Fire Sale Looming

Chase UtleyOn the train to DC this morning I crunched some numbers and came up with a few thoughts about the Phillies, who seem to be headed nowhere fast following a 4-7 homestand, which included their first no-hit loss since 1978 and four losses in five games to the Mets.

The Phillies are 9-17 since they were 15-14 on May 4. It’s the worst record in the National League in that span.

They are 24-31 overall. They were 26-29 at this point last year, when they were on their way to 89 losses.

I’m typically one to preach patience during a 162-game season because it is difficult to draw concrete conclusions about a team a little more than two months into it. I often remind people about the deficits the 2007 and 2008 Phillies overcame to win the National League East: seven down with 17 to play in 2007 and 3 ½ back with 16 to play in 2008. But those teams did at least one thing very, very well. Those teams had the best offense in the National League. They hit the cover off the ball. They also had a very good bullpen down the stretch in 2007 and a great one throughout 2008. They also played good defense.

But the 2014 Phillies don’t do anything well. You can’t say, “This team has fantastic starting pitching, so if they can just add a bullpen arm and get Domonic Brown going they should be OK.”

There are holes everywhere.

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Brown is hitting .206 with six doubles, one triple, four home runs, 27 RBIs, 15 walks, 36 strikeouts and a .557 OPS through the team’s first 55 games. It reminds me of Pat Burrell’s 2003 season. Burrell’s struggles were a huge story that year. Fans wanted him sent to Triple-A, like Brown. I got emails from people asking about Burrell’s eyesight or other ailments that might be affecting him at the plate. But through 55 games in 2003, Burrell was hitting .204 with 13 doubles, one triple, 10 home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 walks, 64 strikeouts and a .751 OPS. Amazing. Burrell’s OPS was nearly 200 points higher than Brown’s is today.

What is even more amazing? Burrell’s .751 OPS would be fifth among Phillies everyday players this year. Only Chase Utley (.895), Marlon Byrd (.807), Carlos Ruiz (.791) and Cody Asche (.771) are higher.

Could Brown be sent to the minors? I doubt it. If this team is headed toward a fire sale, you might want to play Brown, hope he gets hot and make him a trade candidate along with others.

*
Why isn’t Ken Giles in the big leagues? I understood why the Phillies didn’t promote him four, five, six, seven, eight weeks into the season, but I thought he was getting close. But after this homestand I’m not sure what the rush is.

Why bring him into this environment? It isn’t like he is a savior. It’s not like this team is one arm away from dominance. You might as well keep him in Triple-A, continue to develop him at a good pace and bring him up when he is better prepared. He has eight strikeouts and seven walks in 12 2/3 innings in Triple-A, compared to 29 strikeouts and five walks in 15 innings in Double-A. Things haven’t been as easy for him in Triple-A. Not that he isn’t a better option than some of what is currently in the Phillies’ bullpen, but you don’t want to bring him up before he is ready, have him get screwed up mentally and lose him down the road. He is too important.

*

I wonder what Utley would say if the Phillies came to him in July with a trade proposal?

But even if that scenario happens – Ruben Amaro Jr. said recently they have zero interest in trading Utley and he reiterated that this morning on 94 WIP calling it a “moot point” — the other issue is the Phillies’ ability to identify talent in trades.

Can the Phillies’ talent evaluators get quality in return for Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Mike Adams, Byrd, Antonio Bastardo, etc.? The Phillies have traded Lee, Hunter Pence, Shane Victorino, Jim Thome, Michael Young and Joe Blanton in recent years for a group that includes Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies, J.C. Ramirez, Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin, Josh Lindblom, Ethan Martin, Stefan Jarrin, Ryan O’Sullivan, Rob Rasmussen, Kyle Simon and Gabriel Lino. Some of those players weren’t going to net blue-chip prospects (Thome, Blanton and Young) and Joseph and Martin could still develop into something. But the Phillies haven’t hit in numerous trades, free agent signings and other personnel evaluations in recent years, including the draft. Would you feel comfortable having the Phillies trade an iconic player like Utley or Jimmy Rollins knowing the recent track record? If Utley and Rollins play for a few more years with the success they are having this year they could be Hall of Fame candidates.

