Results tagged ‘ trade deadline ’

Plenty of ‘Ifs’ Ahead for Phillies

Jimmy RollinsNow what?

The Phillies could have traded just about anybody from their 25-man roster before yesterday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, but they kept everybody. Michael Young, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Carlos Ruiz, Delmon Young … they’re all still here. Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday they didn’t get “anything that was satisfactory. Nothing we thought was going to improve us. So we decided not to do anything.” Amaro said he did not want to give away his players for nothing in return, so he kept them. (CBSSports.com reported the Phillies weren’t interested in shipping Young and Ruiz to the Yankees.) The Phillies can still trade these players before the Aug. 31 waiver trade deadline, so maybe sometime between now and then they will get something more satisfactory in return. Remember, they made a waiver trade with Joe Blanton last year. They also acquired Jamie Moyer, Matt Stairs, Jeff Conine, Jose Hernandez, etc., on waiver trades in the past.

Maybe the Phillies will deal somebody after all.

But at this very moment it looks like the Phillies will be carrying the same mantra into 2014 as they carried into 2013.

If, if, if, if, if, if, if

If Ryan Howard is healthy and produces like a $125 million cleanup hitter …  if Utley’s knees can stay healthy another year … if Jimmy Rollins can bounce back from the lowest OPS of his career … if Cody Asche is the answer at third base … if Darin Ruf can hit big-league pitching on an everyday basis … if Ben Revere can repeat his success the last couple months before he got hurt … if Domonic Brown can replicate his first full season in the big leagues … if they can find somebody to replace Ruiz (I can’t see the Phillies bringing him back) … if Papelbon’s declining velocity is no big deal … if they can rebuild the bullpen … if Miguel Gonazlez really is a middle-of-the-rotation starter … if they can build a better bench and improve their depth at Triple-A (they should be able to find somebody somewhere better than Michael Martinez if they can’t develop a player better than him) … if those things happen then the Phillies have a chance at competing for a spot in the postseason.

It is a sobering thought.

Basically, the team goes into 2014 feeling pretty good about its starting rotation with Cole Hamels, Lee, Kyle Kendrick, Gonzalez and maybe Roy Halladay, depending on how he pitches later this season and his desire to remain in Philadelphia. Everything else is a crap shoot.

“My job is to put ourselves in a position to have a lot less holes,” said Amaro, when asked about the ifs with this team. “We have a lot of time to do that. Our job is to be a contender every year. That is what my job is — to make sure the Philadelphia Phillies are contending for a championship every year. We’re not contending right now. We aren’t completely out of it, but we aren’t in the position I’d like us to be in, clearly. I have to think about 2014, and when I think about 2014, I don’t think about coming in second or third or fourth place. I think about trying to win our division and trying to put us in a position to do that. Whether we can do that with younger players or older players or experienced players, that remains to be seen. That’s part of our job, to design the club so that we can be a better club and contending club.”

How Amaro plans to accomplish is a mystery.

Quiet Deadline for Phillies?

Michael YoungThe Phillies have spoiled fans with plenty of action at the trade deadline in recent years, one way or another.

Let’s look back, shall we?

  • 2006: Traded Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, Rheal Cormier, David Bell and Sal Fasano and DFA’d Ryan Franklin in a fire sale.
  • 2007: Acquired Kyle Lohse and Tadahito Iguchi.
  • 2008: Acquired Joe Blanton.
  • 2009: Acquired Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco and signed Pedro Martinez.
  • 2010: Acquired Roy Oswalt.
  • 2011: Acquired Hunter Pence.
  • 2012: Traded Shane Victorino and Pence.

This might be the quietest deadline since 2005, when the Phillies got Ugueth Urbina in June. I say that because last night the Red Sox acquired Jake Peavy from the White Sox, which means Lee isn’t going to Boston or anywhere else. So I believe at this point it’s Michael Young or nobody. The Phillies are not going to trade Lee just to trade him. Why do that? They don’t need to shed payroll, and they’ve already been burned once on a Lee deal. Teams aren’t beating down doors for Jonathan Papelbon, Jimmy Rollins, Carlos Ruiz or Delmon Young either, so they probably aren’t going anywhere. Ruben Amaro Jr. has said Chase Utley isn’t leaving as they’ve discussed a contract extension, so that’s basically it. It’s Michael Young or nobody, unless something crazy happens in the next few hours.

The Clock Is Ticking …

Cliff LeeThe speculation and rumors are at a full boil.

Depending on the time of day, Cliff Lee either is not going to be traded because the Phillies’ asking price is way too high — we’ve heard everything from three to four legitimate prospects to first, second and third born children — to there is a good chance he will be traded. Here’s what I know: the Phillies are willing to trade Lee. They are listening to offers for Lee. But they still plan to try to win next season and beyond — thus the $48 million to Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez and the expected contract extension with Chase Utley — so they’re not pressured to trade him. They’re not the Marlins or Pirates or another small-market team. They don’t have to shed payroll. Lee’s contract isn’t an issue (although it is an issue for other teams), and for all of those reasons I would say the chances the Phillies trade Lee are less likely than trading him.

