Results tagged ‘ winter meetings ’

Reports: Phillies Listening on Lee and Hamels

Cliff LeeInteresting start to the morning …

ESPN and CBSSports.com reported the Phillies have told teams they will listen to offers for Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now why in the world would the Phillies do that? Well, it is important to note that listening is different than trading. But if some team is willing to offer premium talent for Hamels or Lee — and take their entire salary to boot — it would be foolish not to listen.

It would be foolish, however, to trade one of them for a package that does not address numerous and immediate needs. After all, what was the purpose of extending Chase Utley, signing Marlon Byrd and resigning Carlos Ruiz if the Phillies are not trying to win the next couple seasons?

The Phillies better than anybody know the risks of trading a top starting pitcher for young talent. They traded Lee to the Mariners in Dec. 2009 for Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies and J.C. Ramirez. They also have acquired Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt for prospects that included Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Jason Knapp, Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud, Michael Taylor, J.A. Happ, Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose.

Have any of those players come back to haunt the Phillies yet?

How certain can the Phillies be that the players they would get in return for Hamels or Lee would make a difference?

(Here are other examples of teams trading top starting pitching and getting very little in return.)

It also must be noted there are obstacles involved in any potential Hamels and Lee talks. First, both have limited no-trade clauses. Second, they are owed a ton of money. Hamels is owed $118.5 million over the next five years, which includes $22.5 million in salary each of the next five seasons, plus a $6 million buyout for a vesting option in 2019. Lee is owed $62.5 million over the next three years, which includes $25 million in salary each of the next two seasons, plus $12.5 million buyout for a vesting option for 2016.

If the Phillies trade either of them the other team must take their salary, which limits potential partners. The Phillies last ate money in a trade in 2005, when they shipped Jim Thome to the White Sox.

There are reasons it makes sense for the Phillies to listen. They have holes everywhere. They need to get younger. They could use the payroll relief. But there are plenty of reasons it won’t happen, too.

A Quiet Winter for the Phillies?

amaro in the stands.jpg

If everything is happening like it seems to be happening, the Phillies’ offseason checklist looks like this:

  1. Improve the bullpen.
  2. Resign Jayson Werth (or find his replacement).
  3. Find a replacement on the bench for Greg Dobbs.
  4. Acquire starting pitching depth.

Nowhere on that list are the words, “Shake up the lineup,” or, “Move some pieces around.” No, if everybody is to be believed, the Phillies could be relatively quiet the remainder of the offseason, certainly compared to winters past when they acquired Roy Halladay, Raul Ibanez, Brad Lidge, etc.

“Right now, I’m actually pretty pleased with what we have,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday. “That doesn’t mean that I’m satisfied with where we’re at. We do need to try to improve our bullpen and give ourselves more depth and such, but if we were to open the season today I would feel very confident with what kind of team we would be fielding. I still think it’s a championship-caliber type of club.”

Based on e-mails, tweets and Facebook messages, some fans think the Phillies need to make a big move. I don’t get the sense they will. It sounds like the only big move they might make is resigning Werth, although nearly nobody in baseball expects that to happen. (Disclaimer: Amaro said before, during and after last year’s Winter Meetings they were not in the hunt for Halladay and a few days later they made one of the biggest trades in franchise history — not only trading for Halladay, but trading away Cliff Lee. In other words, just because the Phillies said it could be quiet doesn’t mean it will be quiet.)

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Day 1 in Indy

A few more things from the Winter Meetings in Indianapolis:

