Role Reversals and Trade Deadlines Make Strange Bedfellows

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The “Mets-Phillies rivalry” isn’t so much a rivalry. It’s more two fanbases that dislike one another due to their close proximity. The teams were never in contention at the same time until 2007 and by then the Mets had the reputation as condescending and arrogant because of their 2006 and early-2007 dominance and the Phillies’ reputation as underachievers and authors of the greatest collapse in baseball history in 1964. Jimmy Rollins stoked the fire with his bluster early in 2007 and looked foolish as the Mets were strolling to a second straight division title; but Rollins backed it up with a blazing final month and by winning the MVP in the Phillies’ remarkable comeback that seized the momentum and sent the Mets into a spiral that culminated in the front office regime change and roster turnover.

The Phillies won the World Series in 2008 and became the dominant team in the NL with another pennant in 2009 followed by two more division titles in 2010-2011.

The tide has turned again.

This time it’s the Phillies who are reviled throughout baseball because of their smugness, penchant for trading and signing every big name on the market and “we’re better than you” mouthiness, much of it emanating from their fans. The Mets are the young upstarts expected to lose 90+ games (and in the ludicrous world of Michael Kay, 110 games) but find themselves in the thick of the pennant race and looking to buy players rather than sell.

So where does that leave them?

With each mounting loss and rising deficit in the playoff race, the Phillies’ decision to sell grows more and more likely. But would they trade anyone to the Mets?

The Mets are in need of a right-handed hitting bat who can play first base. They’re continually placing Justin Turner at the position against lefty pitchers instead of Ike Davis. Turner is not an experienced first baseman and is not meant to be in the lineup regularly; he’s a useful bat off the bench and can play second, third and a little shortstop. It’s not as easy to play first base as the Mike Francesas of the world will lead you to believe. That notion is a disproved theory from the 1950s that a player can be “hidden” at first base. The Mets cannot let an inexperienced defender cost them runs; that’s where they are if they insist on using Turner there.

With Ryan Howard activated, Ty Wigginton no longer has a regular place in the Phillies’ lineup. Wigginton hits well against lefties and enjoys hitting in Citi Field (1.278 OPS with 3 homers in 34 plate appearances). The Mets can use him. As the velocity of the Phillies plummet rises in new and enterprising ways like last night’s debacle against the Braves in which Antonio Bastardo entered a 0-0 tie in the 8th inning, proceeded to load the bases, walk in a run and serve up a grand slam to Brian McCann, it’s clear that there’s not going to be a turnaround for the Phillies when Roy Halladay returns or at any other time. They’re closer in the standings to the dregs—the Padres, Rockies, Cubs and Astros—than they are to a playoff spot.

This is pretty much it.

Sometimes teams that revile one another will acknowledge that concessions need to be made to do business. The Red Sox were going to trade Mike Lowell to the Rangers who, with the Red Sox knowledge, planned to send Lowell to the Yankees. It never came to pass but that style of plausible deniability is necessary in a true rivalry as fierce as that of Yankees-Red Sox.

Such is not the case with the Mets and Phillies.

The Mets can use Wigginton and the Phillies are coming apart at the seams. That’s a starting point for negotiation without partisan rancor and fan perception standing in the way.


Relief Hungry Teams Should Call The Cubs About Carlos Marmol

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The Cubs are going nowhere and looking to dump any and all big contracts that won’t be of assistance to them when they begin to turn things around.

They have some good young talent and aren’t as far away from that end with a new cast of characters as the Cub-bashers would have you believe. But they have to get rid of some big salaries first.

Ryan Dempster, Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome, Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano all fall into this category.

No one is taking Alfonso Soriano.

But if the Cubs are truly looking to get multiple pieces for one player, they can forget that plan with the above-mentioned names. In order to do that, they need to look at their valuable and controllable assets and consider trading them.

Their most marketable asset might be closer Carlos Marmol.

Last night he reverted into his frightening displays wildness as he blew the game against the Marlins. But that gack aside, Marmol still has major strikeout numbers (52 in 42 innings pitched); his walk numbers are about what they’ve usually been for his career (26); he’s only allowed 2 homers; and his ERA has been bloated by two atrocious games, one in late May against the Astros and last night.

He’s been undone a great deal by the Cubs porous infield defense, an issue that would be repaired if a team like the Phillies or Rangers made a move on him because both play excellent infield defense. The Cardinals can use him too, but I think we can count out the idea of the Cubs sending anyone to the Cardinals unless they get truly desperate, the Cardinals get stupid, or both.

The Phillies are going to need a closer after this season. It’s hard to imagine them rolling the dice with their star-studded starting rotation and using Michael Stutes in the role; Antonio Bastardo is still new to closing; Brad Lidge has a contract option that isn’t going to be picked up. Trading for Marmol is better than signing Jonathan Papelbon because he’s cheaper and probably more effective.

The Rangers could use him as a set-up man for the rest of the season and be free to move Neftali Feliz into the rotation next year secure in the fact that they have someone proven to take over in the role.

Marmol’s signed through 2013 and any team acquiring him would be on the hook for slightly over $17 million. For a proven closer at age 28, that’s great value for a strikeout machine.

The Cubs are ready to do business. If they’re willing to listen on Marmol, teams should make a bid.

It’d take a lot to get him, but he’s highly underrated and could very well be worth it in 2011 and beyond.