Now, please keep in mind these things can change by the hour, minute, text message or phone call. The Phillies thought they had no chance to acquire Hunter Pence before the 2011 trade deadline, but eventually got the deal done. The same could happen for Lee, but I think the Phillies aren’t as motivated to move Lee as they were to acquire Pence.

The most likely Phillies player to be traded is Michael Young for obvious reasons. He has value as a veteran corner infielder that can also DH and he isn’t expected back next season. But don’t expect much in return for a two-month rental.

The rest? Utley is not going to be traded. (See above.) Jonathan Papelbon‘s trade value isn’t terribly high at the moment and not because of his strong comments Sunday to MLB.com. It’s because of his performance and contract. His velocity has dipped and his five blown saves are tied for third in baseball. Carlos Ruiz could be moved, but don’t expect much in return. His .581 OPS would be the worst among big-league catchers, if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.

Trading Jimmy Rollins is moot. He said Sunday he would not waive his trade rights. I suppose the Phillies could move Delmon Young, but they would get less for him than they would get for Michael Young. CSNPhilly.com reported the only three players the Phillies will not trade are Utley, Cole Hamels and Domonic Brown. No surprises there. The Phillies expect Hamels to bounce back and a team starved for young talent would be crazy to trade Brown at this point.

If There’s A Bottom, This Has To Be It

Jake DiekmanThe Phillies didn’t need to say much in the visitors clubhouse following today’s 12-4 loss to the Tigers.

A few just offered a look.

It’s that look when the eyes open wide for a split second like, “Wow, can you believe that just happened?”

It did. The Phillies went 1-8 on the road against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers. Their eight-game losing streak is their longest since an eight-game skid in Sept. 2011. It is their worst road trip of nine or more games since July 28-Aug. 6, 1995, when they went 1-8 against the Cubs, Braves and Reds.

“I’ve seen a lot, but I haven’t seen that,” said Jimmy Rollins, who has been with the team since 2000. “That was embarrassing. … If there’s a bottom, this has to be it. I can’t imagine things getting worse than they have this past week, culminating the way they did today.”

Rollins also offered his reasons for optimism. Read the above link for that. But Jonathan Papelbon isn’t nearly as cheery. He spoke a couple times yesterday, expressing his frustrations about the losing and the organization. He said if things don’t improve changes need to be made from top to bottom. I asked if Papelbon wants to be traded. He said no, he wants to remain in Philadelphia. But then he said if things continue this way, he doesn’t want to stick around. He said who would? You wonder what is going to happen there. I think both parties would welcome a trade, but it’s easier said than done. There doesn’t appear to be much of a market for Papelbon, and that could become a problem if the team keeps losing.

Michael Young said he hasn’t heard anything yet about a potential trade. And even though Rollins hasn’t been rumored to be traded, he said he would reject any proposals for now.

It was an interesting trip at the very least. It is hard to imagine the Phillies buying in any true capacity before Wednesday’s 4 p.m. deadline (i.e. giving up a top prospect to fill a void in the bullpen or outfield). It wouldn’t make much sense. But I’m just not sure who they can trade to retool for the future. I’m not sure how much value Young has. It sounds like Chase Utley isn’t going anywhere. And while the Phillies would trade Cliff Lee, I wonder what they can get in return. They already traded him once and didn’t get much back.

Papelbon mentioned the Red Sox from 2011. Theo Epstein and Terry Francona both left the organization following a 7-20 finish. They also ditched players like Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Papelbon. The Red Sox struggled last season, but they are now first in the American League East with the second-best record in baseball. Ruben Amaro Jr. has his work cut out for him, but if he can make the right moves the Phillies could bounce back relatively quickly. But that’s easier said than done, and the last couple years nothing has been easy.

Can Phillies Make A Run? Can They Keep Utley and Doc?

Chase Utley, Roy HalladayThe Phillies are 48-48 at the All-Star break, 6 1/2 games behind the Braves in the NL East and 5 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second Wild Card.

They finished the half on a 9-4 run, although if you watched their just completed three-game series against the White Sox, you know this team is far from perfect.

“I think we made a statement that if we are going to be a contender and we’re going to win our division or a wild card, we still need some help,” Charlie Manuel said.

But this should be a fascinating second half for numerous reasons. First, the Phillies have a .610 winning percentage post-break with Manuel at the helm. That is the second-best record in baseball from 2005-12. They had a .587 winning percentage after the break last season, even after trading Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Joe Blanton. If the Phillies play the same this year they would finish 86-76. The Reds are on pace to win 90 games, so the Phillies need to pick up the pace in the second half.