  • Ruben Amaro Jr. said there is a chance Brad Lige and J.C. Romero will not be ready by Opening Day — they are recovering from elbow surgeries – although he said if they are not ready, it won’t be long after the season starts.
  • Amaro said he is more likely to fill holes on the pitching staff and bench via free agency, although he said the Phillies could get creative and work a trade.
  • Amaro declined comment on a rumor that the Phillies have made right-hander Joe Blanton available to trade to free up money to improve the bullpen, but it seems unlikely Amaro would trade pitching to get pitching. “I’m sure I would at some point,” he said. “It’s kind of like robbing Peter to trade Paul, but if you think Paul is better than Peter than it’s worth it.”
  • Amaro also said he doesn’t “want to mess with our rotation as it stands. But it doesn’t mean we have to make that a hard and fast rule,” he said. “I think it’s more about keeping the options as open as possible. … I’ll put our rotation as it stands up there with pretty much anybody in the National League. The better your rotation is the more heat you can take off the bullpen. I think that’s probably the best way to get a more predictable bullpen.”
  • It sounds to me like Chan Ho Park is the team’s top priority in the bullpen. Amaro met with Park’s agent Jeff Borris on Monday.
  • The Phillies have continued interest in left-hander Scott Eyre, although Amaro said he would be comfortable with rookie left-handers Antonio Bastardo or Sergio Escalona in the bullpen next season.
  • The Phillies have been linked to right-hander Brandon Lyon, but one source said Monday the asking price for Lyon remains high.
  • The Phillies already have committed $114.2 million committed to 15 players in 2010. Include the expected raises for Blanton, Shane Victorino, Carlos Ruiz, Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey and the payroll pushes to more than $130 million. That leaves the Phillies with just a few million to spend. “I think we’re going to be just fine with our payroll,” Amaro said. “I don’t think it’s going to change much. We have our limitations. We’re going to be pushing $140 million. It is what it is. It’s my job to figure out a way to make sure this a contending team.”
  • The Phillies have until Dec. 12 to offer contracts to Durbin and Condrey, who are eligible for salary arbitration. Amaro said the Phillies haven’t made a final decision, but “as far as I’m concerned, at least right now, these are guys that we’ll probably count on. But again, a lot of it kind of depends on what happens over these next several days in regards to the other free agents that might be out there.”
  • The Phillies have expressed interest in Brian Giles, although it doesn’t appear talks are serious. “We’ve talked about it a little bit,” said Giles’ agent, Joe Bick. “Philly needs to try to find Brian a spot where there might be more playing time, but it’s certainly something we’ll keep the door open on.”

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Pitching, Pitching, Pitching and Payroll

polanco.jpgThe Phillies are going to focus on pitching next week at the Winter Meetings.

I mean, what else could they do? They already got Placido Polanco to be their third baseman. They got their backup catcher and utility infielder. Other than pitching help the only thing they need is their last bench player, and Ruben Amaro Jr. said yesterday they could fill that role internally. John Mayberry Jr. played well in Winter Ball in Mexico. He could be a possibility. The Phillies also signed DeWayne Wise and Wilson Valdez to Minor League contracts with invitations to spring training. I’m sure they’ll get looks, although Valdez doesn’t have much outfield experience.

The Phillies have some holes to fill in their bullpen. They also could use a litttle more depth for the rotation. But the bullpen comes first.

“If we could add some depth to the back end of our bullpen that would be great,” Amaro said. “If not, then … we’ll bring some kids in to try to do that. Hopefully we’ll have some candidates to do that in spring training. But our druthers is to try someone who can help us in the back end.”

The Phillies have Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and J.C. Romero, who is coming off elbow surgery, signed next season. Chad Durbin and Clay Condrey are arbitration eligible, so unless the Phillies decide to non-tender them Dec. 12, they will be back.

The Phillies continue to talk with Chan Ho Park and Scott Eyre, although Amaro could not say if he is optimistic or not. There are indications the Phillies are not interested in J.J. Putz, who missed most of last season with an elbow injury. Fernando Rodney has been been mentioned previously, but he could be out of the Phillies’ price range. ESPN.com reports that the Phillies have made Brandon Lyon a priority.

Let’s take a look at the Phillies’ 2010 payroll to this point:

  • Juan Castro ($700,000)
  • Greg Dobbs ($1.35 million).
  • Cole Hamels ($6.65 million).
  • Ryan Howard ($19 million).
  • Cliff Lee ($9 million).
  • Brad Lidge ($11.5 million).
  • Ryan Madson ($4.5 million).
  • Jamie Moyer ($8.75 million).
  • Placido Polanco ($5.5 million).
  • Jimmy Rollins ($8.5 million).
  • J.C. Romero ($4 million).
  • Brian Schneider ($1.25 million)
  • Chase Utley ($15 million).
  • Jayson Werth ($7 million).
  • Raul Ibanez ($11.5 million).

They have $114.2 million committed to 15 players. That does not include raises for Joe Blanton ($5.475 million last season), Shane Victorino ($3.125 million) and Carlos Ruiz ($475,000), who are salary arbitration eligible. If Durbin ($1.635 million) and Condrey ($650,000) return they also will receive raises. Park made $2.5 million last season. Eyre made $2 million.

Just figuring in the 2009 salaries for those seven players would put the 2010 payroll at $130.06 million. So I think it’s safe to say the 2010 payroll is pushing $140 million. It sounds like that is about the Phillies’ budget, although nobody will say. That is why I think it might be tough to sign somebody like Rodney for the bullpen, and why Amaro said they might have to count on some youngsters to help, if they can’t get the people they want like Park and Eyre. Of course, just when I think I have a pretty good feel for things the Phillies do something unexpected. And unexpected things can happen at the Winter Meetings.

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