Trade Radar: Minor League Bait To Make A Deal

Any team that engages in trade talks with the Phillies will likely start
their requests with outfielder Domonic Brown, but they’re likely to be told that his name is not open for discussion.

The 22 year-old outfielder has always been good and has always had a promising future, but with a minor league season that has been simply huge and the fact that the Phillies are faced with losing Jayson Werth to free agency following the season, there is little chance that the Phillies would part with Brown.

The Phillies have watched Brown develop over the past couple of seasons and
are now watching him tear up International League pitching to the tune of a .404 average and four home runs in his first 47 Triple-A at-bats. Obviously, folks are going to dwell on the long-ball and look first at a player’s average and his ability to get on-base – Brown has a combined .398 OBP between Reading and Lehigh Valley – and sometimes overlook the little things that a player can do to help a club. In Brown’s case, there are three other tools that he brings to the table that are all above-average; speed, defense and a strong arm.

Brown has stolen 14 bases this season and has a total of 86 stolen bases
since he first hit the Gulf Coast League in 2006. His stolen base percentage of
72% is well above the average and his ability to run the bases well add to his
ability to take an extra base on outfielders. Defensively, Brown will make an
occasional error and readily admits that defense is the weakest part of his
game, but weak for Brown is at least slightly above average for most players and the good news is that Brown continues to work on his defensive skills.

Then, there’s the most surprising part of Domonic Brown; his arm. Brown
admitted to reporters last week that one of his biggest thrills on the field is
when he guns down a runner and he’s got the arm to do just that. In his 12 games at Lehigh Valley, Brown has already thrown out two baserunners and has just missed throwing out a couple of others, not on routine throws, but on throws from deep in right field.

If Brown is completely off the table, then Jarred Cosart is teetering on the

Cosart is one of those special pitchers that are able to put fans in the
seats. At spring training this year, ‘Cosart watching’ became a popular event at the Carpenter Complex in Clearwater, because just to watch him throw and hear the impressive pop of his pitches into a catcher’s glove are a thing of beauty.

It’s hard to believe that Jarred Cosart is the same pitcher who was hurt and
missed all but the last month of the 2009 season and was then shelled in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League, going just 2/3 of an inning. Cosart turned
things around last season and gave hope that he would finally be able to show
off his skills in 2010 and he has done just that. The Phillies have parked him
at Lakewood and insist that he’s there for the entire season, which makes sense in a lot of ways, so he’s further away from being major league ready than Brown, but he has the ability to become a superstar major league player, just like Brown. The 20 year-old right-hander has struck out 102 hitters in 95 2/3 innings in the minors, while walking just 23.

Last year at this time, the Phillies insisted that Kyle Drabek was untouchable, and he was during the season, but was then dealt to bring Roy Halladay to Philadelphia last winter. Cosart isn’t quite untouchable, partly because the Phillies realize that they may need to include him in a trade if they’re going to add a key piece to the puzzle at the trade deadline, but it certainly won’t be easy for a team to pry him away unless they’re offering something rock solid in return. The interesting decision on Cosart will come next spring when the Phillies will need to decide where to start him; go conservative and put him at Clearwater or challenge him with a jump to Double-A Reading to start the year?

It should be noted that neither Brown or Cosart were high draft picks. Brown
was taken in the 20th round of the 2006 Draft and Cosart lasted until round 38 in the 2008 Draft.

With Brown and Cosart being out of the reach of most clubs, are there any
players that the Phillies have remaining that would interest teams who would
have something to offer the Phillies? The short answer is “yes.”

Matt Rizzotti has had a breakout season since his promotion to Reading in
May. The 6′ 5″, 235 pound Rizzotti has shown that he is at least part human
and his average has dropped to .360 after reaching a high of .385 in late June.
This is the kind of season that scouts were expecting from Rizzotti and he’s not disappointing. The 24 year-old had put up nice numbers coming into this season – 25-140-.268 in 270 minor league games – but they weren’t exactly the type of numbers that had been expected out of the left-handed hitting Rizzotti. Even his start at Clearwater this season was good average wise [.358], but with just one home run in 31 games, the power was still nowhere to be found in Rizzotti’s bat. All of a sudden, he was moved to Reading when Tyson Gillies went on the DL and it’s been impossible to get him out of the lineup ever since.

So why would the Phillies give up such a promising young hitter? There are
two main reasons; first, with Ryan Howard entrenched at first base and another young, left-handed hitting first baseman coming along in Jonathan Singleton, Rizzotti is expendable because of the depth at the position and the fact that the spot is also overloaded with left-handed hitting players. Rizzotti’s defense is also an issue and he’s no better at any other position on the diamond, making him a perfect candidate for an American League club who could use him as a designated hitter.

Mentioning Singleton, he too benefited from the injury to Gillies, because
Darin Ruf moved from Lakewood to Clearwater to fill Rizzotti’s spot leaving
first base open at Lakewood. Singleton got the call from extended spring
training and became an instant success with the BlueClaws and is hitting .347
with ten home runs and 48 RBI in just 48 games against South Atlantic League pitching. Because of Howard’s contract extension, Singleton is on a good timetable to become the successor to the big guy at some point down the road and his defensive skills make him a more solid choice than Rizzotti to stick at the position. Singleton isn’t untouchable, but his price tag is growing and he would have to bring a very good return for the Phillies to include him in any deal.

As for pitching, the Phillies have a number of near major league ready
pitchers that could be sacrificed in a trade.

Starter Drew Carpenter is quietly putting up more impressive numbers at
Triple-A Lehigh Valley [7-6, 3.21 in 16 starts] and has had a couple quick trips to Philadelphia. For many major league clubs, he would be considered ready and could fit well toward the back end of a major league rotation or at least work as a long-man out of the bullpen if need be. It could be argued that Carpenter could do for the Phillies at least what Kyle Kendrick has done this season and possibly even more if he were given the chance to start at the major league level, but the Phillies are in need of a more veteran type starter to add to their rotation, leaving Carpenter at Triple-A to become fodder for trade talk.

Speaking of Kendrick, both he and J.A. Happ, who recently came off the DL only to be optioned to Lehigh Valley, could also be considered as part of a deal to improve the big league club. In a perfect world, Happ will prove that he is healthy and can regain the form that nearly won him a Rookie of the Year award in the majors last season, and he’ll either be called on to help the Phillies rotation or another club will give up someone that the Phillies deem better if they include Happ in a deal.

Reliever Scott Mathieson has been very impressive this season as Lehigh
Valley’s closer [3-2-15, 2.21] and can pitch at the major league level. In fact,
there has been an on-going debate through much of the season that he may be better than a couple of pitchers in the current Phillies bullpen. There are
always clubs looking for a guy who has the potential to step into a closer’s
role and it’s not out of the question to see the Phillies include Mathieson in a
deal for pitching and possibly for another club’s closer, if Brad Lidge can’t
lock down the job with more dominant performances than he has had for much of the season.

The Phillies minor league system doesn’t have the depth that it did a year
ago and if the Phillies are to pull off another major deal between now and the
start of the 2011 season, odds are that the system will become even more
shallow. For now though, the Phillies do have enough weapons left to include a prospect or two in a deal to improve the big league club.

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