There is no denying that with such a heavy left-handed laden lineup and not much of a right-handed presence on the bench, the Phillies could use a big right-handed bat to add to the roster. They've been searching for just such a player since during the off-season and haven't been able to find the right man for the job. Right now, young John Mayberry Jr. is handling the job, but he hasn't had much success and certainly isn't experienced against major league pitching.
There are just ten days until the trade deadline and much of the baseball world is focused on Roy Halladay, but the Phillies haven't given up on their search for a bat. Right now, the biggest potential deal would bring Josh Willingham to Philadelphia. The Phillies have scouted Willingham and the Nationals have been scouting the Phillies minor league system for players that would interest them in exchange for Willingham.
So, is Willingham a good choice for the Phillies?
Financially, Willingham is owed about $1.5 million for the remainder of this season and has two more years of arbitration eligibility before he becomes a free agent. While his financial situation wouldn't be a deal-breaker, he would be a pretty highly paid utility player if the Phillies were to keep him for future seasons. There is little chance of him finding a permanent spot in the Phillies outfield with Raul Ibanez signed for two more seasons, Shane Victorino under team control through 2011 and Jayson Werth signed through the 2010 season. The best way for the Phillies to get value out of Werth would either be as a guy who could get some at-bats to rest the 37 year old Ibanez and take over in left if Ibanez were to encounter any further injury issues or, the Phillies could potentially deal Willingham elsewhere after the season and look for a cheaper option elsewhere.
At the plate, Willingham has some pop in his bat - 12 home runs in 69 games with the Nationals - and can hit for a decent average. Against left-handers, Willingham is a career .266 hitter and has 23 home runs in 417 at-bats. He's not a one-trick pony though, because against right-handers, he's a career .269 hitter and has an even better at-bats/home run ratio than he does against lefties. When serving as a pinch-hitter though, the numbers aren't quite as good. Willingham has a career .231 average as a pinch-hitter, with two home runs in 39 at-bats; his average is lower, but he has a pretty good ratio of at-bats/home runs when he comes off the bench. The question is whether he could adjust to being more of a full-time pinch-hitter than just an occasional bat off the bench. One other area where Willingham excels is hitting in clutch situations; with two outs and runners in scoring position, Willingham is a career .274 hitter.
The final consideration is what the Phillies would have to give up to get Willingham.
The Nationals have been heavily scouting the Phillies system, with an emphasis on Triple-A Lehigh Valley and are known to be looking for pitching. Willingham certainly isn't one of the elite players in the game and the Phillies won't need to put together a huge package of players to get him from the Washington Nationals.
With a need for major league ready pitching, names like Andrew Carpenter, Carlos Carrasco and Kyle Kendrick could potentially be on their list of potential returns for giving up Willingham. The starting rotation isn't the only deficit on Washington's club and their bullpen has been one of the worst around this season, so relievers might also interest the Nationals. In that case, names like Sergio Escalona would come to mind. It's thought that the Nationals primarily want players who are at least near major league ready, but it's not impossible that they might pull out a name from lower in the minors as well. Pitchers like Tyson Brummett, Michael Stutes and Joe Savery could also be of interest to the Nationals.
While position players aren't at the top of their list, the Nationals could use help just about everywhere, so it wouldn't be out of the question that they would ask for a position player. They've got a good, young catcher in Jose Flores and a shortstop prospect in Danny Espinosa, so Lou Marson or Jason Donald likely wouldn't interest the Nationals, but possibly John Mayberry Jr., Quintin Berry, Jeremy Slayden or Steve Susdorf would be of interest.
Certainly, names like J.A. Happ, Kyle Drabek, Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor would interest the boys in Washington, but they will certainly be off the table in a deal for Willingham. Carrasco and possibly, Carpenter might only be offered in a one-for-one deal for Willingham, although the Nationals would likely hold out for a second player to be included. Kyle Kendrick would also be a potential even-up swap, although the Nationals should want more than just Kendrick in a deal with the Phillies, even though Kendrick has pitched well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Since they have so many holes, the Nationals would probably do well to ask for a couple of slightly lower prospects rather than just one big name. A deal such as Kendrick and Escalona might give the Phillies something to think about, as would a deal sending one of the Reading pitchers - Brummett, Stutes or Savery - along with say Quintin Berry and a lesser prospect like Brad Harman.
It's also possible that if the Phillies played things right and there wasn't a lot of other interest in Willingham - Seattle and possibly one or two other clubs have shown mild interest - the Phillies might be able to swing one of those straight-up deals even if it meant putting someone like Carpenter in the deal as the guy to get Willingham. A lot of this deal could depend on which other clubs get involved and whether or not they are willing to give up quality prospects in exchange. With the Phillies interest in Halladay and Arizona's Chad Qualls, among others, Ruben Amaro Jr. likely won't want to go too deep into prospects to acquire Willingham, unless he gives up on a deal for pitching. Right now - before there is a lot of interest in Willingham - might be the time for the Phillies to strike with an offer to see just how interested the Nationals are in doing a deal.