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Vance Worley May Be Traded From Phillies By MLB Trade Deadline

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 Allow me to flip back the calendar one year. As last year’s trade deadline approached, everyone wanted the Phillies to bolster their pitching for a World Series run. However, despite that desire for an established arm, the prevailing sentiment was that it would be foolish to include J.A. Happ in any package. After all, the 27-year old righty had gone 12-5 as a starter over two seasons with the Phillies and had become something of a fan favorite.

We all know that Ruben Amaro Jr. ultimately decided to ship Happ to the Astros as part of the deal for Roy Oswalt. And what this season has revealed is that J.A. Happ is entering his late 20’s with a fastball that averages 89 miles per hour and a menu of pitches that are being feasted on by major league hitters. He sports a 3-11 record and an ERA of 5.76. Happ has gone 7 innings only twice all season and has given up 5 or more runs 8 times. In short, Happ has been a bad pitcher on an equally bad Astros team.

Nonetheless, Happ’s popularity in Philadelphia one year ago was something that happens frequently among baseball fans. When you follow a team for 162 games each season, you come to appreciate certain players when they perform beyond expectations. It’s the reason why, as fans, we sometimes fall in love with players like J.A. Happ, Wilson Valdez, and John Mayberry.

What we have to hope is that those responsible for our favorite team’s important personnel decisions continue to make more objective decisions than we would if left to our emotional devices.

In the end, J.A. Happ is destined to be a 4th or 5th starter for a second tier major league team, and that is not where the Phillies’ aspirations lie.

As the 2011 trade deadline approaches, the Phillies have another popular pitcher that will draw interest on the trade market. Vance Worley is only 23 years old, and has performed beyond anyone’s expectations with a 5-1 record and 2.15 ERA in 11 big league appearances.

The situation with Worley seems awfully similar to the Happ scenario just mentioned. Worley was never viewed as a top minor league prospect, but he is having some real success as opposing teams face him for the first time. His stuff is decent, but his lack of anything dominant is evidenced by his propensity to log over 100 pitches in five or six innings. He is young and inexpensive, but it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if his future never goes beyond a fourth or fifth starter’s position.

Those facts aside, the young right hander’s early success has elevated his trade value quite high. And that is why the Phillies should not dismiss any trade offer involving Worley without some serious consideration.

The Phillies are the class of the National League and appear to be built for playoff baseball with a starting rotation that could smother opposing lineups in any postseason series. Of course, the offense has an obvious need (a right-handed bat with some pop) and the bullpen could use another reliable arm. Both are worth pursuing for a team that is built to win another title right now.

Over the next two weeks, Ruben Amaro Jr. will be spending the majority of his waking hours figuring out how to add those crucial pieces via a key trade or two. And it is imperative that he does not overvalue his organization’s prospects during that process.
Consider that Amaro Jr. traded a total of 11 prospects in the high profile deals that netted Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. Despite the fear that those deals had depleted the Phillies minor league talent stores, only a few of 11 those prospects project as quality major leaguers. At the moment, Carlos Carrasco is a decent, middle-of-the-rotation pitcher for the Indians. Travis D’Arnaud looks like a good, young catcher in the Blue Jays’ farm system, and Anthony Gose projects as a quality leadoff hitter in a couple of years. The remaining eight prospects appear to be role players or, in a few cases, busts.

Included below is a run-down of those three blockbuster deals that earned Amaro Jr. the reputation as one of the heaviest hitters in the world of general managers. Included are the prospects that were traded away by the Phillies along with an update on their progress (or, in many cases, lack thereof):

Cliff Lee Trade (July 2009):

Carlos Carrasco (RHP)-24 year old has been solid #3 starter for Indians this season with 8-6 record and 4.28 ERA

Jason Knapp (RHP)-20 year-old will not pitch this season after second major shoulder surgery since trade

Lou Marson (C) -25 year-old is backup catcher for Indians and hitting .241 with no homers in 116 AB

Jason Donald (SS)-26 year-old failed to make Indians big league club in 2011 but is playing well in AAA

Roy Halladay trade (December 2009):

Michael Taylor (OF)- 25-year old hitting .262 with 9 homers at AAA level for A’s.

Kyle Drabek (RHP)- Sent to AAA after posting 5.70 ERA in 14 starts this season and leading AL in walks

Travis D’Araud (C)-22 year-old catcher is baseball’s 36th best prospect and currently hitting .324 for Blue Jays AA club

Roy Oswalt Trade (July 2010):

J.A. Happ (RHP)- 3-11 record with 5.76 ERA,

Jonathan Villar (SS)- 20 year-old reached Astros AA club where he is hitting .207

Anthony Gose (OF)-20 year-old is seen as a future lead-off hitter for Blue Jays, excelling in AA with 42 steals and 9 homers in 88 games

After reviewing those deals, it would be awfully hard to argue that any of them didn’t come out heavily in the favor of the Phillies.

And now, the Phillies find themselves in that familiar buyer’s role at the trade deadline.

It’s hard to say if Amaro Jr. will pursue a big name, half-season rental like Carlos Beltran or Heath Bell, or find a less glamorous way to strengthen the roster.

Either way, if the opportunity exists to add a bat that is legitimately better than what the Phillies already have, he should be willing to include a young player like Vance Worley.

With the uncertainty surrounding the health of Jose Contreras and the effectiveness of Brad Lidge, a trade involving one of the many talented players the Phillies have at the single-A level may be a necessity.

Those young players are important to any organization’s future. They are inexpensive, and allow the front office to replace aging veterans at the appropriate time. However, history has shown us that including young players in deals for established stars is not always the suicide mission that it is made out to be. The reality is that more prospects are “misses” than “hits”, and some become overvalued because of some early success.

Vance Worley may be one of those players. And if including him in a deal enables the Phillies to add a player that can help them to a World Series title, Phillies fans will have to ask themselves, “Wasn’t that plan all along?”

Matt Babiarz was born and raised in the Philadelphia area.  He graduated from the University of Alabama, but remained a very close observer of the Philadelphia sports scene.  He recently began covering the Phillies for Philly2Philly.com.   You can also read his work at Bleacherreport.com within the Philadelphia Phillies section. 

Matt can be contacted at mattbabz@comcast.net 

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