Outfielders Looking More Like Trade Bait

Don't look now, but there are a growing number of scouts following the Phillies these days and it's not just because they're playing better baseball. No, the trading deadline is 76 days away and the shoppers are starting to line up.

Sometimes, off-season trade talks don't turn into anything other than talks. Sometimes, they simply take a while to come to fruition. That could be the case in talks that went on this past winter, now that the Yankees are looking for help in their outfield.

The Yankees have long coveted Bobby Abreu and they're again interested in him and a couple of his teammates. While Abreu would be the Yankees first target if they do a deal with the Phillies, both Pat Burrell and David Dellucci could be fall back options. The Phillies insist that they're not shopping any of their outfielders - they have to say that - but they will listen to offers.

If the Phillies are going to do any deals with New York, they will likely insist that Eric Duncan be the first piece of the trade. In a move for Dellucci, the Phillies would be lucky to get Duncan and nobody else, since Dellucci has struggled in his time with the Phillies. On the up side, Dellucci is a proven everyday player, who flourished in the American League and could hold some interest for the Yankees. The 21 year old Duncan is struggling at AAA, but most scouts believe it's a temporary adjustment phase and that he has all the tools to play at either third base or at first base in the majors. Obviously, the Phillies would put him at the top of their list at third base, at least until Mike Costanzo develops further.

If Abreu or Burrell would be the true targets, the name Philip Hughes likely gets added to the mix, although the Yankees insist that he's pretty much untouchable. Hughes was the Yankees' first round pick in 2004 - the Phillies considered drafting him, but passed to take Greg Golson - and is generally considered to be the best prospect in the Yankees organization. In other words, he's their Cole Hamels. Another option would be Chien-Ming Wang, who has been pitching at the major league level for the Yankees this season. If they insist on keeping Hughes, Wang is the next best option for a team looking for pitching and he's already got some experience with the big league club.

Toronto could also be considering taking another shot at getting Abreu. They tried and failed during the winter, offering Vernon Wells as bait. With the spending spree that the Blue Jays went on during the off-season, they expect results and they're just 1.5 games behind Boston in the AL East.

The Yankees insist that they're not shopping for an outfielder, but you know that's not true. It's simply not their style. The problem for the Phillies is that there are a lot of options for the Yankees, including Washington's Alfonso Soriano (if he didn't wear out his welcome in his first stint with New York) and possibly even Cincinnati's Ken Griffey, Jr. The Yankees do genuinely love Abreu though and he would fit pretty well into their lineup, as would left fielder Burrell.

As for the Phillies, they believe that Shane Victorino could step into the outfield on an everyday basis and put up solid numbers, admittedly though, not as good as either Abreu or Burrell. They would probably be more inclined to deal Abreu, since Burrell is a key right-handed hitting part of their already lefty laden lineup.

Of course, the Phillies find themselves in the middle of a pennant race and if they're still there 76 days from now, they aren't likely to want to rock the boat in a deal that would bring back players geared more toward helping down the road than they are toward helping right now. To pull a player like Abreu or Burrell out of their lineup, they would have to be pretty well blown away with an offer from another club. Certainly, the cost would be much less for a player like Dellucci, who hasn't contributed in the way that the Phillies would have hoped he would when they acquired him from Texas.

While the odds of the Phillies giving up Dellucci in a trade would be pretty good, they would be considerably less - maybe 50/50 - that they would deal Abreu and well under that for Burrell. Pat Burrell going elsewhere right now is a slim, very slim, chance.

2005 Player Stats

Duncan (AA) 21 0 6 .209 31 110 7 23 3 1 0 9 24 .279
Wang (NYY) 26 3 1 4.04 8 8 0 49.0 49 25 22 1 16 18
Hughes (AA/A) 19 2 4 2.57 7 7 0 42.0 31 13 12 1 5 38

Philip Hughes has made five starts (30.0 IP) at High-A Tampa before being promoted to AA Trenton, where he has made two starts (12.0 IP). He was 2-3, 1.80 at Tampa and is 0-1, 4.50 at Trenton.

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