a few weeks ago SB Nation added a phillies blog called The Good Phight -- excellent site, multiple writers, all insightful. i got in touch with one of them, Bakestar, to get a phillycentric perspective on a billy-wagner-to-cards deal. my questions, his answers:
what needs are the phillies trying to address in the trade market?
Good question. We don't know. So much about the immediate and long-term future of this franchise hangs on the next couple weeks' worth of games. If they do reasonably well, chances are management is going to keep the team together and try to make a move for a starting pitcher, probably using Ryan Howard as the centerpiece for any deal. GM Ed Wade's job is on the line, so if they're even close to being in the wild card or division race, it's a good bet Wade's going to go "all in" to win now, and try to save his job.
Now, if they're out of it, I firmly expect Wagner to be dealt, along with Lofton and possibly Urbina and any other moveable veteran player. The Phils have short- to medium-range needs at SP, catcher, third base, and centerfield. And as has been Wade's M.O., I also expect him to become infatuated with a "name" relief pitcher out there somewhere, and to make a move for him.
stl would prefer not to part with either of its top AAA pitching prospects, adam wainwright and anthony reyes. do you think wade would consider jason marquis --- signed for $3mill in 2005, arbitration eligible next year ---- an attractive enough option to get wagner, or would sweeteners be necess'ry?
This looks like an Ed Wade Special. Not that Marquis is a bad pitcher; he's nice, but not great. Wade is loathe to unload big league players for prospects (thanks for Bud Smith; that worked out well). He overpays for just-above-replacement-level performance. Marquis' K/9 and K/BB numbers are pretty grim this year. However, Marquis has a G/F ratio of 1.49, which is decent but much lower than his 2.17 last season, which put him second in the league behind only Brandon Webb. We're becoming adjusted to the fact that groundball pitchers are probably going to fare better at the new ballpark.
If someone else is making the personnel decisions for this team before the end of the month (i.e., if Wade is outright fired or is an impotent lame-duck GM), I don't know if a Wagner-for-Marquis deal would happen. A new administration might be looking for more high-ceiling guys in return, rather than a virtual inning-eater like Marquis.
what other teams are rumored to be pursuing wagner, and what are they supposedly offering?
Lots of huffing and puffing so far. Rumors of talks with Boston, thanks to their Foulke Implosion (bad one, I know). Shoppach and/or Youkilis are names I hear a lot, but that's probably a pipe dream. If Wagner becomes available, I fully expect the Yankees to get involved, possibly offering Duncan. Also heard some White Sox rumors too.
One question for you: with the Cards already featuring a quality closer in Isringhausen, do you see the Cardinals committing their resources in this direction? Is the bullpen the perceived "weakness" on this team, the flaw that needs to be corrected to get over the hump? Do you think that, in light of this, the Cards, who don't need a "closer" as much as a team like Boston, are likely to offer as attractive a package in exchange for Wagner?
and this was my answer: i think the cards' interest in wagner is twofold. first, they need a lefthander --- ray king hasn't been very good this year, and their 2d lefty is a journeyman named randy flores; he's pitched well but you wouldn't want him on the mound for a key at-bat in a short series. second, is'hausen is a little shaky --- much more so than his era and save/opp would indicate. his peripheral numbers are frankly unimpressive --- 1.333 whip, 16 walks in 30 innings, a 26-16 k-to-walk ratio --- and he has an injury history, been on the dl once already this year. so wagner would provide some insurance in case izzy gets hurt or starts blowing saves. i don't think the cards have a long-term interest in wagner. i think they just see him as a short-term reinforcement. in a perfect world, is'hausen stops putting so many men on base, wagner becomes a shutdown setup man, and the cards control the endgame. given that other teams are (as you note) more desperate for true-blue closers, maybe the cards can't match their offers. but jocketty's good; he'll at least comes up w a competitive package.