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Rollins Era Officially Ends

Jimmy RollinsThe Jimmy Rollins era in Philadelphia has officially ended.

The Phillies announced this morning they have traded the greatest shortstop in franchise history and cash to the Dodgers for Minor League pitchers Zach Eflin and Tom Windle. The deal ends a 15-year run for Rollins from 2000-14 that included one World Series championship, two National League pennants, five NL East titles, one NL MVP, three NL All-Star appearances, four Gold Gloves, one Silver Slugger Award, memorable predictions and proclamations, a 38-game hitting streak and a franchise record 2,306 hits.

“Jimmy is both an iconic player and person whom I have had the great joy of watching grow up in this game and this city,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said in a statement. “His contributions to the franchise and to Philadelphia are unparalleled and I wish him the best in Los Angeles. This transaction is one that I believe benefits both Jimmy and the Phillies.”

“The Dodgers are very lucky to acquire a player like Jimmy,” Chase Utley said in a statement. “I’ve said it time and time again that Jimmy makes everyone around him better. The team will miss his leadership on the field and his infectious smile, but most of all, I will miss our pre-game handshake.”

Everybody knew last week Rollins’ time had come to an end as the Phillies rebuild for the future. The Phillies and Dodgers agreed to the deal at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, but the Dodgers first needed to acquire Eflin from the Padres. The Dodgers agreed to send Matt Kemp and $32 million to San Diego for Eflin and others, with the Dodgers flipping Eflin to the Phillies.

But the Padres had concerns this week about Kemp’s physical, which delayed the announcement.

That said, the Phillies-Dodgers trade was never in jeopardy. The Phillies wanted Eflin, but a source said the Phillies would have settled on another player if the Kemp trade fizzled.

Rollins waived his 10-and-5 rights to leave the Phillies, who have said publicly they do not expect to contend again until 2017 at the earliest.

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The Demolition Begins

Rollins Gets MRI, Status TBD WednesdayIt is just a matter of time, but Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins is going to be traded to the Dodgers.

The demolition has begun.

Rollins is regarded as the greatest shortstop in franchise history, and he has the longest tenure of any professional athlete in the city. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big league debut in 2000, won the 2007 National League MVP Award, helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series and set the franchise’s all-time hits record this season.

Rollins would be the first iconic player to fall in a potentially franchise-altering offseason. Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and others could be next in an extensive rebuilding project, although it is too early to tell. But multiple sources said Wednesday afternoon that the Phillies will trade Rollins to Los Angeles. The deal has not been finalized because a third team is involved in the trade, and money needs to be exchanged among them, which requires approval from the Commissioner’s Office.

“I know that there’s a lot of Jimmy Rollins stuff out there,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said in the team’s hotel suite at the Winter Meetings. “There’s nothing to announce, and as I’ve said before, we’re keeping our options open and our minds open on any way that we can improve our club long term.”

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Bastardo Traded to Pirates

Antonio BastardoThe Phillies announced their first official trade of the offseason this afternoon about an hour after reports surfaced Jimmy Rollins is headed to the Dodgers.

The Rollins trade is not official yet.

But left-hander Antonio Bastardo is headed to the Pirates for Minor League left-hander Joely Rodriguez. Bastardo, who will become a free agent following next season, became expendable with the emergence of young left-handers Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands.

Rodriguez, 23, had a relatively pedestrian Minor League career over six seasons in Pittsburgh, but he has come on lately. He made the Arizona Fall League’s top prospects team this year, going 3-0 with a 2.38 ERA in seven starts. He also is 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in three appearances (two starts) in Winter Ball in the Dominican Republic.

The Pirates had been considering Rodriguez as a candidate for next season’s rotation or bullpen.

“He’s kept coming on, and has shown his best velocity in Winter Ball,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday. “We’ll see if he can sustain it and continue to move forward.”

Rodriguez went 6-11 with a 4.84 ERA in 30 games (21 starts) this year with Double-A Altoona, so the Phillies must consider his recent surge encouraging.

“He wasn’t the same guy in Spring Training, then had some early challenges in Double-A, but then continued to get better and better,” Huntington said.

MLB.com already has moved Rodriguez to 19th on the Phillies’ Top 20 prospects list.

Bastardo went 5-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 67 appearances this season. He has a 3.72 ERA in 275 career appearances. Major League Baseball suspended him 50 games in 2013 for violations relating to its Biogenesis investigation.

Rollins Headed to LA

Phillies Player of the '00s: RollinsJimmy Rollins is looking to be the first piece to fall in the Phillies’ massive rebuilding project.

A source this afternoon said the Phillies are close to trading Rollins to the Los Angeles Dodgers, although the deal has not been finalized. The teams are still discussing parameters of the trade.

