Beerleaguer author Jason Weitzel discusses trade possibilities with his stepfather, Martin Smith.
Jason: I’m sitting here looking at the cover of Baseball America. The headline is “Brave New World: Atlanta goes with a wholesale youth movement, led by prospects like Kyle Davies, as it tries for its 14th straight trip to the playoffs.”
I look at this and say “I want this.” I want the Phillies to get younger and compete the way Atlanta does.
Martin: With Clearwater, Reading and Scranton, they’re so far behind the curve, they can’t become the Braves overnight. It’s a whole philosophical overhaul. I’ve played enough sports to know that if you’re 22-65, like Clearwater, it sucks. It totally sucks. Even Cole Hamels … when he got to Reading. he was quoted as saying he was glad to be out of that losing environment. There must be such a negative feeling when you leave the stadium and know that you and your team stink, and it happens on so many levels with the Phils. That much losing – there’s something to be said about that. I don’t know when it went wrong, but it’s all wrong.
Jason: The Phils need to break it down and start doing things the way the Braves do it. I'm a big believer in their method.
Martin: With the Braves, it’s “draft pitching, draft pitching, draft pitching, and always get a young pitcher in a trade.” The second key is patience. You’ve got to have patience. Bobby Cox was patient with Kelly Johnson. He went something like 1-30 to start, Cox was patient, and soon he was player of the week. The other Braves philosophy is “Don’t panic.” Go to the minors. Don’t sign big contracts. Don’t panic. Atlanta won’t go on a spending spree. They can’t. They rarely do a rent-a-player. Their philosophy is bring up the young guys. Baseball American reported that nine of the 15 top prospects in the organization played with Atlanta this season by mid July, and 14 rookies overall. I think the Braves are the elite organization, and it’s not the Oakland A’s. Thirteen in a row. Pheew.
Jason: The Braves are prophets. Sometimes Ed Wade listens to fans too much, even though most people believe the opposite. Maybe it's because they don't have any fans, but the Braves march to a different drummer. They’ve played through injury successfully so many times by plugging in rookies. Can the Phillies do the same with rookies they have in the high farm system?
Martin: Midseason report in Baseball America – the best prospect is Michael Bourn in Reading. Biggest disappointment: Reading third baseman Juan Richardson.
Jason: I disagree. The biggest disappointment has to be Gavin Floyd.
Martin: Yup. It has to be. But he’s still the key. Get him straightened out. Then they have their pitcher. A good Gavin Floyd would be better than Kip Wells. That’s my opinion. Another good story is Eude Brito in Scranton, 12.33 ERA as reliever, 3.02 as a starter. But the key is Floyd. You even said it in your blog … bring him up and let him work under Dubee.
Jason: Let’s cut to the chase and talk trades. Billy Wagner, Vicente Padilla, Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, and recently, Mike Lieberthal and David Bell have been mentioned in trade rumors. Let’s throw out Thome, Lieberthal and Bell because nobody wants them. How about Wagner? If they don’t have a chance to compete, why keep him?
Martin: I think you have to look at the division. It’s so tight. Who scares you the most? Who will win it? It’s still Atlanta. I’m positive Schuerholz will trade for relief pitching. Wildcard? Cubs? Astros? I still think the Phillies have the best lineup in the division. That’s based on Thome healthy, Abreu when he’s hitting, Utley is the best second baseman in the division, J-Roll and Bell field their positions, etc., etc., and Pat the Bat gets hot every so often. But pitching … they don’t have it.
Jason: That’s on paper. It never plays out consistently on the field with this offense. I think Wagner can fetch two prospects from the Red Sox, possibly for thin positions like catcher and third base. I don’t think they can get pitching right now through trades. Kip Wells or Ted Lilly won't help a team that scores two runs or less every third game.
Martin: I don’t think they can either. A.J. Burnett would be good, but they’re still not going to get it done with him. Jason Schmidt – they say his velocity is way, way down. When he does win, it’s all on guile. You can’t buy pitching this year. Mark Redman? Kip Wells? Those guys are getting bombed! Maybe you get lucky with a flash in the pan, but more likely you don’t. Cory Lidle was an exception last year. He was so-so in Cincinnati, got hot with the Phils, and that has worked out until recently.
Jason: Is Thome cooked?
Martin: If we look at the records of all the Hall of Famers, I bet a lot of them have had one bad year, from the 32-35-year-old track. There have been great players that have had awful years. It’s happened, and they’ve recovered. He could be cooked with injuries – or maybe it’s one bad year. Something good could come out of Thome yet – or he could become Dave Kingman.
Jason: Nobody's talking much about Padilla. Do you think they should trade Padilla? I’d do it straight up for a prospect.
Martin: Someone in the Phillies organization has to know where Padilla’s head is at. A guy like Padilla or Daniel Cabrera in Baltimore – when they’re on, they’re good. Heading into the 2004 season, I would have said Padilla was the best pitcher in the organization. But he’s a problem that’s tough to solve. I’d trade him if the deal was right. You pointed it out in your blog … they gave him patience, and he hasn’t given up a run in two outings when he absolutely, positively had to turn it around. Padilla’s got stuff at times.
Jason: One unpopular trade rumor involves Ryan Howard for pitcher Kip Wells and catcher Humberto Cota of the Pirates. If the Phils can muscle out the good young catcher in the Pirates organization instead of Cota -- Ryan Doumit -- I’d consider it. For me, the only deal for Howard would involve a stud young catcher and a pitcher.
Martin: Pittsburgh apparently has three good catchers. They say Doumit has a wonderful swing, but so did Von Hayes.
If I was in charge, I’d go forward with this team for now, keep Howard, but trade Wagner at the last possible minute. And if they didn’t do it (make the playoffs), I’d overhaul like you couldn’t believe. Replacing David Bell and Mike Lieberthal isn’t a glaring need immediately, but in the offseason, it needs to be addressed. Eventually, you need to get a third baseman and a catcher. In terms of pitching, Tejeda has been a fluke. I wish it was Gavin Floyd up here, not him. I’m of the opinion they shouldn’t make any moves … unless it’s Billy Wagner.
Jason: My thoughts on Wagner … he must go at the 11th hour of the deadline to fetch the best price, whether they’re in contention or out of it. Boston has a young catcher named …
Martin: Schloppic or something.
Jason: Sputnik? Shmomo? Do you think they can compete for the playoffs without Wagner? I do.
Martin: Yes, but he’s one of the best relievers in the National League. UU has been pretty damn encouraging. If they trade Billy Wagner, fans will say they’re packing it in. I wouldn’t say that.
Jason: I wouldn’t either. Even the best teams make trades to get younger.
Martin: Gavin Floyd is a big key in all this. He was on the cover of the “Baseball America Super Baseball Register 2003” for God’s sake. On paper, the Phillies still look good. There should be no weaknesses in that lineup. But Atlanta doesn’t lose 1-0 games the way the Phils do. Go figure.
Jason: Well, we covered just about everything. A recap …The Phillies must get younger; philosophical change in order; trade Wagner for prospects; pull somebody aside that speaks Padilla’s language and find out what’s the deal; Gavin Floyd is a big key; hold on to Howard. As for next season, overhaul like you couldn’t believe if the playoffs aren’t attained. Wholesale change either way.