Heyward Trade, Martin Contract Could Affect Phillies

Cole Hamels, Carlos RuizTwo things happened yesterday that could affect the Phillies indirectly this offseason.

First, the Cardinals traded pitcher Shelby Miller and pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins to the Braves for outfielder Jason Heyward and setup man Jordan Walden. Second, the Blue Jays signed catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82 million contract.

Everybody in baseball knows the Phillies are willing to trade anybody on their roster as they plan a significant rebuilding process. That includes left-hander Cole Hamels and catcher Carlos Ruiz, two of the five remaining pieces from the 2008 World Series championship roster.

The Phillies will trade Hamels only if they receive what they consider a legitimate return. (They are not looking to shed payroll here.) The Cardinals-Braves trade gives a rough outline for what the Phillies could request for Hamels. He is significantly more accomplished than Miller, although he also is owed $96 million over the next four seasons. Still, he could be viewed as an attractive alternative to free-agent aces like Max Scherzer and Jon Lester. The $96 million Hamels is owed certainly will be less than Lester and Scherzer will receive as free agents, although the teams that sign them will not have to give up prospects to get them.

(The team that signs Scherzer will lose a draft pick. The team that signs Lester will not.)

But if the Cardinals can acquire an everyday outfielder – albeit one that becomes a free agent next winter – and a setup man, the Phillies theoretically should be able to acquire more. That is not to say the Phillies will be looking exclusively at big-league talent for Hamels, but they at least will be looking for a blue-chip prospect or two, not a handful of fringe prospects that need a little luck to pan out.

The Cliff Lee-Seattle trade is on the minds of Phillies’ front office officials as they talk to teams about Hamels.

They cannot make the same mistake twice.

Now that Martin is off the market, teams needing a catcher are looking at a remarkably thin free-agent market. Teams serious about upgrading at catcher might have to make a trade to fill that need.

Ruiz is an option, although Arizona’s Miguel Montero is the hottest name at the moment. Ruiz is owed $17.5 million over the next two seasons. He is known as a good game caller (Roy Halladay loved the guy) and has been one of the most well liked and highly respected players in the Phillies clubhouse for years.

Ruiz hit .252 with 25 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 31 RBIs, a .347 on-base percentage and a .717 OPS last season. Ruiz and Montero each have a career .763 OPS.

The knock against Ruiz, 35, is that he has trouble staying healthy. He has spent time on the disabled list each of the previous six seasons.

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