Although he will still be a member of the Philadelphia Phillies on August 1, Cliff Lee could bring a decent package of untested talent within the next five weeks. But how much money would the Phils have to eat for a worthwhile return?
Before reviewing the local stars who could change uniforms, this article presents the unvarnished predicament when a run is over.
Please, scroll down for this edition of Genuine Insight: The Long Road Ahead.
This article represents the thinking of a baseball man in my opinion. Reading people is the answer to their decisions: past, present and future. Also, there is a humanizing element.
There will be a published storyline each week.
The Long Road Ahead:
In baseball, the past is the best predictor of the future.
If you could view what management sees, you would notice that in 1965 the MLB draft began, and Larry Bowa became the everyday shortstop five seasons later. Southpaw Steve Carlton and left fielder Greg Luzinski were full-time players in 1972, and Mike Schmidt, the final cornerstone of the core four, joined them the following summer. In 1975, they started to contend for the NL pennant, and–after a 15-year wait total–the Phillies finally triumphed in the 1980 World Series.
The team reached the Fall Classic in 1983 and 1993 with the front office’s patchwork rosters, and that approach continued until no magic remained from that exhilarating blue-collar campaign. If that sounds familiar, the reason is déjà vu. You see, in the years after the ’80 and ’93 squads achieved success, the higher-ups came to the same conclusion as Ruben Amaro Jr. has now.
In 2001, Jimmy Rollins established himself as the regular shortstop, which was–only–eight summers after closer Mitch Williams was a Phillie. Three years later, Chase Utley became J-Roll’s double-play partner, Ryan Howard manned first base in 2005, and left-hander Cole Hamels joined the following campaign to complete the core four. And 15 seasons after 1993’s enchantment, the red pinstripes were victorious in the 2008 World Series. Now, the head honchos look to 2023–15 summers–and they envision an empty park for the next seven 81s, which is exactly how their predecessors looked at starting over again.
If you trade away Hamels, Lee, Utley, Rollins, Carlos Ruiz, Marlon Byrd and A.J. Burnett, who will pay to see C Cameron Rupp, 1B Darin Ruf, 2B Cesar Hernandez, SS Freddy Galvis, 3B Maikel Franco, LF Domonic Brown, CF Ben Revere and RF Cody Asche? Remember, Jonathan Papelbon probably won’t be here, Mike Adams will be a free agent, and Howard will be a DH in the junior circuit. Every fifth day, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will pitch, and Ken Giles will toe the slab with a ninth-inning lead or a tied home game. And if you think the attendance doesn’t matter, you don’t operate a business.
Even Pat Gillick could not buy his way out of this situation because franchises lock up the Giancarlo Stantons and the Mike Trouts in their organization, which affects the free-agent market. Last year, the Yankees signed Brian McCann, 30, for five tours; Jacoby Elsbury, 30, for seven campaigns; and Carlos Beltran, 37, for three seasons. They will be 35, 37 and 40 respectively upon completion of their expenditures; however, New York did ink one hurler in his 20s: Masahiro Tanaka, 25. In other words, even the Bronx Bombers cannot risk purchasing only untested talent from Japan, Cuba and other countries.
When clubs land in the basement for many consecutive summers, they get to select a Stephen Strasburg plus a Bryce Harper and make their run. That stated, the MLB draft, the competitive-balance threshold of $189 million and the three-tiered playoffs with two wild cards were designed to create parity: Mission accomplished!
When a team has an extended period of success, their draft choices are not at the top, which means you shouldn’t expect an Utley, Rollins or Hamels. In fact, the top farm product during that time was Brown, and Amaro refused to part with him. Even after dealing many minor league chips, the general manager didn’t give up the All-Star from a weak farm system. Today, if the standings ended on July 27, the Phillies would pick sixth in the MLB draft next June.
The Pieces on the Block:
This section features the players other franchises might want.
For an ace, Hamels has a reasonable contract with four more years, and the GM must acquire the top three prospects from a potential suitor. Considering the current seller’s market, the decision-maker cannot swap the southpaw for an ordinary package of youngsters. Unless they receive a worthwhile proposal, the Phils would be better off keeping him during the lean times. Therefore, if the red pinstripes have any shot at bottling lightning during the next few seasons, they won’t be able to achieve that without him at the top of their rotation.
Dealing Lee requires a deep-pocketed partner: The Yanks and the Dodgers fit that description. On September 1, because he will have $41.67 million remaining contractually, he will clear waivers and be available through August. Meanwhile, New York station WFAN thinks Lee is strictly a salary dump and believes the Yankees can keep their four catching prospects. Lee, however, is not another Bobby Abreu because there is no equivalent to Shane Victorino ready to plug into the five-man staff. On the other hand, the Angels could be the best match because the Phillies’ front office is probably willing to pay 30 percent of Lee’s contract to receive Double-A players with solid upside: Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Trout are blocking three positions.
Papelbon is another commodity who will be available during August, and some head honcho might need a hammer. But word is clubs prefer the $8 million closer. Therefore, management will probably be open to swallowing $3-4 million per tour on Papelbon to acquire two decent minor leaguers. That said, a final-week swap before September 1 is possible.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh have interest in Burnett, but both have limitations that will affect negotiations with Amaro. During the offseason, while other teams signed free agents, the Orioles waited patiently for unclaimed players to lower their asking price. For instance, they held out until spring training began to ink Nelson Cruz for one campaign at $8 million. The Pirates, on the other hand, severely lowballed Burnett with an $8.5 million proposal. Consequently, neither franchise wants to offer more than partial salary relief and two marginal youngsters.
To date, Ruiz, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are not receiving much trade interest. Remember, the general manager will have to receive a catcher in some way to deal Ruiz, which probably won’t happen. Meanwhile, Kendrick or Hernandez will only move to a contender in the market for a five-slot arm. That stated, no one should expect a significant return for either hurler.
Utley and Rollins are in many rumors but, barring a fire sale, they will be in Clearwater during February. While many organizations would gladly take them off Amaro’s hands, those bargain hunters don’t want to pay fair value for them.
Howard is in his own class. Of his recent worth, one scout’s estimate was $3-5 million per 162; however, the thinking of many GMs would be to wait for his release: They would only be responsible for the major league minimum. However, the first baseman could bounce back with more respectable numbers and be of interest as a DH to an AL team. Because of his current downward trend, management might hold off until late August or the offseason to swap him.
Antonio Bastardo is drawing a lot of interest, and his current $2 million agreement is about to increase beyond his worth to management: his upcoming third arbitration. And considering the progress of Mario Hollands, Bastardo isn’t likely to return in 2015. So, a barter involving Bastardo is highly probable with a minor leaguer or two for Philly. Don’t expect much.
If the Phils are to get two worthwhile prospects, Byrd gives them the best shot at doing so. He is the most sought-after right-handed bat with power in the majors, but–keep in mind–other decision-makers will save their best offers for the final two days before the trading deadline. Therefore, while negotiating the best possible return for the right fielder, Amaro will truly earn his paycheck.
Byrd and Bastardo–if the lefty has a good outing or two–will not be in red pinstripes on August 1 because standing pat is no longer an option.
* The days of being a second-half squad are now officially over.
In other prior articles, tables were causing computer problems and may return at a later date.
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