Deadline Dilemma: Lou Marson

Lou Marson is the top catching prospect in the Phillies organization. Even though the Phillies have a number of quality catching prospects, they've been hesitant to discuss sending Marson elsewhere, but if the opportunity came along to acquire the right player...

While pitching remains the toughest spot to fill, there is always a need for young catchers throughout baseball. The Phillies have drafted well at the position and have a fine group of catching prospects, with Jason Jaramillo likely ready at Triple-A Lehigh Valley and Lou Marson likely not far behind him when it comes to major league readiness. Marson has spent the season at Double-A Reading, but could certainly have been promoted to Lehigh Valley, if not for the presence of Jaramillo, who is ranked right behind Marson when it comes to prospects.

When the Phillies bounce names back and forth with other clubs, Carlos Carrasco is generally the first name that comes the Phillies way. Adrian Cardenas was the second choice, but he's now in the Oakland A's organization, which bumps Lou Marson up to the second spot. So far, the Phillies haven't done a lot of listening when Marson's name comes up, but is he definitely off the table?

One thing is to be sure. If the Phillies were to include Marson, it shouldn't be for any player who is not signed at least through next season and it shouldn't be for a player who the Phillies think will help their club now. They have to know that the player - make that pitcher - that they're getting in exchange will be a difference maker for them in the NL East race and hopefully, through the post-season.

Even the names A.J. Burnett, Erik Bedard, Brian Fuentes and George Sherrill shouldn't guarantee a return of Marson for their current teams. In fact, the only one on that list who should warrant consideration is Burnett and that might only be in a deal where Toronto would be willing to accept only mid-level (at best) prospects to fill out the package for Burnett. If a team is hoping for Marson and another quality prospect, the name being thrown at the Phillies better be Roy Halladay, and there's no guarantee that he's even on the market. Names like CC Sabathia and Johan Santana would have also done the trick, but they've already found new homes and are off the table. Getting back to Toronto, their interest in Marson might not be as high as other clubs, since they have a couple young catching prospects in their organization as well.

Just how good can Lou Marson be? Most believe that he's all-star caliber good. Some believe that when all is said and done, he has the ability to surpass names like Bob Boone, Mike Lieberthal and Darren Daulton on the Phillies list of catching statistics. Lou Marson is Darren Daulton would have been if he didn't have the injuries and did have a little more talent. Yes, he's that good.

When teams ask about Marson, the Phillies will generally reply with a Plan B for them and insert the name Jason Jaramillo. While Jaramillo is also a very good prospect, Marson has surpassed him and should have the better major league career when all is said and done. That's not to say that Jaramillo isn't a quality catcher, because he definitely is, but Marson is the preferred choice.

One scenario that's been thrown around is for the Phillies to actually acquire a major league catcher, since production from Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste hasn't been exactly what the Phillies had hoped for. The name Bengie Molina from the San Francisco Giants comes up, but the Giants would instantly reply with Marson's name and likely not settle for Jaramillo in exchange. Molina, (8-61-.288) for San Francisco this season, would be a nice fit to help out the Phillies behind the plate and his contract runs through next season, which would be just about the perfect timetable for Marson to reach the majors. In a perfect world, Molina would be a Type A free agent after the 2009 season and sign elsewhere, giving the Phillies two compensation picks, while Marson would seamlessly step in behind the plate.

The speculation will continue for another six days and there are likely to be multiple times during those days when Marson's name will be tossed back-and-forth. The Phillies need to keep saying "no" unless the deal fits their needs perfectly and odds are that they won't change their tune from what it's been so far when the topic is Lou Marson.

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