The Tuesday 10: Embrace the Sell

Trying to be objective, or thinking you’re being objective, can be difficult sometimes. You don’t like losing, I don’t like losing and professional players don’t like losing. The people in charge of said professional players also don’t like losing, of course, because their pockets and reputations are damaged as the losses pile up. So, naturally, it seems against nature to actively worsen a team’s Major League product.

But, hey, that’s where I’m at. And it’s not a casual support, either. Now, in the face of the Phillies winning three of their first four against divisional opponents on what’s being called a pivotal homestand, I still stand ardently in favor of the Phillies selling on 2013, embracing at least a partial rebuild and looking toward the future. So, for this version of the 10, I’ve (sort of) got 10 reasons why selling is the right thing to do. And this will be light on numbers, because we’ve got some Real Talking to do.

1. The Odds Are Long

As I’m writing this, the Monday Diamondbacks/Dodgers game just ended, and CoolStandings.com pegs the odds the Phillies make the playoffs at 7.2 percent. That’s up from a nadir of 4 percent on June 25, but still a far cry from bankable odds. The ground the club has to make up between now and decision day – whenever in July that might be – is so formidable that any attempt at making a major addition (i.e., Justin Morneau) is aggressive leaning heavily toward foolhardiness.

2. Cliff Lee’s Contract Will Become Useless

Paying Cliff Lee $25 million a season certainly seemed palatable back in the glory days of winning records, but the club has become top heavy, paying lots of money to players who aren’t worth it while carrying a deeply flawed rest of the roster in support. Now, that isn’t to say Lee isn’t worth his deal; I actually think he most certainly is. But the amount of sense it makes to keep him on the checkbook as the club struggles to stay relevant is dwindling. There are multiple instances of big money commitments lying around that could prove to be hindrances, but for different reasons than Lee. Lee, more so than Jonathan Papelbon, carries a ton of trade value despite the money. Yeah, sure, the Phillies will probably be asked to absorb some of the cost, but the potential return is much more likely to be high-caliber regardless.

Lee is exceptional. He’s still putting up terrific numbers (119 strikeouts to 21 walks, 2.73 ERA, a 4.4 rWAR that nearly equals his 2012) and is the prize of the starting pitching trade market. To pass up the chance to rebuild a lower-third farm system, remove a big chunk of payroll from the books and set this organization up for a brighter future than they can currently muster just…makes sense. It doesn’t make emotional sense - yeah, it’s fun to watch him pitch in red – but will the Phillies really be able to field a competitive team in the next two to three years? And Lee is entering his mid-30s; will he stay this good forever, or will this be a blown opportunity to cash in on value?

Clear the money, bring in the haul of young players this team has so badly needed for years and try to build this thing back up.

3. Chase Utley Deserves Better

Yeah, you know what, Ruben? I’d like it if Utley remained on the Phillies for his whole career. In brighter times, I’d push harder for an extension to be worked out in-season. But a player who has frequented the disabled list over the past handful of seasons is a risky asset. And now, with his contract expiring, Utley is putting up excellent numbers when he’s actually playing. His value could be above your standard rental fare, and really, there’s no guarantee Utley even wants to stay on past this season.

Does it suck to think like that? Sure. I don’t like thinking my favorite player of all time is likely playing out his final days as a member of the Phillies, but facts are facts and the situation looks dim. If Utley can provide a worthwhile return – as long as he’s shipped anywhere but New York – it’s worth it for the Phillies and worth it for Utley to chase another title.

Hell, I know my bandwagon team for the rest of the season is wherever Chase ends up, should he be dealt.

4. Cole Hamels Can Cornerstone A Rebuild

We’ll use cornerstone as a verb here just this once.

Is Hamels having a down season? Yeah. But he only turns 30 this offseason and is locked up through at least 2018. He’ll likely maintain his effectiveness through his early 30s, with decent odds that he’ll still be pitching at a high level by the time the next wave of talent comes up. At least, I trust Hamels will keep performing in his early 30s more than I trust Cliff Lee to stay hot as he gets deeper into his 30s. Call it a hunch.

With Halladay all but done, Lee possibly traded and Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd looking like depth starters above the uncertainty that is Jesse Biddle and whatever else might be lurking in the minors these days, Hamels is the best starting pitching asset this organization has moving forward. The odds of rebuilding what they had in 2011 are microscopic, but with Hamels in tow, the staff is likely better off than it would be in any iteration without him for the next four to five years.

