Know Thy Enemy – The Phillies

A lot has been made of the preseason favorites to win the division — the Nationals. And their core players are well known to us. But the Phillies, like the Braves, have burst onto the scene, so who are they?

As of this writing, Manny Machado has not been traded to Philadelphia. But it’s not hard to see how he would fit into this offense. Their offense currently sits 20th in MLB in fWAR. And more importantly, they have some serious black holes at a few positions. Consider this graphic:

Their entire outfield, SS, and 3B are near the very bottom of the league. Even if they add Machado, they will still have more than a few holes on the position player side. The Braves, on the other hand, have been fortunate to avoid having sucking vortexes on their roster:

That may make upgrading our roster a little less simple than adding a Machado, but it still means the Braves are currently besting the Phils in position player WAR 16.1 to 8.5. The Braves are also outperforming the Phils defensively by an absurd 102 defensive runs saved (36 to -66). Machado certainly won’t fix that.

While the Braves’ position players are certainly besting the Phils, Philly has Atlanta beat on the pitching side. The Phils boast a 13.9 to 8.1 fWAR advantage. They are virtually identical in ERA, however (3.83 for the Braves and 3.86 for the Phils). The Phils, though, are striking out more hitters and walking less hitters, so FIP likes the Phils better than the Braves, hence the difference in WAR.

The pens are nearly identical from most performance metrics, and it’s the Phils rotation that is fueling a lot of their success. So far, they have a 5.3 fWAR advantage over the Braves’. But if you look deeper, there’s a clear reason: Aaron Nola has been out of this world. He currently sports a 4.2 fWAR in 20 GS, and with his 2.30 ERA, he’s been as unhittable as that performance suggests. He’s pitching over 6 innings a start, and he’s currently the 4th-most productive pitcher in all of MLB. Jake Arrieta, Zach Eflin, Vince Velasquez, and Nick Pivetta fill out a rotation that is 3rd-best in MLB. Simply put, it’s their starters that are bringing home the W’s.

Even if they were to acquire Machado, their rotation will continue to have to continue to pitch this well to sustain their success. With such a young pitching staff, whether they will is anyone’s best guess. Of course, Atlanta has their own uncertainty with young pitchers, so it goes both ways. With that said, the rotation has not been a strength for the Braves. The Phillies don’t have position players to call up to infuse their position player side, but the Braves have the pitchers to potentially bridge some of the gap. And while the Braves have a deep roster to overcome the ineffectiveness of any one player, the Phils are a Aaron-Nola-cooling-off away from losing that sizable advantage.

Looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why the Phils are where they are, but it’s also easy to see that the second half could create some match-up advantages for the Braves to improve their roster more significantly than the Phils’. It’ll definitely be a race to the finish with these two.

70 thoughts on “Know Thy Enemy – The Phillies”

  1. The prospect return sent to Baltimore for Machado is IMO pretty light. It makes the Braves heretofore unwillingness to make a move (I realize we’re not at or near the deadline) even more of a headscratcher.

    I understand that it could be viewed that he’s a rental but a #4, 2 high 20s and a bit MLB player is a very low return.

  2. I don’t want to toot my own horn or anything, but my trade proposals from last week are looking pretty darn good right about now, eh folks?

    But for real, one top-50 plus tweeners for Machado frames up the market fairly well. But at the end of the day, Machado will give them 2.5 fWAR for the rest of the year for about $7M. So, really, how much value did he really have? If you have a 3 WAR guy making arb raises for 3 years of control, you’d be looking at giving up close to 3 times what the Dodgers gave up if you follow the logic.

  3. Teams like Dodgers .. Yankess .. Boston .. go for it when they are in contention knowing it’s just a rental .. only giving up one guy who will play MLB…. Braves sit on their hands and always play 2nd fiddle

  4. Those are great charts. I think that makes it easy to upgrade the Braves this year. Upgrade relievers and get an IF bat. I am especially impressed how well the bench grades out. I still like my trade idea for Asdrubel and Familia. I know you didn’t like giving up a good relief prospect but I included an IF and RP prospect because we were getting IF and RP players. I am still insistent that there have been very few if any trades for rentals that include more than prospects in the 20’s. I included one higher prospect because both Asrubel and Familia are very good and fill obvious holes (and might be needed to induce the Mets to trade in division). I also think they would not be egregiously expensive to extend and might be amenable. Further, Asdrubel is Venezuelan and two of our most important players who could use a “whisperer” are Venezuelan (Acuna and Inciarte).

