For the Phillies, It’s Time to Sell

The Phillies lost, in excruciating fashion, the final game of a five-game home series with the New York Mets on Monday night. It was a competitive ballgame for a while, as the Phils trailed 1-0 going into the sixth, but Roberto Hernandez and Mario Hollands combined forces to allow a four-spot, and Jake Diekman and Phillippe Aumont teamed up in the ninth for a six-run inning — which included a Wilmer Flores grand slam — in what turned out to be an 11-2 loss.

The homestand ends with the Phillies going 1-2 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, 2-1 against the Colorado Rockies, and 1-4 against the Mets. The Phillies are now 24-31 overall, 6.5 games out of first place and three games out of fourth place. Only the Chicago Cubs (20-34), Arizona Diamondbacks (23-36), Tampa Bay Rays (23-35), and Houston Astros (24-34) have worse records than the Phillies. By run differential, the Phillies (-41) are better than only the Diamondbacks (-65) and Astros (-45). Their current .436 winning percentage puts them on pace for a 71-91 record.

Even as recently as two weeks ago, there was some hope at a competitive season. With a victory in the series opener against the Marlins, the Phillies won their third consecutive game and moved to 20-22, four games out of first place. They have gone 4-9 since then. In three out of their next four games, they will face Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Johnny Cueto. After Cueto, they’ll also face Alfredo Simon, who has pitched quite well this season and isn’t to be forgotten about. The Phillies very well could only win one out of their next five games.

At any rate, it’s time for the Phillies to give up on the misguided notion that they can actually compete this season and go into sell mode. Michael Baumann went over the Phillies’ trade assets and it’s as depressing as one would expect. GM Ruben Amaro isn’t going to get a top-100 prospect with any trade he might make this summer. Still, the club has to position itself to be competitive down the road, and that means pawning off any player who won’t be around for that era.

Almost everyone on the roster — excluding Cole Hamels, Jake Diekman, Domonic Brown, and Ben Revere — should be made available to the 29 other teams leading up to the July 31 trade deadline and the August 31 waiver deadline. It won’t be sexy, and the Phillies will be painful to watch likely for at least another year and a half, but it will be worth it in the long run.

For right fielder Marlon Byrd and catcher John Buck last year, the Mets got reliever Vic Black and 20-year-old second baseman Dilson Herrera. Both appear to be useful pieces for the Mets. The Nationals turned David DeJesus into Matthew Spann from the Rays. The Astros turned Justin Maxwell into Kyle Smith. None are sexy names who had the scouts salivating, but all could become useful pieces for their teams sooner or later. Winning the lottery isn’t so much about finding the magical sequence of numbers, but simply buying enough lottery tickets and hoping you get lucky.

Because of their 73-89 finish last season, the Phillies will pick seventh in the upcoming MLB first-year player draft, which starts on June 5. They’ll likely finish with one of the ten worst records again this season, and if they do, they will have a protected first-round draft pick in next year’s draft as well. While the pace isn’t at the speed some of us had hoped, the Phillies are a team with a bright future. J.P. Crawford recently made Keith Law’s updated list of baseball’s top-25 prospects, ranking 19th. Maikel Franco, Jesse Biddle, and Ken Giles should be able to get their feet wet in the big leagues next season.

Amaro nearly went through July and August before trading away Michael Young last season. It would be unwise to repeat that again. It’s time for the Phillies to fold their 2014 hand and do everything possible in the next two months to ensure the cards they’re playing in 2015 and beyond are as good as they can possibly be.

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31 comments

  1. Drew

    June 03, 2014 07:28 AM

    And we would keep Brown and Revere for what possible reason? Aside from their being such lousy players no one would want them.

    • Mattwinks

      June 03, 2014 07:46 AM

      No urgency to move them coupled with low trade value. It makes sense to move Marlin Byrd because you get prospects and free up 8 million, with Brown you will get some marginal prospect and a couple hundred thousand in savings. It makes much more sense to see if you can fix him at that point.