5-10. The Future of Ruben Amaro

This is sort of a cop out, but it’s incredibly important and worth consuming the bullet points. In lieu of other reasons like general payroll flexibility or the excitement of potentially adding the next franchise player or how a rebuild could actually be a MORE appetizing outlook for an upcoming TV deal than the stagnant, moldy milieu in which our outlook currently resides, I posit this: this deadline is the most important deadline of Ruben Amaro’s baseball career, and will determine his future at the helm of the Phillies.

You could generously characterize Amaro’s GM tenure as “hit or miss.” There’ve been some blunders, but also some solid, shrewd moves. It’s part of what makes RAJ such a frustrating general manager, because the potential for great moves is obviously there and clearly labeled on Amaro’s track record, but the fear of the big miss is also plain. The Phillies are where they are right now in no small part because of Amaro, and this is his chance to set the club up for a brighter future.

Should he decide to stand pat or make a minor addition (a duplicate John McDonald trade, or in that ilk) and present a team that misses the playoffs for a second straight season, Utley and Carlos Ruiz leave for greener pastures in free agency and the Phillies are left with nearly $105 million tied up for just six players with holes to fill at second base, third base, catcher, right field and untold pitching staff spots. And, no, Robinson Cano won’t be that answer at second.

That’s a conservative painting, too: Amaro does have the ammo to make a more significant addition – even if it isn’t quite on the level of a Hunter Pence or ’09 Lee – at even more significant risk. What happens if Biddle and Maikel Franco are dealt for naught? You get the idea.

The direction Amaro chooses and the results that follow will be critical to his future. As of now, there probably aren’t many people who trust him either way, whether he chooses rebuild or go-for-broke. But, it seems to me that the rebuild is the safer way to go; the potential damage far below the repercussions of emptying the farm yet again.

Look, I don’t like the idea of having a crap team for a couple years any more than you all do. But the difference between crap with some legitimate glimmers of hope on the horizon as opposed to mediocre-to-below-average with less optimism about the future is not small. Some of the weight of expectation, the pressure to make the best out of the very last drops of this “window” we all like to talk so fondly of, gets transferred; the disappointment of the now can be assuaged by the hope of the future. Besides, a failed rebuild is a better risk taken than a longshot go-for-broke that unsurprisingly turns out poorly.

This is where we are right now. It’s not pretty or glamorous or anything remotely resembling the success of Not Long Ago, but it’s so, so important just the same.

Ruben Amaro has a chance to redefine his legacy. I hope he makes the right choice.

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114 comments

  1. Joecatz

    July 10, 2013 06:53 AM

    697,

    I’m gonna say this one more time in regards to the money. The money is only better spent, if there’s no other money to spend!

    Ownership doesn’t care about spending money, they care about making it. They’ll spend as much as they need to to win, and I don’t mean going out and making stupid contracts. I mean that cliff lee is worth is money in shirt sales, revenue, and on field, and that’s what really matters.

    That arguement is only valid if your going to see a sgnificant payroll reduction, or if its going to hinder them from spending on good assets. It’s not.

    Howard contract is, to a degree papelbons is, but lees isn’t.

    Ad if your making that arguement of needing to buy more guys with the money, exactly who are you buying?

  2. BeezNutz

    July 10, 2013 07:57 AM

    Joecatz is killing this argument

    I agree with mostly everything

    I especially agree with the Rotation consisting of Lee, Hamels and Kendrick (at around 8mm) then finding 2 other guys in the system or a affordable option. Keeping the value in the SP’s under 55-60 mil.

    With that Rotation and a revised bullpen, pending its finally a good pen, this team is an easy rebuild, been saying it all along.

  3. Santa's snowball

    July 10, 2013 08:13 AM

    Ok, Mr. Boyle, I can live with one ‘have got,’ but the second really grinds my gears.

  4. Karl

    July 10, 2013 09:19 AM

    Your item # 3 should read “Chase and Cliff deserve better.” As much as some people don’t want to get rid of Lee, it seems that he has indicated that he came here to play for a winner… if the team goes down the rebuilding route, he isn’t interested in going along for the ride. Rebuilding and trading Lee go hand in hand… same for Halladay if he does make a comeback.

