Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’

Will May Be Any Better?

Cliff Lee, Carlos RuizThe Phillies turned the calendar to May yesterday, but found the same uninspired play as they showed most of April.

The Indians beat them last night, 6-0, to outscore them 20-2 in the two-game series. The Phillies spoke of the Indians, who are fifth in baseball in scoring (5.04 runs per game) and third in OPS (.799), like they were the ’27 Yankees. Hot. Unstoppable. They hit seven homers Tuesday, but scattered seven infield hits to help them win last night. They took advantage of their opportunities, while most Phillies fans felt like they could turn the channel after the fourth inning both nights because they knew the Phillies weren’t going to make a game of it.

Those feelings weren’t misplaced.

“We have to have a little more pride than that and figure out a way to at least get back into games and make it somewhat competitive,” Cliff Lee said. “Both games, it was never close.”

Phillies fans are frustrated, and understandably so. These games have been tough to watch. The Phillies are 26th in scoring (3.57 runs per game) and 26th in OPS (.679). This is not what the Phillies said would happen with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard healthy. But they have been no magic cure because other players need to hit, too. Phillies outfielders have a .601 OPS, which is the worst mark in baseball. They have grounded into 25 double plays. That ranks only ninth in baseball, but they rank fifth in GIDP percentage (14.2 percent). They are 5-13 in games started by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Lee.

The good news? It is early, technically. We’ve seen the Phillies play poorly at the beginning of the season in the past. It might be tough, but give them another couple months. If they’re playing like this in late June, it likely means they will be way behind in the standings. And if that is the case, I suspect Ruben Amaro Jr. will hold another fire sale. And if you thought last year’s was big with Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton, this one could (re: should) dwarf that. I mean, why hold onto a bunch of players with value or entering the final years of their contracts. That means Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Michael Young, Carlos Ruiz, Delmon Young, Halladay, Lee, Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams could be trade candidates. In the meantime, there simply is little to be done other than hope they finally start playing well.

The Phillies will have a chance to get healthy with a four-game series against the Marlins beginning tonight at Citizens Bank Park. Anything less than three wins is a disappointment. The Marlins (8-20) are a terrible team, regardless of the fact that “any team wearing big-league uniforms has a chance to win,” as the cliche goes. The Phillies are at home, playing against a very, very bad team without their only star player, slugger Giancarlo Stanton. They should roll.

If they show a little more pride maybe they will.

Amaro: Lee Rumors False

Cliff LeeA report earlier today in Nashville had the Phillies talking about a trade that would send Cliff Lee to Arizona for Justin Upton.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. dumped on it in his daily meeting with reporters.

“That would be incorrect and false,” he said. “I don’t know where that would come from, but as you all well know, there are a lot of falsehoods out there and that is absolutely one of them.”

Lee On A Roll

From Elias: Cliff Lee has pitched at least six innings and not issued more than one walk in each of his last 14 starts, including Monday, when he walked one batter in eight innings against the Mets. That ties Lee for the longest single-season streak of that kind in modern (since 1900) major-league history. Christy Mathewson (1908) and Greg Maddux (1997) also made 14 straight starts in which they went six or more innings and didn’t walk more than one batter.

Blanton Traded, Lee Claimed

Joe Blanton is gone.

Cliff Lee isn’t going anywhere.

The Phillies placed Blanton on waivers this week, and the Dodgers promptly claimed him. The Phillies had the option of pulling him back from waivers, but instead they shipped him to Los Angeles for a player to be named or cash. The Dodgers will pay the remaining $2.9 million in Blanton’s salary, and the Phillies can get a player back if they want.

CBS’ Jon Heyman reported a team claimed Lee, but Ruben Amaro Jr. told reporters today Lee isn’t going anywhere.

That’s not a surprise. Unless the Phillies got knocked out with an offer, the Phillies weren’t going to trade him.

Blanton’s departure leaves five players from the 2008 World Series roster: Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley. While working on the The Rotation last year, I asked Blanton how often he gets asked about his home run in Game 4 of the 2008 World Series:

“It gets mentioned a lot. I get a lot of really cool comments. People remember where they were when I hit it, that kind of thing. I get a lot of that: I was sitting in this section. I was at home on my couch. I was at this bar when I was watching the game. People remember where they were when I hit it and they bring it up, which I think is unbelievable. To remember that … that’s pretty awesome.  I get asked about it, but I get more of the I was here stuff: That’s one of my favorite Phillies memories, or that was one my favorite moment of the postseason.”

Watch Blanton’s highlights from Game 4 and his thoughts after Game 5 after the jump …

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Lee’s on Waivers! Uh, So What?

Yahoo! Sports reported today the Phillies placed Cliff Lee on waivers.

