Sunday, December 21, 2014

Will lack of major-league-ready talent hurt Phillies?

It is fun to dream, assuming you haven't ingested a substantial quantity of B vitamins before doing so. And right now, REM for Phillies fans brings images of Megan Fox and Roy Halladay. Unfortunately, at this point in time, both of them are still fantasies.

Will lack of major-league-ready talent hurt Phillies?

Do the Phillies have the chips necessary to acquire a pitcher like Toronto´s Roy Halladay? (AP / File photo)
Do the Phillies have the chips necessary to acquire a pitcher like Toronto's Roy Halladay? (AP / File photo)

It is fun to dream, assuming you haven't ingested a substantial quantity of B vitamins before doing so. And right now, REM for Phillies fans brings images of Megan Fox and Roy Halladay. Unfortunately, at this point in time, both of them are still fantasies.

Yesterday, we broke down what it might take to swing a deal with the Blue Jays for Halladay, the ace righthander who apparently available for trade.

Today, let's inject a little more reality to the situation, and start by taking a look at a Triple-A baseball game last night between the Pawtucket Red Sox and the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The game featured both organization's most major-league ready pitching prospects. For the Red Sox, that meant Clay Buchholz, a 24-year-old righthander. For the Phillies, that meant Carlos Carrasco, a 22-year-old righthander.

Buchholz:

  • Has already made 18 big league starts.
  • Threw a no-hitter in his second big league game.
  • Is considered one of the top prospects in the game, although he struggled mightily last season, posting an ERA of over 6.00 in 15 big league starts.
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Carrasco:

  • Has yet to make his big league debut.
  • Is nearly a year younger than Buccholz was when he made his big league debut, but has also been far less consistent throughout the first five years of his career.
  • Has has had some brilliant outings this season, he has also had some stinkers, and is currently 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA.

In the showdown between the PawSox and the LVIPigs, Carrasco allowed six runs on three hits and six walks in four innings. Buchholz, meanwhile, allowed two runs on four hits and four walks in six innings and lowered his ERA to 2.11.

The point I am trying to illustrate is that, regardless of how much the Phillies' minor league depth has improved over the past few years, they still could find themselves out-matched in a bidding war for the services of a player like Halladay. While they have plenty of talent at the lower levels of their system, they are also glaringly devoid of top-shelf major-league ready talent. Think about it -- with Raul Ibanez and Brett Myers on the disabled list, now should be the perfect time for a Phillies prospect to get his chance. Yet veteran Rodrigo Lopez got the call-up for the rotation, and Greg Dobbs is seeing significant action in left.

This is not in any way an indictment of the Phils' scouting department. Look at all of the home grown talent they currently have on the roster. But the fact remains, if the Blue Jays are looking for at least one player who can make an impact in the majors within the next year, the Phillies can't guarantee them much.

This is why their bid for C.C. Sabathia fell short last season. The Indians wanted a guy like Matt LaPorta, who was knocking on the door of the majors.

Will it hurt them again?

If the Red Sox and Yankees decide they want Halladay, it could. In addition to Buccholz, the Red Sox have 22-year-old righthander Michael Bowden, a marquee pitching prospect who is 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA at Triple-A Pawtucket. The Yankees, meanwhile, have pitching prospects Phillip Hughes and Ian Kennedy, both of whom have big league experience (Kennedy has been sidelined for two months but is starting to work his way back from an aneurysm). The Yanks also have 22-year-old Austin Jackson, an outfielder who is hitting .317 with 14 stolen bases at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes Barre and is ranked No. 36 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospects list.

The good news is that the Yankees signed Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte to contracts this offseason, and the Red Sox already had so much pitching that they were rumored to be looking to deal some of it away (more good news is that both play with Toronto in the AL East, although that might not be a deal breaker).

The bad news is that they are the Yankees and the Red Sox, and just because the United States and the U.S.S.R. had more nuclear weapons than any one else in the world didn't stop them from trying to obtain more. Either team could overwhelm the Blue Jays with an offer that the Phillies simply can't match.

But if Toronto doesn't insist on major-league ready talent, or if their scouts like some of the Phillies talent that is close (Whether it is Carrasco or catcher Lou Marson or short stop Jason Donald), or if the Phillies can get creative and involve another club, a deal could get done.

I'd put the Phillies odds at landing Halladay better than they were at landing Sabathia last season. But, as I pointed out yesterday, I'd also put the asking price significantly higher.

Don't think sending Dominic Brown, Kyle Drabek, Michael Taylor and Jason Donald north of the border for Halladay would be worth it? That might be the type of deal it would take. So keep that in mind.

David Murphy Daily News Staff Writer
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