NASHVILLE -- An unexpected name filled the Phillies’ centerfield void, while an expected candidate continues to sit on the sideline.
Rather than spend a huge sum on free-agent centerfielder Michael Bourn, Philadelphia instead traded a huge sum of pitching talent to Minnesota for 24-year-old Ben Revere, who wasn’t widely known to be available after the Twins traded Denard Span last week.
The Phillies, whose 2012 Opening Day payroll was a franchise record $175 million last year, found a financially cost-controlled option in Revere, who will be with the team for five years and make roughly the league minimum for two of them, which is a nice thing for a club with four players making at least $20 million next season and three others making at least $11 million.
Revere ranks among the game’s fastest players. He has stolen 74 bases in 93 tries the last two seasons (79.6 percent success rate) and is rated favorably by advanced defensive metrics.
Revere also has excellent bat skills, hitting .294 last year while making contact on 92.6 percent of all swings, which ranked third in the majors. For a player with exceptional speed, a huge number of balls in play is a good thing and helps compensate for his low walk rate (.319 career on-base percentage). He’s cheap and a very good defender but is better as a down-the-order hitter. He’s essentially the offensive equal of last year’s assortment of Phillies leadoff hitters, whose .318 OBP ranked 20th in the majors.
The player cost, however, was steep. Philadelphia dealt promising young starter Vance Worley -- who has a 3.50 ERA in 277 2/3 career innings, though his 2012 season was curtailed by elbow surgery -- and traded pitching prospect Trevor May, who was ranked the No. 69 overall prospect last year according to Baseball America.
It’s not hard to imagine that Minnesota was able to drive up the price because Philadelphia’s best alternative was a rich free agent contract. While the Phillies will get most of the attention for this trade, given their contending status, the Twins have done well in replenishing a depleted pool of minor league pitching with their trades of Revere and Span (who went to Washington for blue chip prospect Alex Meyer).
Minnesota does have some young outfield options in Darin Mastroianni, Joe Benson and Aaron Hicks. That depth helps, but trading two centerfielders also signals two things: just how desperate the Twins were for pitching and just how far away from contention they are.
Meanwhile, Bourn’s suitors now appear to be dwindling, calling to mind the plight of two other Scott Boras clients last year, starter Edwin Jackson and first baseman Prince Fielder. Those players had mixed results by signing very late. Jackson only got a one-year, $10 million deal (though reportedly turned down three years and $30 million), but Fielder scored huge riches with his nine-year, $214 million bonanza with the Tigers.
Predicting Bourn’s future is murky. It definitely will be affected by where Josh Hamilton signs and, probably by the possibilities of Justin Upton and/or Jacoby Ellsbury getting traded. (It would not be surprising at this juncture if Upton is dealt, while Ellsbury seems unlikely to change teams.) The Mariners and Rangers appear in on both Bourn and Hamilton, according to reports, though a trade could throw a wrench in the otherwise neat arrangement of two players for two teams. But known bidders aren’t always the winners, as no one knew the Tigers were in on Fielder last year.-- By Joe Lemire