Phillies and Indians match up very well for a big trade

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Phillies and Indians match up very well for a big trade

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.

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

What MLB's sliding scale proposal could look like from Phillies perspective

Tuesday's meeting between MLB and the players' association kicked off an important week for a sport that knows it needs to quickly solve its financial battle and return to our screens.

According to multiple reports, the financial plan proposed to the players on Tuesday involved a sliding scale that would give the largest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the least, and the smallest percentage of prorated salaries to players earning the most.

In simpler terms: If the players were to sign off on this plan, it would mean Bryce Harper ($27.5M in 2020) would get a lower percentage of his prorated salary than would Rhys Hoskins ($605,000).

The rationale of this reported proposal is pretty clear: There are so many more players earning close to the league minimum than there are superstars earning eight figures per year. If the players earning the least are given the highest percentage of their prorated salaries, it means a large chunk of the league would be close to earning what it would've if the March agreement regarding full prorated salaries remained untouched.

Let's use the Phillies as an example. In 2020, they were set to pay: 

• Bryce Harper just over $27.5M
• Zack Wheeler $21.5M
• Jake Arrieta $20M
• Andrew McCutchen $17M
• Jean Segura $14.85M
• Didi Gregorius $14M
• David Robertson $11M
• J.T. Realmuto $10M

They have seven more players set to make between $1.5 million and $8.5 million. The remaining 25 players on the 40-man roster, plus all the non-roster invitees and pre-arbitration players, all fall below that line.

This, from Joel Sherman of the NY Post, paints a slightly clearer picture of how it could shake out:

One person who had been briefed on the proposal said the expectation is that players due to make $1 million or less in 2020 would be made close to whole on a prorated basis for games played. Thus, if someone were making the MLB 2020 minimum of $563,500 and 82 regular-season games (almost exactly half a season) were played, they would receive roughly half their pay, about $282,000.

But players at the top of the pay chain such as Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout would get less. If that were in the 50 percent range — as an example — then Cole, who was due $36 million, this year would receive half of about the $18 million he would be due for half a season or roughly $9 million.

From a Phillies perspective, if those percentages are close to accurate, it would mean Harper would earn somewhere around $6.9 million of his $27.5 million salary. For Wheeler, that number would be about $5.4 million. For Arrieta, $5 million. And so on.

That is just an example, though. It is currently unclear how many different prorated tiers there would be, what the percentage would be for each, and whether the players would even sign off on this.

However, there are other factors at play. MLB could also elongate what we expected to be an 82-game season to closer to 100 games. The additional revenue of more games on local and national TV could mean a slightly higher percentage of salaries for players.

And, per the Post, "there also would be a kicker in which the players would receive a greater percentage of the salaries if the postseason is played — MLB receives the lion’s share of its national TV money from the playoffs."

There are some hurdles with this plan. There is the potential of pitting players against each other within their own union based on the different tiers of prorated pay. There is also the potential of a few superstar players feeling it's not worth it to play. What if you're Mookie Betts and you agree to play for a fraction of your salary and then suffer a bad injury that diminishes your free-agent value? 

There is no doubt that everyone in baseball is in this together and it benefits all sides to have the game return this summer. But there is still much more negotiating to be done.

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Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Important week on tap for MLB — can season actually begin in early July?

Signs point toward meaningful MLB news coming this week. 

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Saturday announced that teams could return to their facilities to train, which is meaningful nationwide given the fact that New York has had more than twice as many cases of COVID-19 reported as any other state.

In Tampa, Tropicana Field was reopened for limited workouts and more than a dozen Rays players participated. The Astros have announced that Minute Maid Park is open for workouts, too. The Angels' spring training complex is open to all players on their 40-man roster.

MLB and the players' association are scheduled to meet today. Understandably, the players' union has, so far, been unwilling to accept another pay cut on top of what it thought agreed to in March with prorated pay. Team owners have been adamant that it is not financially viable to pay players a half-season salary with no fans in stands. From their side, the losses would be too steep and would affect future finances.

Will the sides reach a compromise? They have to. We saw again over the weekend how many Americans are starved for sports when 5.8 million tuned into the Tiger Woods-Peyton Manning vs. Phil Mickelson-Tom Brady golf match, a number slightly higher than The Last Dance documentary received. 

MLB didn't need any more evidence that returning was crucial, but there it was. All parties feel a sense of urgency because the league doesn't want baseball to dip further in popularity, and the players want to play and get paid. If the sport were to disappear for a period of 18 months, it will fall off the radar for many casual fans. And a portion of die-hards will be so frustrated by the sides' inability to come to a financial agreement at a time when so many are suffering physically, mentally and financially and craving the escape of sports that even their viewership habits could change. 

MLB cannot afford that. It is not at the height of its popularity like the NBA.

The goal, when this is worked out, is still to hold Spring Training II in mid-June and open the season at the beginning of July. The closer we get to those dates without an agreement, the less likely it becomes that the regular season could start so soon. Players will need two or three weeks to prepare regardless of when a deal is struck.

It also looks increasingly likely that teams will stay within their own divisions. There would still be a good amount of interleague play between teams in close proximity to one another (think Yankees and Orioles for the Phillies), but the three-division, 10-team format idea is not as necessary if teams can play in their home states as opposed to just Florida, Texas and Arizona.

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