Whoa, two articles in one day. Time to revisit the Trade Winds columns. Again, I’m focusing on losing ballclubs first and the Phillies are definitely a losing ballclub. Entering Saturday, Philly is 42-51 and their continued efforts to resist a rebuild has left the cupboard pretty barren. Their woeful general manager will sadly likely get the ax after the season (or before) and the Phillies are left with a long climb north.
Would the Phils provide a good target for improvement despite their status as an inter-divisional rival? It wouldn’t be the first time the Braves have made an in-season move to improve their club with a Phillies veteran. Notably, the Braves acquired Andy Ashby from the Phillies in 2000.
Left-hander Antonio Bastardo would appear to be a very intriguing option for the Braves, who need the bullpen depth. While Bastardo’s recent history suggested that he would be best suited for specialist action, his 2014 season is similar to his career numbers in that there is very little difference between facing right-handed or left-handed batters. He K’s nearly 30% of the opposing batters he faces and while his control has been a little off this season (about a 14% walk rate vs. career-rate of 11.6%). Bastardo’s amazing skill is that despite his GB% being well south of 40%, he typically does a good job keeping the ball in the park.
He’s not a tremendous reliever, but he is a very good one with a career FIP of 3.37. A bonus – he’s team-controlled through 2015. There is some concern in that Bastardo already has a PED violation to another one could bring a huge penalty. Still, with the Braves having a significant need in the bullpen, Bastardo has to be considered.
Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. is essentially Matt Diaz without the fanfare. The right-handed hitter carries massive split contrasts when facing left-handed pitchers vs. right-handed. As far as his career goes, it’s about a 200 point difference with Mayberry hitting lefties at a .271/.323/.850 clip. Despite about 340 fewer PA against lefties in his career, he has five more homers. This season is no different with Mayberry enjoying a .877 OPS against southpaws vs. a .576 OPS against righties. He’s team-controlled through 2016.
Would Mayberry be a good target? Probably not beyond this year if at all. He’s already making $1.5875M this season. That’s a lot of money for a one-trick pony whose trick isn’t as much of a weapon as Diaz’s when the latter was at his best.
A.J. Burnett could provide depth to the starting rotation and maybe playing for a contender will energize him like it did for the Pirates last season, when he was a front-of-the-rotation option. Burnett’s walks have received a lot of talk, but as a rate, it’s really no higher than his career rate. He’s just thrown a lot of innings this season. Burnett has a, ahem, creative deal. Ultimately, it’s $22.5M over two seasons, but that includes a $7.5M signing bonus that gets spread over three installments starting in December. He also has a $15M mutal option for 2015, or a $7.5M player option that can be worth as much as $12.75M if he makes 32 starts this season (he’s made 20 so far).
Seriously, what crackhead thought this contract up? Oh, Ruben Amaro Jr.. Got it.
Could the Braves be interested? I doubt it. I like Burnett, but I hate this random contract and Burnett does have some no-trade protection that as far as I’ve seen has not been explicitly defined.
There’s another option…how about Cliff Lee? Holy crap, I saw your eyes roll through the internet. Not nice. All I’m saying is that getting Lee is not entirely out of the realm of possibility. Lee is expected to be activated soon off the DL and his trip to the DL makes him even more enticing as it assures that his 2016 club option will not become guaranteed. Now, the Braves will have to work around some major money issues and I will get to that, but Lee definitely would attract the Braves’ interest. He gets his fair share of groundballs, hasn’t carried a FIP higher than 3.313 since 2007, and until this season, he has dependably durable. He walks batters as frequently as Keanu Reeves is involved in a good movie and his K rate remains very good. So why the hell not Lee?
Oh, yeah, money. Lee is due about half of $25M this season and $25M next season to go with a 2016 club option for $27.5M that carries a ridiculous $12.5M buyout. So, if we cut his salary in half this season, Lee is due AT LEAST $50M. The big problem with that option year is that it becomes guaranteed if Lee throws 200 innings in 2015. Clearly, the Braves would need considerable help to make this deal happen, but to what degree is unknown considering they basically added $14M in salary after we were convinced they were done this spring. The Braves committed $112M to this year’s payroll and have about $80M already committed to next year. With the extensions the Braves signed last season, the Braves cut into some of the big club of arbitration-eligible players, but the Braves still have starters Mike Minor, Kris Medlen, and Brandon Beachy eligible for arbitration next year along with relievers Jordan Walden and Jonny Venters, plus role players like Ramiro Pena, Jordan Schafer, and David Carpenter. How do you fit all of those guys and Lee into next year’s roster?
Well, you don’t. Some cuts will have to be made. If the Phillies added $8M to 2015 and $12.5M to Lee’s buyout/option in 2016, the Braves would have about $10-$15M to spend on arbitration, plus auto-renewals if we believe that the payroll remains about the same in 2015. A guy like Medlen or Beachy would have to be shopped around. Signing Minor to a creative extension that lowers his 2015 salary would be useful as well. If the Braves wanted to make it happen, they definitely could.
It wouldn’t be easy. But if you added Lee to the front-of-the-rotation with Julio Teheran, the Braves would take a very good rotation and turn it into an awesome one. In 2015, the Braves would still have Lee, Teheran, and Minor to go with Alex Wood and either Medlen or Beachy with David Hale in reserve.
I’m not saying DO IT!!!!! But…it’s possible.