Results tagged ‘ Cliff Lee ’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Actually, they do know. They’re just not saying.
- 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.
“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.
The Phillies are 34-40, nine games behind the Nationals (11 behind in the loss column) and 5 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot (check my math on that). Fans are angry with some of Charlie Manuel‘s moves in yesterday’s losses. Should he have tried to squeeze an extra inning from Cole Hamels on a hot day, despite throwing 111 pitches? Should he have used somebody in the eighth inning other than Antonio Bastardo, who had thrown 29 pitches a day earlier? Should he have pinch-hit Juan Pierre for Michael Martinez in the eighth inning?
They’re all valid questions, but let’s be honest here.
The blame for this team’s failures can be spread everywhere.
Let’s look back to the offseason.
The Phillies signed Jonathan Papelbon to a $50 million contract in November, but did nothing other than sign Chad Qualls in late January to help the bullpen. They essentially bet on Jose Contreras, 41, coming back from elbow surgery and pitching effectively for an entire season and Qualls pitching effectively, despite the fact he had a 5.05 ERA away from PETCO Park last year. It’s not hindsight to say people questioned whether or not the Phillies bullpen would be good enough. Those questions were asked throughout the offseason and Spring Training. But I didn’t have a problem with Manuel using Bastardo in the eighth inning in Game 1 yesterday. Bastardo had thrown 29 or more pitches in an appearance just four times in his career and he had never pitched the next day until yesterday. But so what? Is there a huge difference between 20 pitches and 29 pitches? Are nine pitches the difference between throwing strikes and not throwing strikes? Get real. No, the real problem is this: If Manuel doesn’t use Bastardo, he uses Qualls. And if Qualls blows the lead, everybody is killing Manuel because he used Qualls and stayed away from Bastardo “because he threw 29 pitches the day before.” Manuel is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t because he has a bad bullpen. The Phillies bullpen has a 4.48 ERA, which ranks 25th in baseball. It’s pick your poison.
The Phillies have not seen their rotation pitch this poorly in a long time.
In 24 games since May 18, Phillies starters are 6-12 with a 5.70 ERA (91 earned runs in 143 2/3 innings). In 15 games since May 27, when Roy Halladay pitched his final game for the Phillies before landing on the disabled list with a strained right latissimus dorsi, Phillies starters are 4-7 with a 5.97 ERA (59 earned runs in 89 innings).
“It’s a whole gamut of things,” Phillies pitching coach Rich Dubee said.
Much of it is mental.
“One starter thinks I’ve got to be the guy tonight,” Dubee said. “And then when that doesn’t happen the next guy says, oh, geez, I’ve got to really be good. It’s been a mishmash of all kinds of stuff. Focus. We get distracted easily. Do we press? Yeah, absolutely.”
The lack of focus comes from frustration; things that happen on the field out of their control. That could be a booted ball in the infield. A broken bat hit that scores a run. It could be a dropped fly ball in the outfield or an errant throw. Maybe it is a really good pitch down in the dirt that a hitters golfs out of the park or off the wall. It could be the offense failing to score runs for them again.
“There’s a whole combination of stuff out there,” Dubee said.
Offense has not been a problem for the Phillies lately. They are fifth in the National League in scoring since May 18, averaging 4.67 runs per game, and third in scoring since Halladay’s last start for the Phillies, averaging 5.13 runs per game.
But the errors and a lack of run support over a long period of time can wear on even the most steely-minded pitcher. Even Halladay seemed to be worn down from those issues before he got hurt.
But what can Phillies pitchers do?
“Stay in your own house,” Dubee said. “Control what you can control. Execute pitches. Don’t get caught up on a broken bat hit or a play not being made or runs not being scored. You don’t have any control over that as a pitcher. You don’t have control winning games. Cliff (Lee) hasn’t had any luck or control in winning a game. All you can do is execute pitches and grind and grind and grind.”
Roy Halladay left today’s start in St. Louis after the second inning with what the Phillies call “shoulder soreness.” They said he left for precautionary reasons, but the fact Halladay feels anything in his shoulder is not encouraging. He told reporters in St. Louis he started to feel something in the back of his shoulder in his last start last week against Washington, but Rich Dubee said the issue has been lingering a bit longer than that. Of course, it is possible Halladay has been feeling something since spring training. Everybody remembers Ken Rosenthal‘s report from a couple scouts that Halladay lacked velocity and sharpness. Halladay denied any talk he might be injured, although he did not deny he lacked the velocity he had in the past.
“Yeah, I’m 34 and 2,500 innings, it does take a while to get going,” he said in March. “I don’t pay attention to that. The older you get, the more you throw, the longer it takes you to get yourself going. When I came up I threw 98. Last year I was throwing 92-93. It’s not unusual. When you get older it takes you longer. The more innings you throw the more it takes to get yourself going again.”
