In addition to salary relief, the Phillies came away with eight prospects in the weeks surrounding the trade deadline. Was eight enough?
The Phillies farm system reached embarrassing lows this season. Dangerously thin to begin with, several highly regarded players withered away, while the best talent was forced into action with call-ups to either Philadelphia or Scranton. The organization had no choice but to sign vets off the scrap pile just to keep clubs competitive.
The hasty patch-up job worked in places like Double-A Reading, where the wins and losses evened out. But that’s not how you run a farm system, where the main purpose is to develop young talent. On any given night this season, one could attend a Reading or Clearwater game and watch a starting lineup where over half the players were 26 or older.
In the past two weeks, the Phillies have shown that player development has emerged as the No. 1 priority. I do not disagree with this. Highlighted by the trade of Bobby Abreu, arguably the best Phillies player of the past 10 years, the team unloaded veteran after veteran, all for prospects.
First things first: they understood the need to inject more youth and let it spread over the cracks like caulk. For better or worse, the chose "quantity" over "quality." Not every player can be a blue-chip prospect; many come out of nowhere. But that can’t happen when half your roster is comprised of retreads.
Top-drawer prospects are another matter, and the reason these deals received such poor marks from officials around baseball. The Phillies failed to acquire a single, high-level prospect. In the case of the Bobby Abreu/Cory Lidle trade -- players that will give the Yankees a significant edge the rest of the season and through to October -- Gillick appeared to have been strong-armed by the younger, more aggressive Brian Cashman. The Yankees needed to relinquish only their 6th-rated prospect in C.J. Henry, a raw talent that few scouts endorse. In addition, the Phils received triple-A reliever Matt Smith and two prospects from the rookie leagues. Cashman stonewalled efforts to snare top prospects Phillip Hughes and Jose Tabata. Because of Abreu’s no-trade clause, and the size of the contract, the Yankees were the Phillies best match. Cashman knew he could get away with it, and did.
When the smoke cleared, the Phils added eight unheralded prospects, most of them years away from the bigs. Here’s a review of the eight prospects acquired around the trade deadline, gathered from bits and pieces read along the way:
Matt Smith, left-handed reliever (Triple-A Scranton)
AAA Columbus: 0-1, 26.1 IP, 2.08 ERA, 22 SO, 8 BB
NY Yankees: 0-0, 12 IP, 0.00 ERA, 9 SO, 8 BB
Beerleaguer: Smith has a chance to become a useful pickup. Bullpen will become a serious concern next season because of the upcoming exodus of several vets. I don’t believe the Phillies would prefer to gamble on expensive veterans like Arthur Rhodes. In Smith, they received a left-hander at a decent age to develop with some other arms in the pen, a list that could include Fabio Castro, Brian Sanches, Ryan Madson, Geoff Geary, and if they go a different direction, Scott Mathieson. Smith has solid numbers this season in Columbus and New York, and assistant GM Mike Arbuckle told the Inquirer we’ll see him in Philadelphia soon.
Justin Germano, right-handed starter (Triple-A Scranton)
AAA Louisville: 8-6, 3.69 ERA, 67 SO, 22 BB
Cincinnati: 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 8 SO, 3 BB
Beerleaguer: Matt Smith’s teammate in Scranton might be the Phillies No. 6 starter, and pitched well in his Scranton debut. Germano has achieved all that he can in Triple-A, but the issue is whether the 23-year-old can cross that fateful chalk line. I know of another 23-year-old Red Baron who can’t seem to do it.
Germano started seven games in the majors with mixed results. I read somewhere that his numbers project favorably as a No. 5 starter, which is all the Phillies will ask. He has good command of his pitches, but isn’t a strikeout pitcher. Considering the inexperience of the rotation, and decline of Jon Lieber, the Phillies did well in scooping up a "pitcher at the ready" straight up for Rheal Cormier, who was headed out the door anyway.
C.J. Henry, shortstop (Class-A Lakewood)
Class-A Charleston: .330 OBP, .353 SLG .240 BA, 2 HR, 89 SO, 14 SB
Beerleaguer: Nobody seems to like the Yankees’ 2005 first-round pick. They say the 19-year-old has a hitch in his throwing motion. Raw talent doesn’t seem to bother Gillick and crew. It’s reportedly over the place in this batch of eight. The issue of course is the team’s poor reputation for identifying this kind of talent. Gillick’s crew is mostly held over from the old regime. Remember Matt Kata, the player who was supposed to confidently field every infield position? Turns out, he could not, yet the Phillies told us he could. Kata’s just one example. The rest can be illustrated by the utter dearth of position prospects throughout the system. It’s likely that Adrien Cardenas, the shortstop drafted just this year, will become the Phillies’ highest-rated position prospect once Baseball America updates its list.
Henry is still very young, very "toolsy," but with this much bad pub, and reputation for identifying talent, one can’t help but feel skeptical.
Here are the rest:
Carlos Monestarios, right-handed pitcher (GCL Phillies)
Beerleaguer: This tall, 20-year-old pitcher was seen by Gillick himself.
Jesus Sanchez, catcher (GCL Phillies)
Beerleaguer: Phillies have a catcher shortage. Arbuckle told the Inquirer that Sanchez is an outstanding defender, but they are wishing on his bat.
Zac Stott, right-handed reliever (Class-A Clearwater)
Beerleaguer: See today’s earlier post.
Wilfredo Laureano, right-hander (Class-A Lakewood)
Beerleaguer: The 6-foot-6, 170-pound Dominican fanned 62 in 63 2-3 innings for his previous team.
Hector Made, infielder (Class-A Clearwater)
Beerleaguer: According to scout.com, Made receives high marks for smooth fielding, plate discipline and has all the tools to become a major-league utility infielder.
Overall grade: C-
Eight prospects is difficult to accomplish, especially when your team is still very much in the playoff hunt. However, the lack of a top-drawer prospect brings this grade down significantly.