CSNPhilly.com first reported Rollins is headed to the Dodgers. FOXSports.com reported a third team could be involved in the deal.

Rollins is the longest tenured professional athlete in Philadelphia. The Phillies selected him in the second round of the 1996 First-Year Player Draft. He made his big-league debut in 2000, won the 2007 National League MVP Award and helped the Phillies win the 2008 World Series. He set the franchise hits record this season, passing Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt.

The other players involved in the deal are unknown, but one thing is known: Rollins has agreed to waive his 10-and-5 no-trade rights to join the Dodgers.

Rollins had said repeatedly he would not waive his no-trade rights, although the prospect of playing on a losing team almost certainly helped change his mind. The Dodgers have a legitimate chance to win a World Series, and Rollins is from Northern California. He always has enjoyed his trips back to the West Coast.

Lester Gone, Hamels Talks Heat Up

Cole HamelsPhillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. called Jon Lester the linchpin of the offseason.

Well, the pin has been pulled.

The Cubs and Lester have agreed to a six-year, $155 million contract, which means trade discussions regarding Cole Hamels are heating up. The Cubs, Red Sox and Dodgers had been most interested in Hamels, but with the Cubs out of the picture the attention turns to the Red Sox and Dodgers, who have the prospects and wherewithal to take the remaining four years and $96 million on Hamels’ deal.

(Hamels’ contract jumps to five years, $110 million if a 2019 club option automatically vests based on innings pitched.)

A source said the Giants also are taking a run at Hamels. They pursued Lester, but finished third in that sweepstakes.

Ryne Sandberg said yesterday the Phillies would have to be wowed to trade Hamels, which is true to an extent. They are not going to trade Hamels for a crop of mid-level prospects. They cannot make the same mistake they made in 2009, when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. The Phillies’ return for Hunter Pence, who they traded to San Francisco in 2012, also has been lackluster.

If the Phillies trade Hamels they have to hit big.

The Dodgers have a couple prospects the Phillies would love to have: infielder Corey Seager (No. 13 in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list) and outfielder Joc Pederson (No. 15). They might be able to pry away one. A source indicated the Dodgers and Phillies could put together a bigger package to improve the Phillies’ return, and that package could include Jimmy Rollins.

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A Restless Ryno

Ryne SandbergRyne Sandberg is restless.

He uttered the word “anxious” a few times this afternoon at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, where Major League Baseball is holding its Winter Meetings. He is entering his second full season as Phillies manager and the team is in the beginning stages of a massive rebuild.

He is waiting like everybody else to see who exactly will be in the Phillies’ clubhouse in Spring Training.

“The goal of the organization is to get younger,” Sandberg said. “That is what this winter is all about.”

But there is another reason to be anxious. Managers are frequent casualties in rebuilds. Sandberg is signed through 2016 with a club option for 2017, but Phillies interim president Pat Gillick said the Phillies are unlikely to contend until 2017 at the earliest.

“Well, you know, he said probably might not contend,” Sandberg said.

But is he concerned he will be allowed to see the rebuild to completion?

“Well, I’d say after last year that this is the necessary thing to do is to get young and get more athletic,” he said, evading the question. “I think that helps in defense. That helps in scoring runs. It also starts to form a new core group. So with that being necessary and being a part of that, I’m excited about that possibility of seeing that started.”

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Lee Is Throwing, Doing Well

Cliff LeeThe Phillies would have two aces to trade this offseason, if Cliff Lee had a healthy left elbow.

But after finishing the season on the disabled list with a strained left flexor pronator, there is no chance Lee is traded until July. Ruben Amaro Jr. said today Lee has begun his throwing program and it is going well, which would be good news. The Phillies would like to trade Lee at some point, but it will be difficult. Lee is owed a guaranteed $37.5 million, which includes a $25 million salary in 2015, plus a $12.5 million buyout on a $27.5 million club option for 2016. The option automatically vests if Lee pitches 200 innings in 2015 and does not finish the season on the disabled list with a left elbow or shoulder injury.

“He’s got no issues,” Amaro said. “He’s in his normal program now. I think he probably won’t get on the mound until January.”

Amaro said Lee will be ready to go come Spring Training in February.

“That’s what we think,” he said. “Talked to (head athletic trainer) Scott Sheridan this morning about it and he’s on a normal schedule now. Of course unless he has some sort setback.”

Phillies: No Decision Yet on Montgomery

Pat Gillick, left, along with David Montgomery, right, survey Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2005 in Philadelphia. Gillick just replaced Ed Wade, who was fired after failing to get the team into the playoffs during eight years on the job. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

The Phillies issued a statement this evening that said no decision has been made yet on David Montgomery’s future with the Phillies.

