Would the hometown nine think big and pursue the game’s best hitter? They’ve already wooed two of the game’s best pitchers.
The whispers began last spring that the Phillies had kicked the tires on a Ryan Howard-for-Albert Pujols blockbuster. At the time, Ruben Amaro did not beat around the bush: "Lies," he said. "That's a lie. I don't know who you're talking to, but that's a lie." Despite Amaro’s denial, a Howard-for-Pujols deal made some sense. And this spring, a trade based around Howard and Joe Blanton for Pujols would make a lot of sense. In short, here’s why:
Lineup balance: The Phillies’ 2010 lineup was slightly lefty-heavy, but now with the departure of Jayson Werth, their lineup is extremely lefty-heavy. Though they won’t admit it, the Phillies are in desperate need of a righty bat in the middle of their order. The deal would also give them a player who strikes out far less than Howard, not to mention a significant upgrade defensively.
Cardinals need pitching: The Cardinals had planned to contend for the World Series this year, but Adam Wainwright’s season-ending elbow injury has changed all that. They are currently in no-man’s land, where they can’t win it all this year and they’re in danger of losing Pujols as a free agent after this season. Howard would give them a long-term solution at first base, while Blanton would help them fill Wainwright’s shoes. The Phillies could also round out the trade with prospects from their deep talent pool.
Flexibility: The deal could help out both teams over the long term. The Phillies owe Ryan Howard $145 million over the next six seasons. Blanton is due a combined $17 million between this year and next. The Phils’ payroll is probably a notch higher than they are comfortable with. Pujols reportedly is seeking 10 years in the neighborhood of $30 million per season. The Phillies wouldn’t give him that kind of money, but they could probably agree on a shorter deal with a higher annual salary. Philadelphia has become a destination for superstars in their quest for a title and the Phillies are heavy favorites. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay took less years and passed up free agency to be here. And even if Pujols leaves next winter as a free agent, the Phillies would have significant financial flexibility next year.
- Written for Beerleaguer by Drew Silverman