    With regards to the poll, There’s another intermediate idea that would be my choice. Trade no more than one high prospect and a few lower rated prospects to get a couple or three really good rentals.

    If we do the trade with the Mets, we might still be able to get Britton for a couple of lower rated prospects – the Braves have some that are better than other orgs higher prospects.

    I wouldn’t even go after a SP. We can fix that internally. We can still meet one of the goals of this season which is to get our internal candidates time on the mound to prove their worth for 2019. Our SPs are currently right in the middle of the pack which I take to mean that they are not throwing 7 IP, 0 ERs every night but they are keeping us in every game and if we can bridge an inning or two to a lockdown 8th/9th then we will win a lot of games.

    Think about it. You can rotate Asdrubel, Camargo, Swanson and keep them fresher and always have an equivalent starter on the bench. Then you have Biddle, Winkler, Minter, Viz to transition to Familia (RH) and Britton (LH). The rotation could be Folty, Newk, Teheran, Sanchez, and Fried with McCarthy and Carle for middle relief. That would be a “complete” team.

  5. Bowman’s idea of Soria and Davidson is a decent second choice but I’m not sure Davidson is worth controlling….. I would not give up Fried as he suggests and would likely not include a Muller/Wentz but someone just below that. I would give Weigel or Tucker Davidson, Rio, and a couple of lower level pitchers (or Wisler if they’d take him).

  6. Other combos to consider – Britton or Brach and Valencia, Dozier or Escobar and Rodney or Duke, Castellanos and Hardy or Alex Wilson. An interesting big move might be Dietrich and Barraclough.

  7. Fried with a good first game off the DL: 4.2, no hits, 6SO and 3BB.
    Reed with two more hits.

  8. Nice post, Rob. And I’d like to thank Manfred for giving me a recap week off.

  9. Kipling in the news…

    ‘If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same; ‘

  10. @6

    Roger, are you the originator of the use of ‘whisperer’ in this context or do you follow others?

    In either case it’s very good.

  11. @12 As I have not really seen Asrubel tied to the Braves in public, I guess this is an potential additional bonus I noted when looking at his profile.

    Although, I don’t know if the Mets will trade with us when Kelly Johnson is not on our roster.

  12. KLaw’s midseason revised top 50 prospects:

    18. K. Wright
    22. Toussaint
    29. I. Anderson
    33. Pache
    44. B. Wilson
    HM: Gohara

  13. In reference to a thread the other day, I’ve just subscribed to The Athletic. Very interesting Touki story on there btw. The articles seem well written (as far as I can tell that is…).

  14. Good’un, Rob. I’m rested and ready for the stretch run and hope the Braves are. If I could pick and choose, I’ve always been partial to bear claws and Asdrubal seems like a ballplayer to me.

    Go get’em, Braves. Win this thing!

  15. On the poll question:

    I don’t agree with AA on the “control beyond this season” as a primary motivator, UNLESS it is somewhere where we can’t reasonably produce a comparable player through our system over the next couple of years. For relief pitching, even next year, we have some talent to utilize there and by the next year, we should be set with the relief only guys and the failed starter guys. Also, at 3B or SS, you have Riley sitting out for probable use next year.

    My first focus would be to reverse the usual. I would say “who do we need to trade because they are blocked or won’t be good enough for us to use, and then let’s see what we can get for them.” I think approaching things that way can get us some decent bullpen help and a right handed “good 4th outfielder / centerfielder” or a “good right handed hitting LF who lets Acuna play center against lefties.”

    Those improvements add to my projections about 2 regular season wins and a little better chance of advancing in the postseason.

    I interpret “go for it” to mean try to get as much as you can toward a World Series winning roster as possible. I would not do that.