Folks, this is not a big deal. Not even a little bit. It wouldn’t surprise me if Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins are placed on waivers this month. Certainly Joe Blanton, Juan Pierre, Ty Wigginton and Placido Polanco will be. Now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, players need to clear waivers before they can be traded before Aug. 31.

This is a procedural move designed to give the Phillies flexibility before the end of the month.

Yes, if Lee clears waivers the Phillies can trade him. And I would expect Lee to clear waivers because he is owed $87.5 million beginning next season. Very few teams can absorb that contract. That is the biggest reason why the Phillies had no luck trading him last month. He is owed a ton of money.

But keep in mind waivers are revocable. If Lee is claimed — the claiming team must be prepared to take on his entire contract, making it a tremendous risk to put in a claim – the Phillies can let him go to the team that claimed him. But they also can pull him back or attempt to work out a trade with the claiming team.

If the Phillies pull him back he can no longer be traded until the offseason.

So don’t freak out. Lee hasn’t been released. (I’ve had people ask me if he’s been waived.) He hasn’t been traded. It doesn’t mean he’s going to be traded. It just means the Phillies are trying to give themselves as many options as possible before Aug. 31. You never know. Maybe the Rangers come back to the Phillies this month with an offer they simply can’t refuse.

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Here’s a look at some of the craziness for the Phillies in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline.

Hamels, Lee, Rollins, Pence and More …

It sounds crazy, but today could be Cole Hamels‘ last start at Citizens Bank Park in a Phillies uniform.

I don’t think it will be, though.

If the Phillies are willing to offer Hamels six years, which they are, then they are likely willing to offer him the money he wants (or at least get very close to it). And if the Phillies make that effort and Hamels still says no, well, then he made their decision to trade him easy. If he says yes, then they have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Hamels together through next season, and that’s not a bad thing.

A few thoughts on this:

  • If Hamels signs, what’s the plan? The Phillies could have more than $150 million committed to just 11 players for 2013: Lee ($25 million), Halladay ($20 million), Ryan Howard ($20 million), Chase Utley ($15 million), Jonathan Papelbon ($13 million), Jimmy Rollins ($11 million), Carlos Ruiz ($5 million), Kyle Kendrick ($4.5 million) and Laynce Nix ($1.35 million) are already signed. I’m not sure how Hamels’ deal will be structured, but let’s go with a projected AAV (average annual value) of $24 million per season. Hunter Pence, who is salary arbitration eligible for the final time, could earn around $14 million. That’s a ton of money for just 11 players. The luxury tax threshhold next season is $178 million. If the Phillies are willing to go well over the luxury tax (i.e. more than just a couple million or so) there’s no problem. But if they’re not then they have about $28 million to spend on the rest of the roster. Did we mention the holes on the roster next season could include center field, third base, left field (unless Domonic Brown becomes the guy) and a couple reliable bullpen pieces? Try adequately filling those holes (and completing the rest of the roster) for about $28 million.
  • That’s why you’re hearing names like Lee, Rollins and Pence mentioned in trade speculation. It’s the only thing that makes sense: the Phillies are considering clearing salary. But I’m not sure how moving any of those players makes them better next season, unless they would get a ridiculous score of prospects in return. Can’t you see a situation next July — assuming the Phillies are contenders — where they are looking to fill a hole they created by trading Lee, Rollins or Pence? I can. They’ve already done it. They traded Lee in Dec. 2009 and found themselves needing a starting pitcher in July 2010, thus shipping prospects to Houston for Roy Oswalt. Would they let history repeat itself?
  • I don’t trade Pence, unless I’m totally blown away with an offer. Why? Forget for a second his slow start with runners in scoring position. He’s still on pace for 29 home runs and 98 RBIs. If you trade Pence, who is going to be your right-handed power bat? Chooch? Carlos Ruiz is having a fantastic season, but he’s a 33-year-old catcher and he’s never hit like this before. It would be a tremendous leap of faith to enter 2013 believing he can do this again, and be the team’s primary power bat from the right side. The Phillies lost Jayson Werth following the 2010 season and bet on Ben Francisco. Francisco wasn’t up to the task, so the Phillies sent a bunch of prospects to Houston for Pence. Would they let history repeat itself?
  • If the Phillies trade Rollins it means they are going with Freddy Galvis at shortstop. OK, he’s brilliant defensively and he’s cheap. But they better have a good backup plan for Utley. They can’t enter 2013 saying, “We like our infield because we’ll finally have Utley and Howard healthy the entire year,” after Utley missed the first couple months each of the previous two seasons. If they don’t have a good backup plan they could be going with Galvis and Michael Martinez (or a Mike Fontenot comparable). And that just won’t work. Plus, consider for a second Rollins’ .729 OPS is seventh among 23 qualifying shortstops in baseball. Yes, he leads the big leagues in infield pop ups, but consider the alternatives.
  • The Phillies are 41-53 and 11 games behind the NL Wild Card leaders with eight teams ahead of them in the standings. Even if they sign Hamels to an extension, does it make any sense not to sell? I don’t think so, unless they go 7-1 or 8-0 before the deadline. Get what you can for what else you’ve got (other players still available to trade include Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton, Placido Polanco, Juan Pierre, etc.). You won’t get the haul you’ll get for Hamels, but you could get something that might help next season.

