The Phillies wrapped up the winter meetings by landing a center fielder who they hope will hold down the position for at least the next four years. There are plenty of indications that Ben Revere can be that man. But to acquire him, the Phillies made themselves weaker in the rotation, at least for time being, by sending Vance Worley to the Twins. They also parted with a player who entered the 2012 season as a Top 100 prospect as rated by Baseball America.
So what's the verdict?
As we noted, there are two issues to evaluate in this deal. Clearly, there is a lot to like about Revere. He has the reputation as a defensive whiz, with speed and base-running ability comparable to Michael Bourn, whom the Phillies decided against pursuing on the free agent market because of his asking price. Those abilities alone virtually guarantee that he will be, at the very least, an everyday major leaguer. His arm, according to scouts, is one of the weakest in the game, but in center field that should not be a huge issue. Everybody seems to agree that Revere can play stellar defense at the major league level.
The other characteristic Revere has that convinced the Phillies to pay a premium price is his youth. He does not turn 25 until May 3, and he has just 1 year and 149 days of service, meaning he won't be eligible for arbitration until after 2013 at the earliest. That means that the Phillies will pay their center fielder somewhere in the neighborhood of $515,000 this season, which obviously frees up money to address their other needs.
-Over the last two seasons he has stolen 74 bases while being thrown out just 18 times.
-His batting average, slugging percentage, and on base percentage all increased last year, from .267/.310/.309 to .294/.333/.342.
-He is a contact hitter, striking out in only 9.4 percent of his plate appearances, more than 10 percent better than league average.
-He is regarded as an excellent baserunner. Of the 14 times he has been on first base when a double has been hit, he has scored eight times. And he has scored on second from a single on 32-of-36 opportunities.
-He bunted for a base hit nine times last season.
-Away from pitcher-friendly Target Field, he has a career .297 batting average and .341 on base percentage.
It isn't a stretch of the imagination to see Revere developing as Bourn did, increasing his on base percentage and power to the point where he is a an average-to-slightly-above-average major league hitter, which, when combined with his defense and baserunning, would likely make him a huge bargain for the remainder of his time until club control.
That being said, the Phillies seem to have given up a ton to get Revere. That was my first reaction, and it seems to be pretty universal. While Revere makes plenty of contact, his walk rate and extra base hit rate are well below league average. The walk rate particularly is concerning, because Revere profiles as a leadoff hitter, and you'd like your leadoff hitter to reach base at least 34 percent of the time. If he cannot do that, you'd at least like for him to hit for power. The Phillies are putting a lot of stock in Revere's potential to develop. If Revere does not improve and Worley ends up becoming a middle-of-the-rotation fixture in Minnesota, it will be tough to argue that this trade is a win.
Which brings up the critical part of the equation: who replaces Worley in the rotation? The Phillies clearly plan on addressing the new vacancy on the free agent market. So it is possible that they could end up with an upgrade at the back end of the rotation, particularly when you consider the fact that Worley has never reached 150 innings in a season and struggled a bit with his conditioning last year (and is coming off a tough season that ended with minor elbow surgery). But their first concern is a right-handed power bat, and Michael Young does not count (reports had the Phillies attempting to deal for the Texas infielder, with Young needing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate it).
I have long advocated Nick Swisher as the guy, but I have not heard anything from anybody that would indicate the Phillies have serious interest in him (Swisher is a switch-hitter, by the way). Josh Hamilton is a left-handed bat. Beyond those two, we drop down to players like Cody Ross and Scott Hairston, both of whom have power, but neither of whom reach base enough to be considered an impact player. Ryan Ludwick had been rumored to be on the verge of signing with the Reds, but apparently that has not happened yet. So he is available. The Phillies could also try to swing another trade.
A lot could depend on what kind of starter they are targeting. It wouldn't surprise me to see them make a play for Ryan Dempster, who has a pretty good relationship with pitching coach Rich Dubee from their time together with the Marlins. He is 36 years old and, reportedly, looking for a three-year deal, but that hasn't always deterred the Phillies in the past. He has experience as a closer too, for what that is worth. The top of the market features Zack Greinke, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson, followed by guys like Dempster, Kyle Lohse, Shaun Marcum, Brandon McCarthy and Joe Saunders. It's hard to believe that the Phillies would have enough money to land a Greinke or Sanchez and still have enough to add an impact bat and address the bullpen. But you never know.
Someone like Dempster, Lohse or McCarthy would make a lot of sense, particularly the first two.
Long story short, it is too early to assign a pass/fail mark to this trade. But when you consider the fact that the Nationals gave up one top pitching prospect for Denard Span, who is a vastly more accomplished and talented hitter, you can make an argument that the Phillies might have been better off using Worley to try to build a package for Span.
The question isn't just what did Worley and May land the Phillies in Revere, but what could have it landed them elsewhere?
We'll have to let the offseason play out before judging any further.