Halladay was 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in five starts in May, easing those concerns. But the discussion about his drop in velocity continued. Pitch f/x figures are not always accurate (they weren’t with Halladay early this season), but looking at those pitch f/x numbers anyway, Halladay’s sinker averaged 93.29 mph in 2010, 92.71 mph in 2011 and 91.6 mph this season. His cutter averaged 92.03 mph in 2012, 91.47 mph in 2011 and 89.58 mph this season. Dubee dismissed concerns about Halladay’s velocity, saying last month in San Francisco, “He’s got four pitches. He throws to both sides of the plate at any time. And overall he doesn’t use the meat of the plate. That’s what pitching is about. It isn’t about velocity. Velocity allows you one thing. It might allow you to get away with some mistakes. But straight velocity without location, and velocity without an option of being able to go soft or go backwards as far as pure speed, those guys get waffled.”
But another indication Halladay hasn’t been right is the fact he has thrown fewer two-seam fastballs. During his starts in 2010, 33 percent of his pitches were sinkers. In 2011 it dropped to 20 percent and this season it dropped to 16 percent. If pitchers don’t feel good about their fastball they often resort to their offspeed pitches, which could be the case here. (I recall Brett Myers relying a lot on his cutter a few years ago when he lost velocity on his fastball.)
Halladay blew a six-run lead in Atlanta on May 2, and looked bad again last week against Washington when he allowed five runs in six innings. He is 1-3 with a 6.11 ERA in six starts this month. Opponents are hitting .312 against him. Asked after his start against the Nationals if he was healthy, Halladay offered a don’t-be-ridiculous smile and said, “Yeah. Yeah.”
It turns out, wasn’t.
He will get reevaluated Tuesday. I would be shocked if he made his next start, although they could skip a turn with an off day Thursday. But I would be more surprised if Halladay did not end up on the DL. He’s a $20 million pitcher and means too much to the organization to risk throwing him back out there too soon. If it really is nothing serious like Halladay believes — he said it’s different than the shoulder problem that put him on the DL twice in 2004 — there’s no harm in shutting him down for a couple weeks and making sure the shoulder gets as healthy as possible.
But serious or not, this injury certainly has several potential implications:
- The Rotation. If Halladay misses any amount of time, Kyle Kendrick will remain in the rotation. (He has a 1.64 ERA in his last five starts.) If Vance Worley can get back in a reasonable amount of time, the rotation will include Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Worley and Kendrick. That’s not bad. But if Worley (right elbow inflammation) isn’t ready soon, the Phillies will have to look to Triple-A Lehigh Valley for a short-term replacement. Options include Dave Bush (4-3, 2.73 ERA in 9 starts), Tyler Cloyd (4-1, 2.15 ERA in six starts) and Scott Elarton (5-1, 2.98 ERA in nine starts).
- Roy Oswalt. The Phillies watched Oswalt throw a bullpen session a couple weeks ago. It has been written Oswalt prefers to stay close to home in Mississippi, but don’t read too much into that. There were similar reports before he accepted a trade to the Phillies in 2010. If Halladay’s injury is serious and he misses a significant amount of time, Oswalt would make a lot of sense if the Phillies were willing to meet his asking price. The Phillies are still trying to stay below the $178 million luxury tax threshold, but Oswalt would put them over the top.
- Cole Hamels. If Hamels is intent on taking the biggest offer on the open market this winter, the Phillies could make the argument they would be better served spending that money elsewhere (offense!) because they are the rare team with two other aces already in the rotation (Halladay and Lee). But if the news Tuesday is bad, the Phillies might not feel so comfortable about their pitching moving forward. Maybe it increases their urgency to sign Hamels.
Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here! Here are our upcoming book signings:
- June 2: Citizens Bank Park, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
- June 16: Barnes & Noble, Wilmington, Del, 2 p.m.
He threw a lengthy bullpen session this morning at Nationals Park, and pronounced himself fit and ready to return to the Phillies rotation on Wednesday. He has been on the disabled list since April 19 with a strained left oblique.
“Everything is normal,” Lee said.
If he continues to feel OK – and there is no reason to think he will not – he will face the New York Mets on Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park. Kyle Kendrick, who had been starting in Lee’s place, will return to the bullpen.
Lee is 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts.
Jim Salisbury and I co-authored the book The Rotation, which is now available. Check it out here! Here are our upcoming book signings:
- May 10: Tredyfrrin Public Library in Stafford, PA, 7:30 p.m.
- June 2: Citizens Bank Park, 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.