Deep Thoughts …

Hola, amigos.

I’ve been laying low a few days, recharging the batteries and getting back to neutral after a long first half. But I’m back and it’s a gorgeous afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Things are good. Well, things are good except for the Phillies. They are 39-51, 14 games behind the Nationals and 11 games behind the Wild Card leaders — even after taking 2 of 3 from the Rockies this weekend.

I know a lot has been written about the next couple weeks, but I thought I’d offer my take.

In no particular order:

  • The Phillies will make their best offer to Cole Hamels soon. I expect him to reject it, unless he is absolutely blown away. What does that mean? Well, the Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a five-year, $120 million contract in Dec. 2010. If the Phillies offer Hamels five years, $125 million or five years, $130 million with some sort of sixth-year option or whatever, I don’t think that’s going to blow him away. I just don’t. Now, a seven year, $175 million offer might get the job done, but I’m not sure the Phillies will go that far. Hamels has said everything right over the past couple weeks. He says he wants to stay in Philadelphia. He says he trusts the organization will do everything it can to be competitive next season and beyond. But he also says this is one of the only times in his life he can discover his true value. Hamels is two or three months away from free agency. Really, why sign now?
  • If Hamels doesn’t sign I think the Phillies must trade him. I have read a lot of stories about how the new salary arbitration rules could hurt the Phillies’ chances of getting a big haul for him because a team won’t receive compensatory draft picks if he leaves after the season. I don’t believe that. Let’s look at the Rangers, for example. If the Rangers believe they are one piece away from winning a World Series, are they really going to hold up a deal because they don’t want to trade Double-A third baseman Mike Olt? He might be one of the best prospects in baseball, but at the moment he is just a prospect. Big teams have to roll the dice and take a shot. You play to win the World Series. The Phillies rolled the dice the past few seasons. They came up short, but at least they took a shot. Of course a team like the Pirates won’t give the Phillies what they want because they have no shot at signing Hamels following the season and they’re more than one piece away from winning the World Series. But a team like the Rangers or Angels? If push comes to shove I think somebody will put together an attractive package for Hamels.
  • The Phillies will take a PR hit for trading Hamels, but they shouldn’t let that influence their decision making. Bad PR today will be forgotten if they make a great trade and the Phillies make the playoffs next season. In the end, winning is the only thing that matters. Players come and go, no matter how much they are beloved. (I must say I think it’s a little funny how fans that criticized Hamels for being “soft” will be outraged if he is traded.) Feelings fade. Winning solves everything.
  • Better make a good trade, though. A repeat of the Lee trade to Seattle would be disastrous. DISASTROUS. They have to hit and hit big.
  • Are the Phillies definitely sellers? The Braves and Pirates lead the Wild Car race and are on pace for 90 wins. The Phillies would need to finish 51-21 (.708) to win 90 games. Impossible? No. Highly unlikely? Absolutely. At some point you have to look at things realistically. Sure, the Phillies might get hot, but even if they get hot and play .667 baseball the rest of the way they finish 87-75, which still would be short of the postseason. And then you’ll feel like a real sap if Hamels and others walk after the season.
  • Asking prices for Shane Victorino, Placido Polanco and others remain high as they should. Those prices could drop, but I don’t think the Phillies will give away those guys, either. That wouldn’t make sense for a few reasons: First, if a team only wants to give up a couple marginal prospects for Victorino, you might as well keep him, let him walk after the season and collect the draft picks. Second, they’re not compelled to trade them. They’re not in a salary dump situation. Third, the Phillies have nobody to play those positions the remainder of the season. I’m not sure the Phillies want to trade guys like Victorino and Polanco for nothing and have John Mayberry Jr. roaming center field and Ty Wigginton and Mike Fontenot manning third base.

That’s all for now.

Agree? Disagree?

Lee Wins; Amaro and Hamels Meet

Who’s the big winner?

Cliff Lee! Cliff wins!

Lee downplayed his first win of the season this afternoon, but it was a big deal. So big Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels dumped Gatorade over Lee’s head to celebrate.

Read the story here.