    Although I voted for “make small deals”, I am not against a bigger deal, but that is where the control of probably 1 to 2 more years is more important. Also, in the bigger deal the headliner coming in has to be a projected 4 WAR or better player. The point of making a deal from ATL’s perspective is to “concentrate WAR.” We have largely cured the “suck problem.” So, we can generate 2 to 3 WAR all over the place with reinforcements likely to keep the suck away for 3 to 5 more years. What we don’t know and can’t project is somebody we can say is a 5 WAR player.

    Prospect trades tend to get made at giving up projected 4 future WAR per each WAR returned. They tend to actually work out at 2 future WAR for each WAR returned. Using Machado as an example, he is 2 to 3 WAR for the remaining season. So, a team (like the O’s) would hope to get back 8 to 12 future WAR and would in most cases actually get 4 to 6.

  16. Based on Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen’s future value grades for the prospects, I think this is the similar package that would have gotten Machado: Bryse Wilson, Adam McCreery, Drew Lugbauer, Derian Cruz, and Matt Wisler.

    That’s the closest I can get trying to give equivalent age, position, and future value grades. If they wanted an outfielder as their top piece like they ended up getting, we have no one that fits. Pache and Waters are too good, and our other outfield prospects are not good enough. So you have to throw a pitcher in there. Cruz is a little too young to be the actual infielder they took back, but once again, that’s the closest I can get.

    Would I do that deal for Machado? No, but it’s not because I love those prospects. Machado’s production minus Dansby’s production (remember, they both can’t play the same position) would negate some of Machado’s value. I’d rather trade those same prospects and conceivably improve the roster even more than the net 1.5 WAR benefit that Machado provides.

  17. Another way of putting it: I would trade close to that (maybe leave out one of McCreery, Lugbauer, or Cruz?) for Brad Hand. All day. And take the one I don’t trade to get some middle reliever, maybe even from San Diego in the same deal.

  18. @18 If you plan on, or know that you will resign Machado, IMO you’d be silly not to do that deal. Out of those five players, one MAY ever do a thing at the ML level.

    I’d probably even have done that deal for a rental, as the point of playing games is to win and to win championships, etc. If you don’t go for it now, when ever will you? Waiting on next year is fools gold. I’d like to read an analysis of this, of when teams decide to ‘wait until next year’ and see how historically that has panned out.

  19. Yeah, but a deal for Machado would likely require one of Pache or Waters.

    Then, does the act of acquiring Machado this year provide any leverage to extend him before he gets to free agency? All signs point to him insisting on entering free agency, so I almost assume that trading for him has no advantages if the goal is to lock him up long term.

    So you offer Waters plus others with the goal of winning it all this year. Does this move put the Braves significantly closer to doing that? Is that a deal worth doing?

    I’m not sure anymore. I look at the pitching this team has, and I think an upgrade to the rotation could do a lot more good.

  20. Yeah. I think the Dodgers got Machado cheap.

    That will drive the cost of everyone down. No excuse not to make some trades

  21. They didn’t get 3 months of Machado cheaply. And even if they did, that wouldn’t do anything to the respective markets for other players, which are of course driven by supply and demand.

  22. Rob @ 18,

    Pache is above Yusniel Diaz on most prospect rankings, but Orioles wanting the top piece to be close to the majors. Yusniel was 49 on Law’s list today.

    Chief @ 20,

    You cannot PLAN ON resigning somebody. You can ask the “seller” for an opportunity to negotiate and the only way they let you is if (a) you put more in the package AND (b) they think the player might listen and you might be able to conclude it quickly.

  23. Brad Hand to the Indians. They have far and away the worst bullpen of anything resembling contending teams, so it would make sense they got the best guy. And they get Miller back soon. And their division sucks. Good for those guys.

  24. If Chief was a fan of the Indians, and he had to watch them blow the 11 leads they’ve blown, you can hear him now, can’t you? “The Indians don’t care about winning!!!1! They’re pretenders!!1!1 This team is going nowhere!!” And then, all of a sudden, Chief would be silent. And the whole world would be better for it.

