2009 World Series Opponents Could Become Trade Partners

After matching up particularly well in the 2009 World Series, the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Yankees make excellent partners again, but not in the grand theatrics departments but, instead, for (multiple) trades.

A season-high five games under .500 at 39-44, the Phillies need to face reality, and that is their core of the Utleys, Rollins, Howards and Hamels of the world are either fading stars (Utley and Rollins), a platoon bat (Howard), or an ace in the midst of an unlucky season with little run support. It’ll be a tough day in the City of Brotherly Love, but a necessary one for the future. The future for the Phillies could come from the now team that arguably started their postseason downfall and has since seen more injuries than a PSA. 

Despite scoring 10 runs–their most since May 10–against the Twins last night, the New York Yankees certainly haven’t been the Bronx Bombers this season. Featuring a bottom-five offense which happens to have the third-worst OPS (.681) and a wRC+ of 83, the 43-39 Yankees need help, and fast. Although Alex Rodriguez (hip) has just started his rehab assignment, the offense has taken a huge hit with the loss of Derek Jeter (broken ankle), Mark Teixeira (season-ending wrist surgery), Kevin Youkilis (likely season-ending back surgery), Curtis Granderson (hand), Francisco Cervelli (hand) and Eduardo Nunez (ribcage). With veterans like Lyle Overbay and Vernon Wells regressing not only into pumpkins, but jack-o-lanterns-still-up-at-Christmas levels of staleness, there could perhaps be a package of players discussed between the two teams. In order of a likely transaction between 2009’s best teams, here are the players that will likely find themselves on the move sooner rather than later.

Carlos Ruiz
Although Phillies President David Montgomery admitted to Ken Rosenthal the team is hesitant to start selling, Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com reported last week that the Yankees have discussed acquiring catcher Carlos Ruiz. Given that the Yankees’ catching has hit a combined .233/.299/.336, Ruiz would be an immediate upgrade, especially against left-handed pitching (.800 career OPS), the Yankees’ biggest vice this season ( just a .649 OPS). The 34-year-old Chooch is owed about $2.5mm before becoming a free agent at season’s end, which makes Ruiz even more attractive for the Yankees given their desire to get under their self-imposed $189mm payroll cap next year for luxury tax purposes. Although Ruiz is slashing just .261/.316/.295 in 98 PAs this season, the Phillies would likely get something decent back for Ruiz, and his heir–Tommy Joseph–will likely be a September call-up. Ruiz isn’t the only free-agent-to-be that would interest the Yankees, however.

Michael Young

Acquired just a week apart from each other, the Yankees would have loved to seen Kevin Youkilis post a .344 OBP with 105 OPS+. Unfortunately for them, Kevin Youkilis would play in 28 games, missing just about all of May with a lumbar strain in his spine, which would eventually turnout to be a herniated disc in his back, causing the once-Greek God of Walks to undergo back surgery, which puts him at a late-September return barring no setbacks. The aforementioned numbers, however, belong to Michael Young, and though he’s shot defensively (-6.1 UZR this season), the 36-year-old third baseman would be a welcome sight as New York’s third baseman/designated hitter given David Adams’ egregious .103 slugging in his last 20 games. When Rodriguez returns, Young  and his career .312 average against LHP could slide into a platoon with first baseman Lyle Overbay. Kevin Frandsen would likely be Young’s immediate replacement barring something unforeseen, and if 2012 was any indication, Frandsen could handle full-time duties if necessary. From July 31 onward last season, Frandsen hit .338/.379/.448 in 54 games with just 18 strikeouts. Of the $16mm owed to Young, $10mm is being paid by the Rangers, and in this land of hypothetical, both the Yankees and Phillies would be paying $3mm. However, Young is not only of interest to the Yankees, but the Red Sox, who, according to George King III of the New York Post, “want him [Young] badly.” Boston recently demoted struggling Will Middlebrooks to AAA. Yankees third basemen have combined for a wOBA of .260, while Boston’s hot corner sits at .323, respectively.

