LAKEWOOD, NJ- It was no surprise when the Phillies announced a trade on Sunday, but the players that we dealt weren't ones that fans were expecting to hear.
In a swap that saw two of Class A Lakewood's six starting pitchers leaving the organization, the Phils acquired the number 1 overall international signing slot for the 2015-16 signing period in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The deal helped the Phils gain a load of funds for future international signings.
Coming to the Phillies is Arizona's top slot, a budget of $3,590,400 for the 2015-16 international signing period. Going to the Diamondbacks are right-hander Chris Oliver and lefty Josh Taylor as well as the team's number 9 overall signing slot ($1,352,100).
The deal would allow the Phillies to ink 16-year-old Dominican slugger Jhailyn Ortiz and avoid any penalties that would prohibit the club from signing other international players for more than $300,000 until for the next two years, according to Phillies.com's Todd Zolecki. Teams that exceed their designated pool by 15 percent or more are not allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 during the next two signing periods.
The Phillies have been long rumored to be interested in acquiring prospects the old fashioned way, by trading proven starts like Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon. It's certainly possible those individuals could be parting ways with the team soon enough as well.
According to Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan, the teams had been working on the deal for some time, with Arizona notifying the Phillies of what it would take to make the deal in recent days.
"I've had the names for a day or two and we've been kind of going back and forth as far as just how we felt about it," Jordan said in an exclusive interview with Phillies Nation at Lakewood's FirstEnergy Park on Sunday. "I mean, we did pick up a sizable amount of money and it's, listen, it's unfortunate. Just from the standpoint of our relationships with the two guys that are no longer part of our organization. We were invested in them, their development and so that part of it you hate to see that happen. But, for us, we felt it was the right thing for us to do this year and this next year as well. We lost two assets, but we picked up some flexibility."
Oliver (pictured), a 21-year-old who was the Phils' 4th round draft selection last year out of Arkansas, sported a 4-5 record along with a 4.05 ERA and a .295 batting average against through 13 starts for the BlueClaws this season.
Taylor, 22, was signed as an undrafted free agent last summer. In 13 starts for Lakewood, the six-foot-five 225-pounder posted a 4-5 record along with a 4.61 ERA and a .265 batting average against.
For anyone looking at these two prospects and thinking that perhaps they weren't worth all that money, Jordan had some comments with that in mind.
"I think being a part of this type of situation in the past, you never know how people evaluate players. All 30 organizations view things differently. That's what makes it a great business and a challenge when you're talking about evaluating players. So, apparently, they felt differently, you know? And you've got both players from last year's draft class, if you will, and so Oliver was a fourth round pick and they might have liked him as an amateur. And Josh Taylor is a six-four left-hander that if you catch him on the right day, there's some things to like and you know they, like every other team, have scouts in the seats, watching professional baseball every night they valued them and sensed that they felt like that's what they wanted and that's the beauty of our business. We don't see it the same way," Jordan asserted about the trade.
Lakewood pitching coach and former big league reliever Aaron Fultz seemed surprised by the swap but feels the Diamondbacks had acquired a pair of talented young hurlers.
"I think they both have a lot of potential. You know, they're getting some quality arms. They're still a little ways away from a finished product for sure, but they've got a legitimate chance to help them," Fultz shared.
In regards to how the BlueClaws will fill the voids in their six-man starting rotation, Jordan was not prepared to announce that news prior to Sunday night's game against the Hagerstown Suns, but he did state that one of the starting spots would be filled by a BlueClaws pitcher that had previously pitched in relief. Another addition is expected in the coming days. Jordan asserted that pitcher had previously played for Lakewood.
Speculation stemming from that comment suggested 21-year-old Venezueland right-hander Alejandro Arteaga, who is 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA thought three starts with short-season Class A Williamsport.