But the Phillies play the Marlins, Mets, Padres and Cubs 25 more times, or 38.9 percent of their remaining games. Those teams have four of the five-worst records in the league. They also play the Braves and Nationals 22 more times, or 33.3 percent of their remaining games. So 47 of their remaining 66 games (71.2 percent) are against four of the worst teams in the league and the two teams they’re chasing to win the division. Since the Braves started 12-1, they are just 42-40. The Phillies are 42-40 in that same stretch, while the Nationals are 40-41.

The Phillies can’t say they won’t have a chance.

Second, what will the next couple weeks hold? Will the Phillies find a centerfielder to replace Ben Revere? Will they get some desperately needed bullpen help? I know everybody is saying the Phillies are buyers today, but if they stumble coming out of the break that could change quickly. The Phillies have a three-game series this weekend against the Mets at Citi Field, but then travel to St. Louis and Detroit. That isn’t an easy road trip, so the Phillies will need to play well.

Third, there will be plenty of evaluating going on in the second half. The Phillies will evaluate if they should buy or sell, and if they buy how much do they want to buy? But they also will be looking at their players on the field, deciding how they want to improve in 2014 and beyond. But players will be evaluating them, too. Chase Utley and Roy Halladay are free agents following the season. Ruben Amaro Jr. already has said he wants Utley to be a “Phillie for life.” If Halladay returns later this season and pitches well, you have to think the Phillies will try to bring him back. People always ask me about leaders in the Phillies clubhouse. Utley and Halladay are the two best. If they’re performing well you don’t want to lose them.

But Utley and Halladay also will have to decide if it’s best for them to stay. If they think the Phillies are moving in the wrong direction they might want to try to get a World Series ring elsewhere.

Utley talked about his future in Philadelphia. Read that story here.

Halladay also talked about his future in Philadelphia. Read that story here.

Amaro: Better Off Than ’12, We’re Buying Now

Ruben Amaro Jr.,Ruben Amaro Jr. said today if the July 31 Trade Deadline were tomorrow they would be buyers.

But the situation remains fluid.

“No one is running away with it,” Amaro said of the National League East and Wild Card races. “No one is invincible.”

The Phillies last season stood at 37-50 at the All-Star break, 10 games behind the Wild Card leaders and 14 games behind the Nationals in the division. They entered Thursday’s series finale against the Nationals 45-47, 6 ½ games behind the Wild Card leaders and 7 ½ games behind the Braves in the division. The All-Star break begins following Sunday’s game against the White Sox.

“I actually considered us less of a contender last year than we are now,” Amaro said. “Weren’t we 10, 11 games under .500 last year?”

Fourteen at one point, actually.

“I think if we were 14 we’d be doing the same thing we did last year,” he said.

(more…)

Buyer Beware

Cliff LeeRuben Amaro Jr. said yesterday afternoon the Phillies were leaning towards buying before the July 31 trade deadline.

Then they lost last night.

Feelings about this team seem to change by the hour (or pitch … just check Twitter). If the Phillies win tonight’s series finale and take 2 of 3 from the White Sox this weekend they will enter the All-Star break at .500. It would be tough to think about selling at that point. On the other hand, does it make sense to trade quality Minor League talent to acquire a reliever of two when the team has been so inconsistent much of the season?

That is what the Phillies are asking themselves: How good are we really? The Phillies have won 6 of 9 to get to improve to 45-47. They are 7 1/2 games behind the Braves and 6 1/2 games behind the Reds for the second NL Wild Card. Yesterday I blogged about some very encouraging offensive numbers. But I also mentioned some scary numbers about the pitching staff, including some wretched numbers about the bullpen. If the Phillies acquire a setup man for the stretch run at a significant price and the Phillies still fall short of the postseason they will have wasted an opportunity to improve for 2014 and beyond. In fact, they will have hurt their chances to compete in the future.

“I would assume things would go down to the wire, unless we reel off 10 out of 11 or we lose 10 out of 11,” Amaro said. “Then we’ll have a clearer picture. Right now, we’re just not sure. I would assume like most years, it would go down to the wire.”

So even if the Phillies finish the homestand 7-3 to enter the break .500, it doesn’t mean they’ll buy. They return from the break with a nine-game road trip against the Mets, Cardinals and Tigers. The Cardinals have the best record in baseball, while the Tigers lead the AL Central. It seems to me a good homestand can only buy the Phillies more time, while that road trip after the break is going to make the decision. In the meantime, the Phillies are going to get everything lined up so they’re prepared to buy or sell whenever the time comes.

But even if the Phillies buy it doesn’t make a ton of sense to sacrifice quality prospects for a short-term run with so many issues facing them in the offseason. It might be best to do what they can with what they’ve got, unless they can find somebody relatively inexpensive (i.e. J.C. Romero in 2007 or Scott Eyre in 2008).

