Phillies

Phillies

There have been plenty of starting pitchers connected to the Phillies this offseason. There was James Paxton, before the Yankees trade. Robbie Ray. Madison Bumgarner. Zack Greinke.

Patrick Corbin, of course. The top free-agent lefty was in Philly on Tuesday.

Keep an eye on the Cleveland Indians. The Phillies and Indians match up as well for a big trade as any two clubs in baseball. 

Why? Because the Phillies need starting pitching and the Indians need outfielders. Those just so happen to be areas of depth for the other team.

The three Indians pitchers potentially available for a trade are Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer. 

First, their contract situations

Corey Kluber (entering age 33 season)
2019: $13M*
2020: $13.5M
2021: $14M club option

Carlos Carrasco (age 32 season)
2019: $9M
2020: $9.5M club option

Trevor Bauer (age 28 season)
2019: 3rd year of arbitration ($11.6M projection)
2020: 4th and final year of arbitration ($15-17M)
2021: Free agent

There's a lot to analyze here. Kluber has been the best of the three, Bauer is the youngest, Carrasco is the cheapest. It's hard to gauge who Cleveland will be most willing to deal. Bauer's production isn't far behind Kluber's at this point after his major strides in 2018. Bauer was 12-6 with a 2.21 ERA, had the lowest home run rate in the AL, and struck out 221 in 175 innings.

Yet Bauer might be the one the Indians decide to deal. It would be selling high, and they'd avoid the rising cost of his services. Bauer's personality is also ... out there. He's not necessarily a distraction, but he's very opinionated, tweets crazy stuff at times, and his disagreements with the Diamondbacks' front office played a role in his being traded to Cleveland.

 

Carrasco the best bet

Of the three, I'd go after Carrasco, who the Phillies traded for Cliff Lee way back in 2009. Carrasco is so good, so consistent, so underrated. 

His ERA the last five seasons: 3.38, 3.29, 3.32, 3.63, 2.55.

His WHIP: 1.13, 1.10, 1.15, 1.07, 0.99.

His strikeouts per nine innings: 10.8, 10.2, 9.2, 10.6, 9.4.

His walks per nine: 2.0, 2.1, 2.1, 2.1, 1.9.

Carrasco is a model of consistency, and he's performed like this in the tougher league. He misses so many bats. He can dominate one game with his fastball, the next with his changeup and the next with his slider and curveball. His arsenal is vast and his ability to adjust is what should make talent evaluators confident he can remain successful into his mid-30s. Watching him dominate the lowly White Sox, Royals and Twins in recent years, one envisions Carrasco blowing through the Marlins' and Mets' lineups with regularity.

What would it cost?

The Indians have a giant hole in the outfield. If the season opened tomorrow, their starters would be Tyler Naquin, Greg Allen and Leonys Martin as they await the return of Bradley Zimmer, who so far hasn't met expectations. That legitimately might be the worst outfield in baseball.

Fortunately for the Phillies, they have some young and talented outfielders and a real shot to replace one of them with Bryce Harper. 

The Phillies could pique the Indians' interest with a package including Odubel Herrera or Nick Williams. It would likely cost more — perhaps a package of Williams, Vince Velasquez, a prospect, and either Aaron Altherr or Jerad Eickhoff for Carrasco. Such a trade would be beneficial to both sides — the cost-conscious Indians get a young, cheap outfielder who's better than what they have. They'd also add some upside and create more depth either in the outfield or rotation.

Even if the Phillies don't get Harper, there are more solid outfielders available in free agency than there are pitchers like Carrasco. 

The biggest roadblock will be what other teams can offer. Carrasco's talent and contract make him the kind of pitcher every team should be after, big market or small, legit contender or not. 

The Phils are just in a unique position with regards to these trade talks because they could part with two outfielders for Carrasco (if that's what it takes) and still be a vastly better team in 2019.