Phillies rebuild not off to a smashing start

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Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was burnt the first time he ever had to sell, giving Cliff Lee away to the Mariners for three modest prospects, none of whom have made any sort of contribution so far, after the 2009 season. Take two isn’t looking like a big success either, as he doesn’t appear to have gotten any potential stars in return for two-thirds of his outfield in Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino today.

Pence was sent to the Giants for catcher Tommy Joseph, outfielder Nate Schierholtz and right-hander Seth Rosin, a return that pales in comparison to the package of first baseman Jonathan Singleton, right-hander Jarred Cosart, outfielder Domingo Santana and right-hander Josh Zied that they gave up to get him from Houston a year ago.

Joseph, who is hitting .260/.313/.391 as a 20-year-old in Double-A this year (he turned 21 two weeks ago), is a fine prospect with a chance to be a perfectly solid starting catcher come 2014. That’s good timing for the Phillies, since Carlos Ruiz will be a free agent after 2013. However, Ruiz is a fan favorite having an outstanding year, and even though he’ll be 35 in 2014, there’s a good chance the Phillies will want to keep him around. Plus, while Joseph is the better bet, the Phillies already had a pretty good Double-A catching prospect in Sebastian Valle. Certainly, having an extra catcher is a good thing, but Joseph lacks All-Star potential and wasn’t the ideal centerpiece here.

The Phillies know what they’re getting in Schierholtz, a 28-year-old who has hit .270/.319/.412 in 1,209 major league at-bats. Because he’s a very good defensive right fielder, he’s a reasonable option as a platoon starter against right-handers. But he’s a complementary player, and guys like him aren’t hard to come by in free agency. The Phillies will probably pay him close to $2 million in arbitration next year.

Rosin, a 2010 fourth-round pick, didn’t rank among the Giants’ better prospects. He had a 4.31 ERA in five starts and 29 relief appearances for Single-A San Jose this season.

Victorino was traded to the Dodgers for right-handers Josh Lindblom and Ethan Martin. I like Lindblom despite his weak peripherals, but as a flyball pitcher, he’s not a great fit in Citizens Bank Park. I still think he’ll prove to be a fine setup man in front of Jonathan Papelbon. The 25-year-old has a 3.02 ERA in 47 2/3 innings out of the pen for the Dodgers this year. Because he’s given up nine homers, he has a FIP of 5.05.

Martin, a 2008 first-round pick, is a long shot, though the 23-year-old has managed to bring his walk rate down to a reasonable level while going 8-6 with a 3.58 ERA and a 112/61 K/BB in 118 IP for Double-A Chattanooga this year. Odds are that he’ll be a reliever if he does make it.

In a vacuum, that’s still a pretty good return for two months of Victorino. Still, it’s only so much better than the supplemental first-round pick than they would have gotten had he left in free agency this winter. The haul for Pence wasn’t impressive, and it’s clear that his likely $14 million salary in arbitration next year scared off some suitors. That’s not Amaro’s fault; he just gave up too much to get Pence in the first place.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.

Colby Rasmus could start 2017 on the disabled list

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Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.

Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.

The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.