At the finish line were the Phillies and the Red Sox, but the Phils won the bidding war for Miguel Gonzalez. Though Gonzalez hasn’t pitched for Team Cuba since the 2011 season, his agent Jaime Torres is on record saying Gonzalez will only need 2-3 minor league starts before being ready to make his major league debut. But is that how the Phils see it? Will they bring Gonzalez up in mid-August if they have no chance of winning this year? It wouldn’t be the Phillies style, but there will be tickets that need to be sold and possibly a spot in the rotation that needs to be filled.
The first question everybody wants answered is how will this signing affect the teams trade decisions in the next few days? Will a team step up and meet Amaro’s admittedly high asking price for Cliff Lee? Considering what the Rangers gave up for Matt Garza on a two-month rental what does Ruben Amero see Lee’s value being? Lee is a double-edged sword in that he’s unquestionably the best starting pitcher available, but comes with a contract that has him earning $25,000,000 in 2014 and 2015, with a $27,500,000 vesting option for 2016. That’s a lot of coin over the next three years. Even if Lee’s contract doesn’t vest he’ll get $12,500,000 as a parting gift in 2016.
In a perfect world Amaro would get fair value back for Lee, but perhaps to do so the Phils will be asked to take some of Lee’s salary back. It’s hard to know if Amaro would do that, and would ultimately depend on how much money the Phils are asked to take back and what the return would be in players & prospects? For a number one starter I think every playoff bound and playoff wanna be team is talking about whether it’s worth pursuing Lee in the next few days. At a time when everybody who wants to play October baseball is looking for pitching help, one of the best starters in baseball can be had. That’s a rare opportunity for the team that wants to go all in.
What if teams decide to lay off Lee but still look to the Phils for pitching help? Will the Phillies make Kyle Kendrick,a much more affordable option available? His market value could be relatively close to current Texas Ranger Matt Garza. Garza’s been the better pitcher but is going to Texas on a two-month rental, unless the Rangers decide to lay out big dollars to keep him as a free agent entering his age 30 season. Garza’s been hurt recently too, starting only 18 games in 2012 due to a stress reactor, a precursor to a stress fracture in his pitching elbow. In 2013 he didn’t begin pitching until late May due to a strained lat and has started only 12 games.
There are no injury concerns regarding Kendrick who is a year younger than Garza, working on a team friendly contract of only $4,500,000, and has one year of team control remaining via arbitration. While Kendrick is no ace like Cliff Lee, he’s far more affordable in terms of what a team would need to part with in dollars and prospects/players. Some teams believe another solid starter would make the difference in playing October baseball or getting an early start to their golf game. Others already believe they’re going to the playoffs, but know you can’t have too much pitching – they’re right. When you get down to a short playoff series don’t underestimate what having a legitimate # 3 pitcher taking the mound means for your chances. How many series hinge on that third game? Kyle Kendrick has value and there may never be a better time to trade him, especially if the Phils don’t trade Lee.
Keep checking back as we monitor all the Phils moves and opportunities through the July 31st trade deadline.