Thus far, the trade deadline is unfolding as we expected, with the few teams with desireable resources holding firm on their asking prices to the plethora of teams who all seem to be searching for the same thing.
Today in the New York Post, esteemed national baseball writer Joel Sherman includes a conversation with an anonymous baseball executive whose team has expressed interest in Carlos Beltran. That executive proceeds to lay out the case why the Mets will not be getting a Top 40 prospect in return for Beltran. We probably don't have to point out the obvious conflicts of interest here, but we will anyway. A team that has interest in Beltran is going to do everything in its power to play down the asking price for said player, if only because it will then have a trickle down effect on the market price for other trade candidates. The exec contends that the Mets are going to have to settle for a package of B-level prospects rather than the elite prospect they seek.
One of his rationalizations is the Mark Teixeira and Matt Holliday deals, which are described as a "pittance." Except, as we detailed in a previous post, those deals weren't exactly "pittances." Brett Wallace was a Top 50 prospect who was swapped for Holliday. He is now starting at first base for the Astros and having a solid season. The Braves, meanwhile, landed Casey Kotchman, a major-league ready hitter who was a former Top 10 prospect. I do agree with the executive's contention that teams totally overvalue their prospects. For example, knowing the Phillies' history and organizational philosophy, they would much rather trade Vance Worley than any of their young pitchers, even though Worley has at least shown that he can hold his own against major league hitters and those young pitchers are all at least two or three years away from even getting that chance to prove themselves. That's not saying that Worley has as much upside as Trevor May. But he at least looks like he has a future as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter or, at the very least, a solid bullpen piece. The young pitchers, meanwhile, are still competing against kids who can't legally drink alcohol, and have several years to get hurt or run into other road blocks in their development.
Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the Beltran situation resolves itself. One of the enjoyable parts of the trade deadline is watching the smoke signals that rival general managers send to each other through the media. For example, the executive that talked to Sherman is likely trying to forge some unity amongst the various teams who are competing for Beltran, laying out what an acceptable asking price is. But all it takes is one team to really want Beltran and be willing to part with what it will take to get a deal done. I still get the feeling that is going to happen, that the pressure of the deadline and the pressure to win this year will prompt a GM to part with the prospect the Mets desire.
I do not think that team will be the Phillies. They have too many competitors this time around to get away with the type of deal they used to land Roy Oswalt. Which is why their best course of action may be to go for quantity over quality: a second-division right-handed hitter along with a couple of relievers or maybe even a couple of hitters along with a relievers. Brandon League is a name that has been mentioned, but I don't know how much stock I would place into that. He has a great groundball rate, but he isn't really strikeout pitcher and he's been pitching in a pitcher's park the last couple of years. I just don't see what he brings you that makes him worth parting with anybody of value. The Marlins' Randy Choate would be a viable addition. Oakland lefty Craig Breslow is a guy who is supposedly available, but lefties have been hitting him pretty hard this season.
The biggest relief name out there is the Padres Heath Bell. Depending on the asking price, he'd be a solid addition. But I just don't know that he is going to be worth his asking price. Mike Adams is the better piece in that bullpen, although all of the national reports suggest that he is staying put. If the Phillies do not land a Beltran or a Hunter Pence or a B.J. Upton, the goal should be to fill a couple of needs. Josh Willingham and a reliever or Reed Johnson and a reliever would be my top two targeted packages, but that's just me. I'd also keep an eye on the Marlins' Omar Infante. He's struggled offensively this year, but he brings a lot of value in his versatility, and it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for the Phillies to build themselves some more infield depth.
Johnson is more of a rotational guy who could play right or left in place of Domonic Brown or Raul Ibanez plus provide some better right-handed punch off the bench. He is also a gritty veteran who is regarded as a great clubhouse guy. Willingham would be more of an every day option, although his defense leaves something to desire. Otherwise, there aren't a whole lot of options out there. A package that includes Ryan Ludwick along with one of the Padres relievers wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I'm not a huge Ludwick fan. But again, that's just me. He'd definitely give opposing pitchers, particularly lefties, something to think about as they face Ryan Howard. Beyond Ludwick, though, I don't see a lot out there. Conor Jackson is a guy we've mentioned here before, and he's been swinging well lately, but he is more in the Reed Johnson mode. Adding a couple of bats wouldn't be the worst idea, but I don't get the sense that the Phillies think they need to do that.