      • Evan

        June 03, 2014 09:19 AM

        I think by fixing Brown, you would need to send him to LV to gain some confidence and maybe even change the entire coaching aproach

      • eddie

        June 03, 2014 12:37 PM

        It depends on the offer, IMO. If someone else thinks they can fix him, they may offer something more than a marginal prospect. And given that I have zero confidence in the Phillies to do said fixing, I’d take that deal.

      • awh™

        June 04, 2014 01:06 PM

        Matt, I hate when people reference the money in trades.

        Yes, I know it plays a part, but when teams base their decisions on finances – or rather – overemphasize the finance part they tend to run into trouble. The Phillies are a shining example of this.

        The only reason freeing up $8MM (in the abstract) makes any sense is if they spend it on other MLB talent, because this team is not going to spend it in the minors or internationally. They will not run afoul of MLB rules in those areas – this organization does not do that.

        So, if you’re going to mention the money, it would be helpful to know who in next year’s free agent class you would recommend they sign using the funds.

        I’m not trying to be confrontational, but saving the money in and of itself does not improve the team unless it’s allocated to another player.

      • Matt

        June 04, 2014 05:57 PM

        @awh

        It isn’t just FAs, but the ability to trade for salary onerous for another team at a low cost. I am not advocating trading Byrd because of the money (you trade because he has value), but opening salary next year is not a bad thing.

        If you want a FA to spend on, Max Scherzer.

  2. Alex Riley - Hitter's Count

    June 03, 2014 07:58 AM

    Agreed. Sadly, agreed.

  3. Adam

    June 03, 2014 08:30 AM

    Except none of the players you listed in your examples were guys that had big salaries signed to multiple years. That’s the main issue.

    • Rei De Bastoni

      June 03, 2014 07:02 PM

      You can buy some talent – from Cuba and Japan. But while the Yankees get Tanaka, and the Dodgers get Puig, we get Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez.

  4. Jake

    June 03, 2014 08:39 AM

    Couldn’t agree more. This is a bad team playing to its talent. The misguided notion that the current “stars” have another gear needs to end. These are who the core of Howard, Utley, Rollins, Ruiz and Hamels are. Inconsistent and old. Move ‘em all. Including Utley (no matter how greatly that pains me to say). We will always have 2007-2011 to remember as a great era of Phillies baseball. Save for poor defense in game 1 against the Giants, and a bad Hamels start in 2009, this team could have had three straight WS wins. That’s incredible. That’s also the past.
    Move ‘em for whatever you can get. I know the owners are concerned about TV deals and stadium sell outs if they gut the roster. Guess what though…losing 4/5 to the Mets, getting shut out and playing 400 baseball with old stars isn’t going to sell out games either. Better turn the page, turn over the system and realize the model is changing. Rube can’t count on buying his next crop of talent. That isn’t the baseball model now. He has to rebuild with whatever young talent he can get and lock that talent up early.

  5. Carmine Spellane

    June 03, 2014 08:44 AM

    I am all in favor of a salary dump — assuming we can find someone willing to take on at least part of the contracts of our highly paid players. With the money saved, maybe we could get some solid if not spectacular veterans who know how to play the game to complement the young players who will arrive next year. Of course, if Bill were the GM, I would have more confidence in the right moves being made. Ruben — not so much.
    As much as it pains me to say it, our veteran middle infielders could be extremely valuable to a contender, providing far more offense at those positions than they currently have. That would change the heart of the team, but maybe it’s time to say goodbye to the guys who were central to great era in Phillies history.

  6. tom b

    June 03, 2014 09:04 AM

    i’m sorry bill, but stating the phils have a bright future seems more wishful thinking than fact. farm system is very underwhelming. crawford looks good but is still a long way off. franco and biddle appear to have regressed. not much else there except for some young prospects with nice tools. only these kind of players never seem to get better in the phillies system. that seems to be where toolsy prospects go to die. the time to sell was years ago. like the stock market if you buy high and sell low you end up broke

    • josh

      June 03, 2014 12:34 PM

      I disagree on crawford and franco. Crawford looks like a star. He could be a Sept call up next year and be our starting shortstop in 2 years. He is going to be a top 10 prospect in baseball by the end of the year.