  25. This is a new market, and there are now pretty of comparables, if I can use a term from my industry. The FA market, the Herrera, Machado, and now Hand deals tell me definitively that the days of Chapman-for-Torres are dead and gone.

    Once Baltimore realized they weren’t going to get the 2018 version of Gleyber Torres, I think it just becomes a PR decision. Take back a bunch of names with good statlines at their current minor league stops. Tell your fans you made a 5-for-1 trade. Tell them you turned your one star into a BUNCH of prospects. Just make it look good. Are the players good? Sure. Was it a fair trade? Absolutely. But I think the trades where we want to trade a bunch of non-elite prospects for one guy makes just as much sense as ever.

    Plus, I trust AA to make the deal that makes the most sense.

  26. Yeah, we’re going to have to put some trust in AA. For instance, I’ve no doubt we continued to be in talks with Baltimore for Machado (among other players) and we weren’t willing to trade Pache or Waters for 2.5 month rental who we would then have to pay free agent market value to retain. That is likely where the Braves dropped out of the news.

  27. What I want is a signed and notarized letter of intent from AA that, until we say so, he will only draft position players in future drafts. Our imbalance was, is and will be otherwise absurd. CS would only have added to that. We still don’t know what we’ve got with the present gang. Meanwhile how many of our guys system wide can hit the ball hard?

    Hitters not pitchers

  28. @32 I have been saying this all along. After researching 10 years of non-elite (no HOF) deadline rental deals, a good player will bring back no more than 2 non-elite prospects (lower than 20 on any team’s list). Indians got not one but two MLB players for one elite prospect. They got Hand AND Cimber – one great reliever and one decent one. And they are not even rentals. For one big prospect they got two controllable relievers.

    I also believe that Harper is the guy to target over the winter, but, based upon Nick’s overperformance, that doesn’t now seem to be the final big piece in the puzzle.

    I do not believe we need any OF help this year. FakeDansby’s performance in LF when Acuna was out satisfies me that he can give Inciarte a break against tough lefties and have Acuna play CF. Even Camargo can play OF.

    A left infield rotation to take advantage of match-ups and keep everyone fresh and have a further improved bench and prepare for a key injury is still what we need. Maybe we don’t need a straight up slugging 3B but we must have more longball. Somewhere, somehow, we must have more longball.

    We have so many SP prospects that it would be foolish to go after a controllable SP unless he is an annual Cy Young candidate (see Maddux, Greg). I do not want Fullmer; we have at least three or four budding Fullmers.

  29. @23

    I’m not sure how you can say that definitively when you’re in a specific time window like the trade deadline or in a couple months of FA. There is a market of buyers and sellers, and the deals themselves signify a valuation of them. So it undoubtedly has a ripple effect for other players.

    If a top-20 prospect like Meija is what it took to get both Hand and Cimber, then that continues to work to set the market. For instance, if a team was in the market for a reliever at the time Hand was traded, then they will probably not give up a bigger package for an inferior player.

  30. I would have done either Pache or Waters for the Hand / Cimber combo. And if Waters, I would have added a low end pitcher or two.

  31. I am not panicking about other teams making moves and us not, at this point.

    But we have a ton of starting pitching in the minors. If we sit on it, we are dumb. There is no grantee we will be in this position next year or anytime after. We need 2-3 relievers and a starter.

    Prospects come and go. Flags fly forever.

  32. Smitty,

    (a) What starter do you think will be made available?

    (b) What would you be willing to give up for that starter?

    (c) Why would you assert Team B would accept what you are willing to give up for that starter?

    Saying “get a starter,” without the specifics is “dumb.”
    Really, the availables top out at J. A. Happ and Chris Archer. If you THINK Syndegaard or DeGrom can be obtained, what do you think you would have to give up and the Mets would be willing to accept?

    To me, if the new starting pitcher isn’t 90% likely to perform better than all but 3 of our pitchers, then you aren’t moving the needle, at all. Why are you not moving it? Because natural oscillation in performance could easily make Happ or Archer a worse pitcher than Anibal, Julio, Newcombe, and Foltenewicz the rest of the way. I am not saying that WILL happen, but making a trade for what you don’t know to a reasonable certainty will add more than 1 WAR the rest of the way is not worth giving up any meaningful pieces.

