replace him. Could the Phillies add both pitchers and subtract Cormier? Certainly, especially if the right deal comes along.
Amaury Telemaco - There are some teams somewhat interested in the long reliever. He has some things to offer. He can pitch in relief or start, he's shown that he's over the arm injuries that plagued him a couple seasons ago, and he is a good guy to have around the clubhouse and bullpen. Long relievers could be a dime a dozen and the Phillies could look at other avenues if they were offered something in exchange for Telemaco that would help them. Like Cormier and Byrd, Telemaco could be part of a package deal to bring in another player or two.
Mike Lieberthal - The rumblings have been well publicized. There was talk that the Dodgers had a great deal of interest in Lieberthal and that Lieby had a great deal of interest in playing in Los Angeles. The problem is his contract. Lieberthal also had somewhat of a down year in 2004 after a stellar 2003 season. Lieberthal has a big contract and he has the right to veto any deal that the Phillies might put together. Dealing him would not be easy to say the least. How would the Phillies fill the hole behind the plate? Todd Pratt as an everyday catcher isn't much of a possibility and neither is A.J. Hinch. Carlos Ruiz is a year away, especially if the Phillies are looking for a starting catcher. The Phillies would almost have to get a decent replacement in exchange if they were to deal Lieberthal this spring. A more likely scenario is to wait until next winter when the Phillies have a better feel for whether or not Ruiz could be a major league starter and they also get to see their young catching prospects develop for another season to give them a better idea of just how good they might be and when they might be ready.
Brett Myers / Vicente Padilla - Both were shopped around during the offseason, but there wasn't much to interest other teams. Padilla has the injury problems, which are still on-going and Myers was coming off a sub-par season, even if he feels it was a good year for him. Now, Padilla is still not much bait because of the injury, but Myers is throwing well and looks to be headed on the right track. There are teams that would have interest in Myers and might give the Phillies some young talent in exchange. Of course, with Padilla's injury, the Phillies have less of a choice to deal Myers because they don't have enough talent to fill all the holes in the rotation. When Padilla is healthy, there is talk that he could be relegated to the bullpen if Myers and Gavin Floyd are pitching well.
Pat Burrell / Ryan Howard - Depending on who you listen to determines whether or not you believe the Phillies have tried to deal Howard during the offseason. It appears that he would have to bring a lot in exchange and that the Phillies don't think another club will offer what they have in mind to get the young first baseman and potential left fielder. Still, where does he play? Enter Pat Burrell. If Burrell's wrist is sound and he returns to the player that got the $50 million contract not long ago, then Burrell is either entrenched in left field or becomes trade bait. For now, his contract is a trade albatross, but a return to form makes the money easier to swallow for another team. Would the Phillies look to deal Burrell and his contract for another piece of the puzzle and insert Howard into left field? Of course, a lot depends on whether or not Howard can actually play left field, which is something we'll find out as the season progresses and Howard gets his feet wet in Scranton's left field position. Of course, a young and cheap Howard could also interest another club looking for power that comes cheaply, at least in terms of his salary, but certainly not in terms of the players needed to give the Phillies to make the deal happen. Needless to say, the two players are linked as far as their futures and their status as trade bait. This is a situation that likely doesn't play itself out until much closer to the trade deadline.
In tomorrow's look at the Phillies trade options, we'll explore some holes that they may seek to fill through trades.