“We have quality scouts. We have good people working for us. I’ve got great advisors,” Amaro said on WIP. “We believe in the decisions that we’ll have to make. Right now, it’s not translating on the field and all of us are part of this. We’re in it when we’re not doing well and we’re all together when we’re having success. But I believe in our staff. I believe in the front office of our organization. If we have to make those decisions we’ll be very prepared.”

The Phillies have less than two months before the July 31 trade deadline. That should be enough time to get ready, barring a dramatic and unforeseen turnaround.

33 Comments

God, I hope this will be the season that finally does Ruben in.

He already fired a manager and numerous coaches. If this isnt his last season there is no hope for this organization.

Groupthink. No wonder the Phillies can’t think their way out of a paper bag. Amaro is totally blind to the weaknesses in the system, including himself. A major shakeup of the entire player evaluation system is what is really needed but that would mean many long-timers losing their jobs. There is no hope as long as Amaro is GM.

They have to fire Amaro before he makes another decision. No trades, no call-ups…nothing until Amaro goes…

There are holes everywhere, including the front office.

Unfortunately, that’s the biggest hole.

“We have quality scouts. We have good people working for us. I’ve got great advisors,” Amaro said on WIP. “ Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. No Rube, your scouts are the worst in baseball, your advisors are incompetent. You Rube are clueless and your boss Montgomery even more so for letting you continue. We will not contend again for at least 6 years or so while we suffer bad contracts and have a farm sysytem that lacks major league talent. Owners, enjoy the upcoming attendance drop over the next few years, you certainly won’t see my shadow cross the turnstile at CBP until you get your heads out of your orefice and reshape this whole front office.

I am pissed that Rube is still here for the Draft! That is a nmber 7 pick that is going to amount to anything. And I REALLY don’t want Ruin doing the fire sale – that would amount to a total giveaway for nothing in return.

There is NOTHING good in the minor leagues – who ever heard of a 12 and 45 club in A ball? So there is NO hope for this club for the next five years at least.

I have bought my last ticket while Montgomery and Amaro are in charge.

I agree with the not going … but my sins want to go see J Roll get the hit record if he didn’t have it by then. So I may be going to one game.

Ruin Tomorrow Junior. Guess what? Tomorrow has arrived and it has been Ruined.

I thought we were done with prolonged incompetence when the bank opened. We have all the money we need to contend — or we should — but here we are, back to mid-90s baseball. This time, they can’t point to the Vet and blame lack of revenue streams as the reason why. Amaro SUCKED as a player and he’s even worse as a GM.

Historical games by the players are an exception. And if there are impending Utley trade rumors, I might go just to see him play his last game as a Philly.

you say “2013 Phillies” in copy — but it is 2014 =)

The only deal that Ruben did that was competent was saying no to Scott Boras and Ryan Madsen and instead picking up Papelbon. I’d guess Papelbon has about 60 more saves than Ryan since that decision.
And he can’t be expected to hit. Since 2010, Howard, Utley & Rollins have all statistically slid. I’m proud they never juiced but they are not young players anymore. Hard to blame Ruben on that. And Halladay losing it suddenly; not Ruben’s fault.

But I’ll say one thing that had me lose complete faith in Ruben’s ability: He signed Chad Qualles. I couldn’t believe it then and I still can’t believe it now. Everyone, I mean Everyone in Philadelphia knew he was going to suck (still) and guess what?

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Since there is no talent in their farm system, they need to shed their old stars and get some talent in their organization, also fire JR.

I believe that Ruben should be gone before he makes any decisions that are going to affect the next GM. Why give more excuses for the next person? They’ll have more than enough work to do to fix things without adding more problems at the trade deadline. Also, if they plan on firing Ruben, they should look back to Dallas Green’s history when he traded half the team to the Cubs and then went to WORK for the Cubs. Don’t let Ruben help another organization and then maybe go work for them. I had them down for 73 wins this year in March when I saw what Ruben put together. Not sure why some people are shocked.

Too late to can Amaro before the draft, isn’t it? A new team would be scrambling to make decisions.

Would Rollins accept a trade, even with now having set the team hits record? He, Chooch and Utley, possibly Byrd are the only trade pieces of value right now; Lee’s delay on his rehab has of course dinged his value.

Brown’s pretty bad if he’s below the Pete Kozma line, which I detail here: http://socraticgadfly.blogspot.com/2014/04/can-billy-hamilton-break-pete-kozma-line.html He’d have to start hitting like a Puig between now and the trade deadline to be worth anything.

