With Phillies’ trade market open, clubs want Byrd in hand
The Phillies are willing to move any player on their roster, but their most popular target in early trade discussions might surprise you.
According to major-league sources, it’s right fielder Marlon Byrd.
While Byrd is 37, he hit 25 home runs last season, more than any free-agent outfielder but Nelson Cruz. He is under contract for just $8 million next season, but by making 463 plate appearances, he also can vest his $8 million option for 2016.
Byrd batted .264/.312/.445 last season and rated as a plus defender in right, according to John Dewan’s plus-minus ratings.
However, he is far from the Phillies’ only intriguing trade candidate:
• Left-hander Cole Hamels produced a 1.94 ERA after the All-Star break, second only to Clayton Kershaw’s 1.76 among National League starters.
The money remaining on Hamels’ contract, $90 million over four years, makes him arguably more attractive than the top free-agent starting pitchers, right-hander Max Scherzer and lefty Jon Lester, both of whom are likely to command more on the open market.
Of course, teams would need to give up players to get Hamels, while Scherzer would cost money and a draft pick and Lester only money. Hamels, who turns 31 on Dec. 27, also can block trades to 20 teams and might only agree to a deal to a team on his no-trade list if that club exercises his $20 million vesting option for 2019.
• Closer Jonathan Papelbon isn’t the high-strikeout pitcher that he once was, but his 2.04 ERA last season was his best since 2009 and his 0.90 WHIP his best since ’07. Papelbon, who turns 34 on Nov. 23, also converted 39 of his 43 save chances (90.7 percent), tied for sixth best in the majors.
Teams might warm more to Papelbon now that the Yankees have made a $15.3 million qualifying offer to free agent David Robertson. Papelbon is due $13 million next season and will exercise his $13 million vesting option for ’16 if he finishes 48 games.
Whatever Robertson decides, he could improve the trade market for Papelbon.
If Robertson rejects the Yankees’ offer, he could make Papelbon look more attractive; Robertson would command a potentially higher salary in free agency and cost his signing team a draft pick.
Then again, if Robertson accepts the offer, he would take himself off the open market, increasing the demand for Papelbon and other closers available in trade.
The Royals’ Greg Holland, though, is an even more attractive trade candidate than Papelbon — he converted 46 of 48 chances (95.8 percent), the best rate in the majors, and likely will earn in the $5.5 million to $6 million range in his final year of arbitration.
• Shortstop Jimmy Rollins ranked fourth among shortstops last season in Fangraphs’ version of Wins Above Replacement (WAR) — not bad for a player who turns 36 on Nov. 27.
Only Jhonny Peralta, Ian Desmond and Erick Aybar ranked ahead of Rollins. Free agents such as Hanley Ramirez, Jed Lowrie, Asdrubal Cabrera and Stephen Drew were below him.
Rollins has only one year left on his deal, valued at $11 million. The question is whether he would waive his 10-and-5 no-trade protection — 10 years of service, five straight with the same club — to leave the Phillies, his original team.
The Yankees or even the Dodgers could make sense for Rollins, who is said to prefer larger markets.