  33. Just because someone points out that we could use an upgrade to the rotation doesn’t mean they think we must get it before the deadline no matter who is available.

    Truth is, we could have a need in the rotation for a couple of years with no opportunity to address it if the right starter isn’t available to us (and none of our prospects fills the need).

    We could still use a dominant starter who regularly goes 7 innings. Not every contender has one of those.

    There are, however, plenty of relievers available, and if we decide to keep all of our prospects, it will be a questionable decision that some could reasonably suspect is ‘dumb.’

  34. @40

    To me, in the right deal, anyone not named Freeman, Albies, Folty or Acuna is fair game. The right deal meaning we get back a young cost controlled guy.

    Example (and I don’t think the Cardinals would move him): Carlos Martinez for Fried, Wisler and let’s say Tucker Davidson.

    I would like to add someone like Nathan Eovaldi. We don’t need a deGrom, per say. This rotation and bullpen isn’t going to carry us to the playoffs. If we add a starter, we can then move one of the current starters to the pen.

    But if we don’t make serious upgrades, we won’t stay in contention.

    The goal shouldn’t be to have the best farm system or to win the Governor’s Cup, it’s to win the World Series. We have a chance to go that now. The NL is wide open.

    Machado to the Dodgers is the best thing that could happen to us. It kept him out of Philly. A Dave Roberts team in the playoffs doesn’t’ scare me.

  35. Michael Reed called up and Santana DFA’d. Looks like he will get the first shot of being Inciarte’s platoon partner.

  36. Zach Britton can be acquired for less. My hope shifts to getting Britton and Brad Brach. They’re both rentals, and we’ll be able to get them for a price consistent with what the Braves would be willing to part with (not a top-50 prospect). The Orioles could go from a bottom-third farm to almost a top-third farm by dealing Machado, Britton, and Brach. While Adam Jones has been well-dissected here, he’s also somebody that could go to the right team for a FV 40+ prospect.

    I don’t see valuing prospects through FV or Sickels’ grades taking off since FV is unique to Fangraphs and Sickels’ grades are obviously unique to Sickels, so they probably won’t work their way into the everyday baseball lexicon, but I like using them to compare apples-to-apples the best one can. For instance, if a FV 60 like Meija got you Hand and Cimber, then does a FV 45 like Bryse Wilson or Kyle Muller get Britton and Brach? A team trading for those two will have to take back about $10M in salary, so I couldn’t see the Braves giving up much more than that. Hand was only making $4M, $7M, $7.5M, and $10M over the next 3 1/2 years, and Cimber was a rookie.

  37. Have you seen the 2015 Chicago Cubs prospects? How’s that looking now, Chief? Do you remember what happened the next year? Take a look at the 2015, 2016 org rankings. Notice anything about those top teams? Most of them are at the top of the standings right now and will be for the next several years.

    Have you seen the Astros, Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians rosters this year? Do you really think we’re a Brad Hand away from matching them? Talk about Pollyanna…

    Why are the loudest people always the dumbest? They’re not punting on the season. They’re not avoiding “trying to win”. Are you going to be ranting platitudes every time one of 30 teams makes a trade for a good player? Go somewhere with that. You don’t need to grab your binkie and throw a hissy every time a team trades for somebody.

    If you think the Atlanta Braves aren’t trying to win, then why cheer for the team? Take a look at what’s going on in the stands for teams that aren’t trying to win. They’re empty, and for good reason. Sun Trust is full, kind of like how you’re full of hot air.

  38. Max Fried threw 4.2 no hit innings in his rehab start last night. He threw 76 pitches, walked 3 and struck out 6.

  39. @ 44 I think you’re shooting too high on Britton/Brach (depending upon the competition of course). I don’t think the O’s will need a high rated prospect. In fact, why not go for the whole enchilada? Get Britton/Brach/Valencia for Wisler, Sims, Demeritte, Ricardo Sanchez or Freddy Tarnok, and another non-rated pitcher in the low minors. Heck, throw in Sam Freeman and Moylan to boot to offset some cost.