Amaro: Next 10 Days Are Big

Ruben Amaro, Jr.Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. just spoke to reporters in the Phillies’ dugout. He got asked about the importance of this team’s upcoming 10-game homestand, including seven games against the Braves and Nationals. Here are a few highlights of that interview. Check phillies.com later for more.

Q: How do you view the importance of this series?
A: This homestand more than anything else is probably the bigger questions. Very important. We’ve got to play well to stay in contention, clearly. I think we’ll know a lot more about this team after this homestand.

Q: If you don’t have a good homestand could the makeup of the team be different shortly thereafter?
A: It could be. It could be. I hope we’re adding to this club than subtracting. That’s the goal, but as I always say and I’ve been saying the same thing, the players will dictate it.

Q: Safe to say you have to have a winning record on this homestand? Does 5-5 cut it?
A: We’ll have to see. Probably, but we’ll have to see. But that depends how we get to 5-5, you know?

Q: Overstatement to say this homestand is make or break?
A: I don’t know. I don’t like to speak in absolutes all that much, but it’s an important one no question about it.

Q: Frustrating to see this team struggle?
A: Yeah, they’ve been a little enigmatic. I think this team has been a little bit of an enigma. We’ll see. We’ll find out more after this homestand, I think. These next 10 days are big.

Q: Do you view anybody on this team as an untouchable?
A: Some guys are a lot less touchable than others. But we’ll keep our eyes open, our ears open.

Q: How tough would it be to trade Chase Utley, considering his influence in this clubhouse?
A: Really tough. Really tough. Again, I see him as a Phillie for life. I’m not the most stubborn human being on the planet.

Last Month for the Final Five?

Phillies Player of the '00s: RollinsChase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz are the only remaining players from the 2008 World Series championship roster, and this could be their final month together.

Click here to read what some of them said about it.

The Phillies are reluctant to trade Utley. I’m sure they would love him back next year. But you have to wonder if Utley, who will become a free agent after the season, will want to come back? Consider for a second if the Phillies trade Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon or both. Say they trade Ruiz, etc. Will Utley believe this team can win in the near future? That is something the Phillies will have to consider as they approach the trade deadline. On the other hand, the Phillies are much more willing to trade Rollins. (You have to wonder how his comments Sunday that he wasn’t disappointed at all with their 1-3 series against the Dodgers played in the clubhouse and front office.) But Rollins isn’t nearly as easy to trade as Utley. Utley is a free agent after the season. He still is very productive offensively, when healthy. Rollins’ productive has dropped this season, and he has $22 million remaining on his deal, if his 2015 option automatically vests based on plate appearances.

If either is traded, however, it will signal a clear and significant change within the organization and a considerable culture shift within the clubhouse.

Mediocre Play in NL East Gives Phillies Hope

Charlie Manuel, Ruben Amaro, Jr.Ruben Amaro Jr. said today he sees the Phillies taking their deadline decisions all the way to the July 31 Trade Deadline.

Thank some relatively mediocre play in the National League East for that.

“The only reason why I say that is because it’s still really dicey,” he said in the visitors’ dugout at Dodger Stadium. “No one has really stepped out and gone crazy. We’re only seven back. We had one streak where we’ve really played well and we’ve only had a fairly brief time where we’ve had our team on the field. We’ll find out. I honestly think it’s going to end up going to July 20 or 30 or somewhere around then when we’ll decide which direction we’re going to go.”

The Phillies continue a 10-game road trip tonight with their series opener against the Dodgers. The Dodgers have been playing better recently, winning five consecutive games. Following the Dodgers series, the Phillies play a three-game series in Pittsburgh. The Pirates entered the night tied with the Cardinals for the best record in baseball.

The Phillies finish their play before the All-Star break with a 10-game homestand against the Braves, Nationals and White Sox.

But since the Braves started the season 12-1, they are just 33-33. The Phillies are 32-33 in that same stretch, while the Nationals are 31-32.

“We all get spoiled,” Amaro said. “We think that winning is just going to happen. We seem to forget that people have to perform for teams to win. It doesn’t happen on paper. You can make predictions all you want. The fact of the matter is, people have to play and you have to be lucky. Some teams get unlucky and some teams don’t get performance.

“Look at Cole Hamels. I would like somebody to tell me he would be 2-11. It’s hard to imagine. Same thing with Cliff Lee last year. Baseball is an amazingly crazy game. I still think (Hamels) is one of the best lefthanders in the game. It just hasn’t happened for him this year, for whatever reason. Performance. Luck. Mojo. It’s just a crazy game. We’d be talking about how you’re going to improve this team to make this run. We’d be having totally different discussions if we had small tweaks in performance.”

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