It followed a report this morning from 94 WIP that said Montgomery has been informed he will not return as president. Montgomery took a medical leave of absence in August following jaw bone cancer surgery in May. Pat Gillick took Montgomery’s place as interim president. Gillick is running the baseball side of the organization, while senior vice president of administration and operations Mike Stiles is running the business side.

The statement read, “Of foremost concern to this organization is David Montgomery’s full recovery from his surgery this past spring. There has been no determination made regarding his future status. Phillies ownership will continue to confer with David about their collective vision for the future.”

Back in October, the Phillies immediately and unequivocally denied a report that Montgomery had been pushed from his role as president in August. Multiple sources reached Wednesday said little about the latest report.

Montgomery told MLB.com last month that his health had improved. He said he expected to return as president.

But Montgomery also acknowledged the decision is not up to him.

“It’s not entirely my call,” he said.

Phillies Still Favorites for Tomas or Not?

yasmany tomasSome folks in baseball still consider the Phillies to be the favorites to sign Cuban outfielder Yasmany Tomas.

But are they?

Update: MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez reports the Padres and Braves are emerging as frontrunners for Tomas.

The Phillies have seen Tomas multiple times over the past several weeks and sources said they believe he could be a productive power hitter in the big leagues, which is something they desperately need. But they also said some in the organization have continued concerns about Tomas’ conditioning and defense.

Tomas has been linked to a $100 million contract, but sources said the Phillies will not approach a nine-figure deal. One source told MLB.com’s Paul Hagen today the Phillies have cooled on Tomas as a result.

That said, if the asking price drops in the coming weeks the Phillies could be in play.

It could happen. While the Giants, Padres, Royals and Braves are some of the teams mentioned as potential destinations for Tomas, he does not have the offer he seeks. CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, who reported Atlanta’s interest in Tomas, said Tomas will attend next month’s Winter Meetings in San Diego.

That indicates nothing is imminent.

The Red Sox signed fellow Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo to a seven-year, $75 million contract this summer. Sources said the Phillies never seriously pursued Castillo because they liked Tomas more. But it is unclear if how much further north they would go above $75 million, if at all.

For comparison’s sake, the White Sox signed Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal, the Dodgers signed Yasiel Puig to a seven-year, $42 million deal and the A’s signed Yoenis Cespedes to a four-year, $36 million deal.

Each of those players has been a tremendous value.

Tomas’ agent Jay Alou said at last week’s GM Meetings that Tomas has “a lot more power” than Abreu, who hit 36 home runs this season on his way to the American League Rookie of the Year Award.

The Phillies need power like that. They also need to get younger. Tomas just turned 24 this month. It seems like a great fit for many reasons, including the fact the Phillies have nobody close to fitting Tomas’ description in their farm system (i.e. young power hitter close to big-league ready).

But Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. sounded frustrated when asked at the GM Meetings about signing a Cuban free agent like Tomas.

“Just because one guy did well signed from one country doesn’t necessarily mean the next guy is going to do well,” he said. “It doesn’t mean the guys before or after that are going to do well. It’s all individual. We’ll try to scout the players and try to project them in a way that you feel necessary and go from there. It’s like saying, ‘This Dominican player played real well one time so we’ve got to sign Dominican players.’ It’s ridiculous.”

Ryan Howard’s Sad Family Story

Howard Is BackCharlie Manuel has plenty of opinions on hitting a baseball, and one of them centered on the psyche of the hitter.

It is a difficult game to play, he often said, but it can become more difficult if the mind is not clear. Manuel reminded people that a divorce, a breakup, an argument, a sick family member or other family issue can affect a hitter at the plate.

Manuel’s words came back today following FOX29’s initial report and The Philadelphia Daily News’ detailed report about Ryan Howard’s twin brother Corey suing him for $2.8 million, Howard’s father requesting $10 million as severance from the “family” business and Howard countersuing because he thought his family conspired to defraud him.

It is hard to imagine Howard had a clear mind at the plate the past couple seasons because of it.

Howard and his family settled out of court last month, but if everything alleged in the court documents are true his family bond has been severely if not completely destroyed. And that has to kill him.

It is sad, if true. Howard’s parents were major forces in his life. They were always around the ballpark, either in Spring Training or during the regular season. (I had not seen them over the past couple years, which makes sense now.) They were very open about how close they were. But those stories from the past look much different today. Howard jettisoned his first agents before the 2005 season for Larry Reynolds. There were rumblings at the time the family was not happy with how the Phillies were handling Howard, who was blocked at first base by Jim Thome. They thought a different agent could force the Phillies into action, even though their logic was completely flawed. Still, Reynolds faxed a trade request to former general manager Ed Wade in April 2005, despite Howard having played in just 19 big-league games at the time. “It is duly noted,” Wade said. (more…)

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