You hope that another team sees something in one of your players that they think they can fix, like Brown. But trading Brown doesn’t really free up much money anyway. They have to decide which 5 or 6 players they want to keep and trade th erest for anything.For the money they are getting paid and their age you have to figure who your “keepers/can live with” players are and go from there. If they were to trade Utley, which I think they won’t, they have to wonder if Asche can play second opening up third for Franco in 2015. If Rollins is gone too, d othey have another SS to fill in until Quinn or Crawford are ready, or if they are even the answer. If this is a 75 win team with a top 5 payroll, I’d be fine with a 70 win team and a top 20 payroll.

Fire sale?? Bullshit !! Fire the manager!!

The Major Leagues are not a place to learn the game. Players and Managers alike. So in my estimation Sandberg’s decision making has been amateur at best, plus he just ain’t “Philly”

Dan westen

Thome did net a pretty good prospect (Gio Gonzalez)…it’s just that we sent him back to Chicago the next year for good ol’ Freddy Garcia.

Yep Thome was good, but in the words of Larry Bowa, “why did you sign Thome when you have a guy (Ryan Howard) hitting 40+ homers in the minors”….out goes Bowa. Maybe that is why Amaro hates Ruf? He didn’t want to hear, why did you give Howard 100+ million if you have a guy like Ruf hitting 40+ homers in the minors. No, I am not comparing Ruf to Howard.

When is Reuben going to stop blowing smoke up everyones ass. He is a horrbible GM and Ryne Sandberg is a horrible manager.He will never be anything but a minor league coach. I don’t know why the Phillies felt they owed him this position.

Right now Ruben and staff are in intensive meetings to blow this year’s draft.

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The new Mgr came down from Lehigh and brought his minor league team with him and the are not Major League players.Ruf is the only one who did not play for him.and the original five that was already on the team..

It’s always much easier to criticize than do the job yourself. Amaro is an employee – a high profile employee but an employee all the same. He takes his marching orders from the owners. Right now they have basically ordered him to fall on his sword on behalf of the entire organization. Given the limits he is forced to work within it seems doubtful that any GM would be doing any better.

The game is cyclical, we all know that. The Phillies’ slide really began midway through the 2009 season but was concealed by the outstanding pitching the team was getting. As soon as the pitching aged the rot underneath became obvious. But again, the game is cyclical and decline was not just inevitable but helped along by MLB’s draft setup. The price to be paid for sustained success at the major league level is a sustained series of mediocre to poor draft positions year after year.

The wisest and best course – and the one the team is probably following – is to rebuild from the bottom up. Yeah it might take 5 – or even 10 – years, but when done the team that takes the field in 2019 or 2024 will be built to contend for a decade rather than a season. Once the organization gets close again then the front office can spend some of that pile of cash they just got on augmenting the team.

I think it’s easy to criticize because some of us write down 5 or 6 names when the season ends of players the Phillies should go after as free agents and when those free agents go elsewhere for the same money that the Phillies sign an inferior free agent you think maybe you could do a job better. When experts say what a bad signing it was by putting all that money into one relief pitcher (Papelbon) when you needed 2 or 3 relievers makes you wonder. He has made some signings that I’m ok with but there are many good players he missed out on. Going crazy on MAG when not too many other teams were after him. Offering 48 million, only to lessen that figure when you realize he was hurt. He still hasn’t thrown a major league pitch, and 9 minor league innings to date. You could have used that 12 million somewhere else. Ultimately, it might be a good gamble but almost giving him 48 million is too close for a major league team to get. As far as spending some of that pile of cash, with a 180 million dollar payroll, the third highest in the majors, they are spending that money now on players who will be retired by 2019. And with dwindling attendance, I don’t see that money being replenished by ticket sales, only Comcast money.

Oh yes, we are indeed pretty much screwed for free agent signing for three or four years – which makes drafting well even more important. Unfortunately, Amaro’s drafts have been as bad as his free agent work.

Get the person(s) making decision at Oakland A’s. Pay them double or triple what they’re getting – it’ll save money – then watch them turn the Phils around.

yes, we need Billy Beane.

i say Beane because Phillies need to learn to get on base. It’s not just about trying to hit a home run, take a walk. Ben Revere should know how to lead off on 3rd. Not that it would matter if they don’t know how to bring them home. Still we need money ball method at least.

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