    Not only do the O’s have to build a farm and need quantity as much as quality but they need someone to play on the current team, too.

  40. Note: I guess I’d go with Bryse or Kyle as a headliner for that deal if the competition got stiff (Britton/Brach/Valencia).

  41. Everyone.

    I’m going to update 44 Greatest Braves and 64 Worst Braves. Melvin will join the latter.

  42. Did the first 64 worst Braves ever get finished? Either I’m mis-remembering, or it became too depressing to follow along with.

  43. I looked at the structure briefly yesterday, but I didn’t see if it ever had been completed. 64’s a lot. I’m thinking about shortening the field. Either way, with the journey of the rebuild, there will be quite a few new additions.

  44. I think Chief actually has some good points. The Cubs took a totally different path, focusing on hitters. We carried Foltzie for 3 seasons, before this half season breakthrough. Do we have 3 seasons to spend waiting on the next wave of pitchers to get it? Gohara, Fried, and Soroka have all been up, and all have been injured, unreliable, or both.

    It would be stunning if none of the multiple pitching prospects across several levels pan out, but it is no sure thing that it will be a quick process, like with Albies and (I hope) Acuna.

    And I certainly think it is reasonable to be frustrated with the team we cheer for if they aren’t making the moves we think they should.

  45. Why would it be stunning if the pitching prospects don’t pan out? That’s pretty much the norm isn’t it?

    Just because everyone here started to slobber all over prospects during “the rebuild” doesn’t mean that we haven’t also had pitching prospects at all levels for like 4 decades.

    Our farm system is laughably overrated. We should be trying to cash some of those chips in soon before the shine comes off.

  46. “Our farm system is laughably overrated.”

    Give me a break. How did we fool all the pundits?

  47. I, personally, would be stunned if *none* of our current pitching prospects pan out, eventually. The field is large and widely highly regarded, even outside of here.

    I agree with those who have a skepticism of how many will pan out, and how quickly. Nothing against any one of them singularly, but that is how pitching works.

  48. Folty has already “panned out”, at least in some sense. I’ll grant that. The rest are still a crapshoot.

  49. @59 While it is true that no single pitching prospect is likely to make it, the reality is that the cohort of talented pitching prospects in the Braves organization, AS A WHOLE, are guaranteed to create significant value at the MLB level. (I mean, they already have – Folty, Newk, Vizzy, Minter et al.) The Braves have collected a whole bunch of prospects who are basically bets to hit it big – let’s say the fringey guys have a 1 in 20 chance of becoming MLB regulars, and the good prospects are more like 1 in 3 or 1 in 4. Those paydays have already started rolling in and most of those bets are still outstanding.

    Also, I know you think prospects – especially pitchers – are generally worth very little until proven otherwise, but what’s your basis for saying the Braves’ farm system is overrated relative to other teams? Seems to me that you look at the Braves’ system and there’s not much you like, hence it must be overrated. On the other hand, I imagine that you’d find similar fault with other farm systems too.

  50. It’s overrated in a relative sense. I’m not saying it’s bad. The knocks on it have been repeated here many times. We have a lot of depth but no obvious stars. Folty has the best stuff of any of the pitchers, after that it’s going to be year after year of watching a bunch of Teherans make their debuts.

    The position player potential stars are already on the big league team. We’ve got nothing besides Riley, and he’s not can’t-miss.

    It’s good, but it’s not the Astros or Cubs from a few years back.

  51. On the other hand Bryse pitched 7 shutout with 1 W and 9 Ks.

    Anyone interested in an Iglesias/Suarez trade? What would it take to do that one? That one would be worth including Riley as part of the return. Riley/Wilson/Wentz? Throw in Wisler and S. Freeman to balance the 40 man. That’s an “all-in” trade for controllable stars.

  52. Freddie has the most home runs among active players without a grand slam (182).

  53. Braves appear to be flying completely under the radar on the trade talks front for the moment.

    I wonder who/what talks have got the most steam for them attm. They’re currently not mentioned in the Zach Britton talks. We know they’re actively engaged in talks somewhere. Quiet before the storm?

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