At 4:00 PM today, the non-waiver trade deadline for Major League Baseball passed. The Phillies, who leading into the All-Star break looked like they may be buyers, hit the skids and went 1-8 coming out of the break. Suddenly, they were firmly in the ‘sellers’ column. As the deadline approached, players and interested teams were swirling; Detroit wanted Jonathan Papelbon, Boston was interested in Cliff Lee, Texas was inquiring about bringing Michael Young home; the list goes on and on. Ruben Amaro has been known to get an itchy trigger finger, and with so much smoke there was sure to be fire somewhere, right?
Nope. Not at all. Ruben Amaro did not make one move. Not one.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m glad he didn’t trade Cliff Lee. The best pitcher traded this year was Jake Peavy. There simply wasn’t a market for big time pitchers. Sure, a lot of teams would love to add Cliff Lee to their rotation. But how many can afford his salary? Now that you have that short list, how many of those teams are willing to part with top prospects to get him? The list is even smaller. How many of the teams remaining will Cliff Lee accept a trade to? It was impossible to get the Red Sox to up their offer because there were no other teams to outbid them. In this situation, Ruben did the right thing. ‘Meet my price, or I’m walking away.’ They didn’t want to give up Xander Bogaerts, so the Phils hung up the phone. Perhaps this offseason after Boston realizes that adding Jake Peavy isn’t enough to win them a World Series they will rethink their position. If not, you can build your team around Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels at the top of your rotation.
Outside of Cliff Lee, there were SEVERAL deals that should have been made. Michael Young should be in Texas or Boston. Take the two teams, include the Yankees if you want, try to drive the offer from Texas as high as you can, and let the man go home to his family. Take the A-level prospect Texas offers and be glad you got that much. What good does keeping him for the remainder of this season do? He is gone in a few months anyway, why not get something, anything for him now? Even if the prospect you acquire doesn’t amount to anything, it gives Cody Asche the everyday starting job. Better to find out now if you can pencil him in for next season than wait until spring training when it’s too late to address the position via free agency.
Carlos Ruiz? Same thing. I love Chooch, but he is gone next season. Maybe they sign Brian McCann, maybe they go with a cheaper, one or two year fill in and hope Tommy Joseph is the long term answer. The point is, I don’t see Ruiz being here next year, so why not get a prospect or two and give him a shot to play for a contender? I still can’t believe the Cardinals wouldn’t throw a mid-level minor leaguer our way so Ruiz could replace the injured Yadier Molina. They probably offered something, Amaro asked for more, and St. Louis lost interest. I’m noticing a reoccurring theme here. Hey Ruben, YOU CAN ONLY DRIVE UP A PRICE IF YOU HAVE MORE THAN ONE INTERESTED PARTY!!!!!!
I covered most of this in a previous article. Obviously, things changed a lot as the Phillies continued to lose. Papelbon did his best to talk his way out of town. Detroit, who many felt was the top suiter for him, instead dealt for Houston’s closer Jose Veras. While Veras is nothing special, he certainly is an improvement for Detroit. Still, wouldn’t it make sense for them to give up a slightly better package to add a top 5 closer to a team that won the American League last year and has World Series aspirations? Even after Detroit dropped out, there had to be someone that needed a closer. Again, Amaro can shop him this offseason, but Papelbon made it clear that he doesn’t want to be here any longer. Why keep him around? Why pay your closer $13 million on a team where you have a handful of save opportunities a month? Take the best offer for his services and free up his money. It can be better spent elsewhere.
Another name floated by reporters but not really mentioned in rumored deals was Kyle Kendrick. He absolutely should have been shopped. I get that no one wanted to pay the premium for an ace, but maybe a team needing a starter would have flipped a couple of decent prospects for Kendrick. He has proven himself as a solid 3-4 starter, and is under a very reasonable contract for the rest of this season and next. That would be especially enticing for smaller market teams, and he could have been flipped for a bat. What a crazy idea, trading from a strength to address a weakness.
Delmon Young, John Mayberry Jr, and even Kevin Frandsen should have been put out there as available. No, I don’t expect much of anything in return for them, but a playoff contending team needing a right handed bat off the bench might be interested in giving you something, right? Even if it’s a low prospect, how can that hurt? None of these guys are critical to the team, and if you can get a return, you need to. They are easily replaceable and wouldn’t be missed.
Okay, I’ve been avoiding it. Let’s get to Chase Utley. I love Chase and the fan in me wants him to retire as a Phillie. Objectively, I would have been okay if a team put a good offer in for him and Ruben let him go. But if he sticks around, I am okay with that too. The rumored extension of 3 years at about $12 million per sound about right. Are his knees a concern? Of course they are. If he hits the open market, will another team offer him more? Definitely. Trading him now and trying to resign him later ends up costing you more, and is a risky move. If you really want to keep him in Philly, this was the way to go. I know people want to ‘get younger,’ but that only works if you have talent to replace the ‘old’ players with. Remember when Brian Dawkins left the Eagles? Yea, they wanted to ‘get younger too’.
Chase is still a team leader. He is still one of the best second basemen in the league.He still plays hard, and doesn’t take plays off. He is one of the few players in the lineup that will work a count, draw a walk, lean into a pitch, do whatever it takes to get on base. How does replacing him improve the team exactly? Want Caser Hernandez to start? If Utley’s knees act up, he will get plenty of playing time. If Utley’s knees cooperate, you have a great player at a moderate price and Hernandez becomes a trade-able asset. On the flip side, if you let Utley walk, and Hernandez faulters, then what? Freddy Galvis? Utley wants to play, and he wants to do it here. Signing him for a few more years sounds like a no-brainer to me.
I can’t even begin to look toward the offseason at options to improve this team through free agency. So many ‘what ifs’ that it’s not a good idea to even consider potential signings until they hit the open market. But here is one question to start considering, and I already have my answer… Do you trust Ruben Amaro to make those decisions?