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Hamels and Ruben Amaro Jr. met privately after Tuesday’s game. Amaro and Hamels kept quiet about it, but I’d bet my life Hamels’ potential contract extension and the trade speculation surrounding him came up.

Amaro Discuses Hamels Speculation

If Phillies fans think speculation about Cole Hamels is hot today, just wait a couple weeks.

Ruben Amaro Jr. said today the Phillies remain optimistic they can sign Hamels to a contract extension, despite indications the parties are not close to an agreement. He also downplayed multiple reports the Phillies are calling teams to gauge interest in Hamels, in the event they decide to make a move as the teams falls further and further from contention in the National League.

The Phillies are 36-45, their worst record through 81 games since 1997.

“It’s a matter of having good players, including Cole and others, who are outstanding All-Star caliber players,” Amaro said about the reports involving Hamels. “And teams who are contenders have an interest in them. That’s how it works. It’s a product of the time and circumstance.”

Hamels will command a monster deal if he hits the free agent market. Certainly he should get more than the five-year, $120 million contract Cliff Lee signed with the Phillies in Dec. 2010, considering his talents and age.

Hamels is just 28.

“I’ve never had any indication at all, to be frank with you, that the goals haven’t remained the same on both sides,” Amaro said. “One, a club that wants to continue to have the player. Two, the player that — I believe – has given no indication that he wants to leave.”

Asked Saturday in Miami if the Phillies’ losing ways could impact his decision in the offseason, Hamels said, “I’m not even thinking about that. I’m trying to not lose. Like today. I’ve got a game in five days, so that’s all my focus.”

The front office could take that answer one of two ways: Hamels did not answer the question because he simply does not want to talk about his contract situation, or Hamels did not answer the question because he did not want to give an honest answer.

Amaro would not comment on where negotiations stand with Hamels, although ESPN.com reported the Phillies will make one more push to sign him before they seriously consider trading him.

“I have no indication at all that anything is too late for anything,” Amaro said. “We stay optimistic that we’re going to keep him in our uniform. And that’s the bottom line. Whether we can do it or not, I don’t know, but we stay optimistic that we will.”

But if the Phillies continue to lose, they will have to start thinking about retooling for next season. Hamels could get quite a haul. Trades involving Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and others also could change the dynamic and chemistry of the clubhouse.

“Those are things that we may have to think about down the road,” Amaro said. “But they’re not what we’re actively trying to do now.

“Our goal will always be the same: it is to be a contender this year and beyond and to keep Cole Hamels in our uniform as long as he possibly can after 2012. I think our best chance to continue to be a contender is with him and not without him. We don’t comment on all this stuff, but the one thing I can say about it is this is a product of the time of year, the fact we’re not playing well and that we have very, very good players people will speculate and ask about.”

Everybody is taking heat for the Phillies’ losing ways, including Charlie Manuel. Amaro said about Manuel: “He has done a fantastic job. We haven’t played well.”

What’s Wrong, Cliff?

Nobody seems to know what’s wrong with Cliff Lee.

Actually, they do know. They’re just not saying.

Consider this:

  • He has allowed five or more earned runs in three consecutive starts, carrying an 8.64 ERA in that span.
  • He has a 5.68 ERA in his last eight starts, blowing two three-run leads, one two-run lead and one one-run lead.
  • He has a 5.87 ERA in six starts since Roy Halladay threw his last pitch for the Phillies on May 27.
  • He is 0-5 with a 4.13 ERA for the season.
  • The Phillies are 3-10 when he starts.

Is Lee healthy?

“Physically, I feel fine,” he said.

Is he tipping pitches?

“I don’t know,” he said.

Are the winless record and recent struggles getting to him, affecting him mentally on the mound and in between starts?

“No,” he said.

This is just my opinion, but I think Lee’s problems are more mental than mechanical. I think he’s frustrated and I think those frustrations have carried onto the mound. I tried asking Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee about Lee’s struggles today, but Dubee wasn’t about to offer any insight about his $120 million ace.

“I’m not going there,” he said.

Why not?

“He doesn’t need anything in the paper.”

Are you concerned?

“Yeah, I want to see him pitch better. Yeah.”

Do you think it’s easily fixable?

“I’m not going into it.”

But it is fixable?

“Does he have talent still? Yeah? Well.”

Could it just be a bad stretch?

“I’m not going into it.”

Do you think his frustrations are affecting him mentally?

“I’m not going into it.”

If it were an easily fixable mechanical problem, I suspect Dubee would have just said, “We saw something. We’re working on it.” But if it’s more of a mental issue, he might not want that being discussed publicly. Maybe that’s why he didn’t say anything this afternoon.

Then again, sometimes Dubee just isn’t in the mood to talk.

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