  5. Phillie697

    July 10, 2013 10:54 AM

    @Joecatz,

    That’s where our disagreement lies. You don’t think we have a budget problem. I do. We have $104.5M tied up with 6 players after this year, and even IF ownership keeps payroll at the highest we have ever been, $175M, that means we have about $60M to fill the 8 aforementioned spots I talked about above (all spots people actually give a damn about), assuming we fill the rest with league-minimum players. I don’t know about you, but even GMs far more competent than RAJ is not going to put together a 100-win team (I’m sorry, if we’re spending $175M, we BETTER be shooting for putting together a 100-win team) with that amount of money and that many holes; a shrewd, very shrewd, GM can MAYBE fill those 8 spots with overall league-average caliber players. With an extra $25M, it gives a competent GM more wiggle room to go after maybe the 2.5 WAR or 3 WAR players who might be undervalued, something he won’t be able to do if he’s on a tight budget.

    And if your solution is that a combination of Franco, Asche, Biddle, Morgan, and/or Joseph is going to provide the cost savings in some of those 8 spots, then my question to you is, your whole premise of keeping Lee is so that we have a sure thing as opposed to taking more risks with more prospects… Why the hell are you turning around and suggesting we bank our future with more prospects? If I’m going that route, I rather trade Lee for more prospects that I actually more higher confidence of turning into the next Dom Brown. So make up your mind.

  6. Kadd

    July 10, 2013 11:53 AM

    You guys can argue until you are in blue in the face. All I know is we are heading to the all-star break and took two our of three from the Pirates and Braves and could possibly sweep the Nationals tonight.

    Selling, to me, isn’t an option. This team plays better in the second half and come playoff time we can throw Cole and Cliff out against other teams pitchers. It’s a no-brainer to me: we do not sell. Trading Cliff Lee doesn’t guarantee us anything.

  7. Scott G

    July 10, 2013 12:26 PM

    Late to the party.

    The Phillies should trade Lee (assuming sufficient return), and trade Papelbon. There’s no reason for those two players to be on this team since they won’t be around/useful the next time they can actually help this team win something meaningful.

    I don’t want to trade Chase Utley, but my logic doesn’t hold because it’s the same story. The Phillies window for winning with Chase Utley on the roster has closed.

    I still think he’s a bargain at this point though, and wouldn’t mind a reasonable extension. Teams have to have plenty of leverage against him since he’s been hurt so much. I don’t understand why a law hasn’t been passed that ensure that Manuel sits him a minimum of one game/week. Ideally, 2 games in a week where they play 7.

  8. Larry

    July 10, 2013 04:56 PM

    @HK,

    “Now, I am not saying that Profar is going to follow the same path as Machado and produce an .821 OPS in his age 21 season, but a lot of the prospect writers and scouts who do this for a living think Profar is very close to Machado, so I think Profar is exactly the type of return the Phils should pursue if they are going to trade one of the games top pitchers.”

    Stanton’s career OPS in the Major Leagues is .888. He hit 37 homers last year, 608 SLG which was 1st in the league. He had a 969 OPS and a 158 OPS +. The Marlins park is considered a pitchers park. If he came to CBP he would hit over 40 homers for a lot of seasons if healthy and he’s only 23 years old. He is that power righty that this lineup has needed the entire season.

  9. Phillie697

    July 10, 2013 05:49 PM

    Repeat after me boys and girls. We. Are. Not. Getting. Giancarlo. Stanton. Stop talking about him. A 23-year old with his track record, potential, and number of years of team control is worth MORE than Cliff Lee. We’re not getting him with Cliff Lee.

  10. Larry

    July 10, 2013 10:11 PM

    @ Phillie697,

    Don’t sugar coat it, tell us how you really feel? On a side note, I know you like to play pretend GM. So if getting Stanton or Profar was possible with the same trade offer, who would you rather have? and why?

  11. hk

    July 11, 2013 05:54 AM

    Larry,

    My defense of Profar in which I compared him to Machado was not intended to suggest that I prefer him to Stanton – I don’t – it was just me explaining why I would take Profar for Lee. By the way, I don’t think Texas will trade Profar for Lee, but hypothetically if they would, I would take it.

  12. Phillie697

    July 11, 2013 12:22 PM

    Stanton in a heartbeat, Larry. Stanton is heads-and-shoulders above Profar in just about every respect. It’s also the reason why we aren’t getting him. Profar is a long-shot to begin with, let along Stanton.

  13. BeezNutz

    July 11, 2013 12:24 PM

    LOL … Stanton will NEVER be traded here, by the Marlins

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