As the Major League Baseball trade deadline approaches, the Phillies are projected to be one of the teams most likely to be active in this year’s market. The Phillies are in rebuilding mode and, while they have overachieved this year, barring a miracle, they will miss the postseason for the fifth straight year. However, they have several assets that could be attractive commodities to other teams who are in contention. Starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson leads that group as starting pitching is always coveted around the deadline. Closer Jeanmar Gomez could also be potential trade bait as is outfielder Peter Bourjous – even though he was just placed on the 15-day disabled list. However, one surprising name generating rumors is that of starting pitcher Vincent Velasquez.
As a team rebuilding, most would think it is asinine to move a young, productive starting pitcher such as Velasquez. Velasquez has an 8-3 record, a 3.32 ERA and 108 strikeouts in his rookie season with the Phillies. Young, power arms are a cherished asset in the MLB and add in the fact that he is not scheduled to hit free agency until after the 2021 season and the rumor to move him is definitely raising eyebrows.
However, that is exactly why the Phillies should move him now – if the offer is right. Make no mistake, if the Phillies decide to move him, the return would have to be a very sweetened pot. Currently, the Texas Rangers seem to be the most aggressive team in pursuit of Velasquez but there are rumblings that others are interested as well.
Every one knows the reason to not trade Velasquez but the very reason the Phillies are rebuilding is the reason to move him now. First, it would not be that hard for the Phillies to replace him internally. The Phillies minor league system now has an ample supply of pitching prospects that are looking to find any way to bust on to the Phillies’ roster. Jake Thompson, a prospect the Phillies received last year in the Cole Hamels trade, is the most notable name looking to debut this year after dominating at the triple-A Lehigh Iron Pigs.
Second, there aren’t any big name pitchers available at this deadline and it is undoubtedly a sellers’ market. Given Velasquez’s production, his youth, and his time remaining until free agency, should the Phillies decide to deal him, there would not be a better time to do it than right now. The return would have to be plentiful of course and would have to contain major league ready position players for it to make any sense. Velasquez is a pitcher and only plays every 5 games; that translates to participating in only a maximum of 34 regular season games per year. Applying saber metrics to any trade will show that a position player can have a greater overall impact than a pitcher. If the Phillies somehow acquire at least two bona fide talented prospects, it is a win for the Phils. As any Phillies fan can tell you, there offense this year has left a lot to be desired and even though the farm system is allegedly loaded with offensive talent, all one has to do is recall the former five tool stud prospect, Domonic Brown.
Lastly, and perhaps the biggest thing to take into consideration is injury. Velasquez already has a bit of injury history in his time between the Astros and the Phillies. He already had one disabled list stint this year for the Phillies – the only Phillies starting pitcher to do so (besides Charlie Morton who was lost for the year early on). Add in the fact that power arms run the risk of frequent disabled list visits in their careers and there is a high likelihood that with all the tools the Velasquez possesses, injuries could derail him from his ultimate potential. For example, Stephen Strasburg is a power pitcher for the Washington Nationals and he has had plenty of stints on the disabled list in his young career. Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is considered one of the most dominant young pitchers in the game today. He already missed the 2014 season due to injury and was recently lost for the remainder of the 2016 – a very statistically poor year for Harvey- due to injury.
While Velasquez has been productive and delivered some excitement at Citizens Bank Park this year, good general managers strike while the iron is hot. With Velasquez already having an injury history (and statistically probable injury history in the future) trading him now while his value is high could serve the Phillies great dividends in the future as they hope to rebuild into perennial contenders again.
It is all speculative but great general managers are made by knowing who and when to flip at the appropriate time. Phillies General Manager Matt Klentak brilliantly executed the Ken Giles trade. An outstanding deal for Vincent Velasquez would elevate him to “boy wonder” status and expedite the Phillies rebuild. And honestly, it has been too long since we have had a Red October around here.