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Willingham to Philadelphia Rumors Don’t Go Away

June 17, 2011


There’s been a lot of talk about the Phillies’ need for a good hitting outfielder, preferably a right-fielder, but despite that career left-fielder Josh Willingham‘s name keeps coming up. Willingham is a free-agent following this season and with the A’s in last place, his name is apparently one being bandied about. This of course depends on two assumptions, i) that the Athletics are out of the race and are now building for next year as opposed to competing through the end of this year, and ii) that the Athletics and Phillies can find a match.

The first assumption is likely the tougher of the two. The A’s are fourth out of four teams in the American League West, trailing Texas by a relatively tight for last place six games. That all being said, the A’s are still in a tough spot. If the Rangers go .500 here on out, they would finish the year with an 82-80 record (this is to say nothing of the M’s or Halos who are 1/2 and three games out respectively). For the A’s to overtake that 82-80 record and win the division (i.e. finish 83-79) they would need to go 53-39 here on out (.576), a level they have yet to play at at this point for any length of time. The Rangers are so close to .500 it makes little difference but if they continued their current pace (.514) the A’s would need 84 games to win the division requiring a .587 clip here on out. None of these things are impossible, but it is working on the assumption that last year’s largely unchanged and slightly improved care of Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers will simply remain a .500 ballclub which I think is unlikely, and it also assumes that the Athletics are capable of playing better than they have thus far demonstrated in over a third of the season. Big assumptions if you ask me – and again all of that completely ignores the ongoings of the Mariners and Angels who stand between the A’s and Rangers to begin with.

Onto the second assumption – is there a trade possibility? The A’s will not get a top prospect back for Willingham. First off, Willingham is having one of the worst years of his career, and it goes beyond saying the Coliseum park factor is adversely effecting him. Here are his home away splits:

Home 6 .227 .283 .445 .321 105
Away 4 .233 .328 .371 .317 102

But regardless Willingham is way below all his career averages. Have a look here:

2011 .230 .307 .407 .319 103
Career .262 .362 .468 .363 121

So we will be selling low on Willingham, despite the prolific failure of left-fielders across baseball this season, Willingham will in no way be worth a lot to any given club, except perhaps right at the deadline if the market substantially changes by then – and even then I think the interest will be muted.

So what does Philadelphia have to offer that they’d be willing to give up on a two-plus month rental of Josh Willingham? Really not much. The A’s need hitters. Knowing the A’s they want guys with high on-base percentages – as they should – the Phillies simply don’t have many prospects (even borderline ones) that offer that. The cupboard seems quite bare following years involving trades to acquire the likes of Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. I think the best out of the Phillies organization the A’s could hope for is someone like Leandro Castro. A twenty-two year old outfielder with the High-A Clearwater Phillies. Castro has lukewarm power and pretty poor OBP numbers (not sure if this is something they emphasize in the Phillies organization but it seems to be particularly devoid of high-OBP sluggers). Presently Castro walks a ghastly 2.1% of the time, though his 14.5% K% isn’t terrible, he is aggressive it’d seem but not reckless. His .276/.304/.482 slash line isn’t bad and his .359 wOBA and 119 wRC+ aren’t bad either, in 55 games he already has ten home runs off of Florida State league pitching.

The A’s can’t expect to get MLB ready talent back for Willingham. But does that necessarily matter? No. The move would provide some salary relief, but even if the A’s offered to cover part of Willingham’s salary in return for a better prospect, there isn’t much better than Castro. While Willingham may be a fit for the Phillies, if the A’s could find a better trade partner perhaps they could get more in return. That said, if Willingham is still in the Green and Gold come August 1st, I for one will be surprised.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. sc athletics fan permalink
    June 18, 2011 1:55 am

    Here’s an interesting read on the Athletics and their stadium woes:

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