 John Mayberry Jr.
Hitting his first major league home run in Yankee Stadium on May 23, 2009, John Mayberry Jr. admittedly fitz the Yankees perfectly; either in the outfield or in a first base platoon, similar to what I suggested with Michael Young. With the Yankees originally acquiring Vernon Wells to provide the right-handed power in the outfield otherwise filled with LHBs Curtis Granderson, Brett Gardner and Ichiro, it’s pretty apparent Wells is just about done at this point, with just eight extra base hits since May 1, hitting .184. Mayberry’s .750 OPS would be fourth-best on the team, and his .846 OPS against LHP would be over 1oo points better than Wells’ .733. Unlike Young and Ruiz, Mayberry is controlled until 2016, and will be arbitration-eligible for the first team next season. Obviously, it would require a bit more from New York’s side to pry away the strikeout-prone Mayberry (21.6 K%), which would lead  to a Darin Ruf cameo or having Delmon Young play right every game for the remainder of the season. 

Chase Utley
Although no one has come right out and said it, at least in the Phillies organization, it’s looking more and more likely the Phillies are shopping Chase Utley, despite Ruben Amaro Jr.’s desire for Chase Utley to “remain a Phillie for life.”  The Orioles, Royals, A’s and even the Dodgers have been interested in the “The Man,” but that discussion is for another day. Despite missing a month due to an oblique injury, Utley has remained consistent, posting a wOBA of .371 this season, which isn’t far off of his career wOBA of .377. Of course, Robinson Cano remains entrenched in New York, but it’s worth noting Utley has some experience at first base; 24 games. In 25 PAs at the New(ish) Yankee Stadium, Utley has hit .300/.440/.300, with two of his five World Series homers coming in consecutive ABs in Game 1 of the 09 World Series. If–and that’s a large if–the Yankees do acquire Utley, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see them discuss a one-year deal for 2014. While Utley provided the offensive fireworks for the Phillies in the 09 World Series, there’s one more name on this list that could conceivably make sense for New York, but on the pitching side.

Cliff Lee
A target of the Yankees’ desire ever since the trading deadline in 2010 (ironically, the deal fell through due to an injury to the aforementioned David Adams), Cliff Lee would make sense for the Yankees not only this year, but for the future as well. Spurning the Yankees and Rangers after the 2010 season, it’s looking more and more likely that Lee could wind up on one of the aforementioned teams with the return for the Phillies needing to be “astronomical,” at least according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Lee is in the midst of a typical Lee-ian year, with a 2.59 ERA (2.57 FIP) striking out a ton (23.7%) while walking none (4.3%). Lee’s friend and former rotation-mate CC Sabathia is dealing with declining velocity and isn’t looking very ace-like with a 4.15 ERA with his HR/FB ratio on pace to be a career-worst 13.9%. Add in the ineffectiveness of Andy Pettitte since returning from the DL due to back issues (17 ER in his last 36.2 IP); likely goner Phil Hughes (4.41 FIP); a shaky David Phelps (opposing .766 slugging in last five starts); returning Michael Pineda and Lee suddenly puts the Yankees over the top. The only problem, however, is the fact that Lee is owed at least another $67.5mm until 2016 with a $27.5mm player option for 2017 that vests if Lee throws 200 IP in 2015 or 400 IP from 2014-2015. Assuming the Yankees stay committed to their aforementioned $189mm plan for next year, Lee is essentially a non-discussion by default and necessity.

As for what the Phillies could receive, top prospects like outfielder(s) Slade Heathcott and/or Mason Williams would be a good place to start. Given their relief corp is atrocious, Adam Warren (3.11 ERA in 37.2 IP); Preston Claiborne (20 Ks in 24.1 IP) would be solid bets, as well as starter Ivan Nova (fourth in Rookie of the Year voting in 2011). Zoilo Almonte’s 124 wRC+ would be excellent for the future, as well. It all depends on what the final package is, but these names are the most likely to go.

Four years after their World Series (which you can watch here), both the Yankees and Phillies find themselves in somewhat familiar territory; both have bedded themselves with terrible contracts, and both are also hurt under the parity of the new CBA. Although they don’t want to admit it to their respective fan-bases, both large market teams will need to undergo a rebuild sooner rather than later, and for the Phillies, this rebuild could start with some help from a New York team that’s expected to make one last push not only for the great Mariano, but for their declining core as well.

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