Ron Costello

Sunday, January 10, 2016

To flip houses in Philadelphia you need a hot neighborhood (South Philly, the Passyunk corridor), buy a home for less than its market value, do a quick facelift but don't get carried away, then flip it — sell it —  to make yourself 35 grand. All done within a year.

The Phillies are doing the same thing only it's not with houses.

Last season they took a chance on Aaron Harang, gave him a one-year $5 million deal. They gave Jerome Williams, definitely a steal on the open market — for a team rebuilding — a contract extension for $2.5 million.

Chad Billingsley was an interesting investment.  Coming off Tommy John surgery, Billingsley could be had with a lowball offer. The Phillies signed him for a one year, $1.5 million deal.

In the real estate business, Billingsley was a fixer upper.

In all three cases — Harang, Williams and Billingsley — the Phillies were marking their time until the July 31 deadline, waiting to flip them — trade them for a mistake.

It should be noted that in the flipping business, you load the flipees' contracts with multiple incentives, hopefully pushing them to excel, thus increasing their flip value. This was true with all three: Billingsley, Harang, and Williams.

A mistake? Right, to a club with a shot at the wild card — out of 29 other major league teams in mid-July, that would be quite a few. Like a hungry dog looking at garbage scraps, one hungry dog might trade a low-level minor league prospect 2-3 years from the Show.

The mistake eventually makes the Show and drives in 114. That's a successful flip — the kind GMs and scouts get bonuses for.

Problem was that all three developed a not so rare disease — they got hammered. In the flipping business, that's sayonara! For a team rebuilding, no big loss. At season's end, you let them go and move on to new pitchers to flip.

But those flips — or as it turned out, nonflips, were from Junior's reign, so let's not go there. Okay, lets — like everything else, they were a bust.

Enter 2016 and Matt Klentak. The Phillies acquired right-handers Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton for their rotation. As an "observer," one can easily see flips here.

Hellickson is in a free agent year — in the flipping business that's a home run — signed for a  year at $4.275 million. The Phillies also acquired 32 year old right-hander Charlie Morton in a trade with the Pirates. With Morton comes his contract that pays him $8 million for this season with a club option $9.5 million buyout for 2017.

The trick here is this. Morton can become a free agent at seasons' end, another flipping good deal for the Phillies. Maybe, another home run.

In April the rotation appears to be Aaron Nola, Jerad Eichoff, Adam Morgan, Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson. Who knows were oft injured Matt Harrison, acquired via the shotgun wedding of the Cole Hamels trade, will end up. He could pitch his way into the lineup and be flipped, too.

What's hidden here is this: The team is a year or two away from having additional young arms join Nola, Eichoff and Morgan, so if Morton and Hellickson are flipped, no big deal.

Three minor league pitchers were picked up on lowball contracts, too: David Hernandez, 1 year, $3.9 million; plus Andrew Baily and Edward Mujica to minor league deals — all three flipping candidates.

2016 for the  Phillies is off to a flipping good start!

Look, here's the thing. In the housing market — you know, buy low sell high — it's not old heads like me flipping homes. I think you'd find 30-somethings involved, althought I could be wrong.

The Phillies' prodigy GM, Matt Klentak, the chief flipping architect of 2016, is 35.

I rest my case!

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