      And Franco hasn’t regressed. After a slow start in AAA he is doing well. Remember a 21 yr old. You can’t be expecting 40 bombs from him but we are maybe 2 yrs away from seeing a .300avg with 20-25 hrs.

      And I wouldn’t say Biddle has regressed. More like we thought he could be a #2 pitcher but he is going to be a #3. Thats still not bad.

      Hopefully the development staff can start teaching our pitchers how to throw strikes.

  7. Evan

    June 03, 2014 09:21 AM

    The scary part about all this is that the core of Utley, Rollins, Howard, Ruiz and even Byrd have all been relatively healthy. Rollins, Howard, Utley and Byrd are playing pretty well. And yet they are still just a terrible team.

    We have not seen the worst of this yet.

    • Bob

      June 03, 2014 10:57 AM

      I’m a big Ryan Howard fan, but he’s not playing well. He was on pace for 121 wRC+ three weeks ago, which would have been at least decent. Now, he’s down to 95. 95 equates to 115th best out of 174 total qualified hitters in the MLB. His wOBA is .313 which is 109th out of 174 qualified hitters. And his WAR of 0.0 is in the 148-152 range out of 174. At best, you can say he’s having a below average to poor offensive year and his defense is what it is – not good.

  8. bigred

    June 03, 2014 09:39 AM

    I like the lottery ticket example…kinda what hinkie is doing/has done with the sixers..mortgaging the present to build the future. It hurts temporarily but there is a budding optimism in that fan base that hasn’t been there since the early 2000’s. But alas, RAJ has not shown to be forward thinking like the sixers front office but heres crossing our fingers that he might be able to hit on something,anything, with trading Cliff Lee, Marlon Byrd, J-Roll, Chooch,etc.

  9. Scott G

    June 03, 2014 11:32 AM

    If you can’t get anything overwhelming for Utley (not even 1, top 100 prospect), why submit the Phillies fans to the pain of shipping off the best/most beloved Phillie in the last 30 years. I’m usually logical about something like this, but if you’re not able to get enough lottery tickets, what are you really gaining?

  10. Major Malfunction

    June 03, 2014 12:37 PM

    Any trade the Phils could pull off, you have to hope and pray that RAJ lets sabremetrics do the player selection. I mean, what are the chances any of the trade fodder the Phils have could actually land in return somebody worth a major league career?

    Its a team of overpriced and over aged boat anchors and door stops. The fact was pointed out this year about how the Phils would be like the 4th team in history with such an old starting lineup, etc. Realistically, what could change where you still have the majority of them back in a starting job next year? Their untradeable salaries and no trade clauses keep them right where they are…….old and declining.

  11. Kevin

    June 03, 2014 12:56 PM

    I do agree that it is time to sell and start planning for the future, however is Ruben Amaro Jr. the right guy to oversee that rebuild? I think a major organization shake up is in order and it has to start with Amaro Jr.

    • chris

      June 03, 2014 01:36 PM

      Well, he’s not getting replaced now, so the best hope is that he’s not in charge of the draft. Sadly, I don’t think this is the case.

  12. Mike Lacy

    June 03, 2014 12:58 PM

    Yes. I was in favor of “seeing what can happen” but based on what we’ve seen – and Lee’s continued absence – I don’t see any way a person could think the Phillies would make the playoffs this season.

    The key is that while they may not receive a top-100 piece, if they’re getting multiple usable future major leaguers back, that can be almost as good.

  13. edwin

    June 03, 2014 01:52 PM

    Yes blowing up the team may be the best idea, but unfortunately we still have the man responsible in charge and selling everything means we get nothing. The GM (can’t bring myself to write his name) is the one went out and got us Hunter Pence when we might not have really needed him and gave up a lot. Of all his head scratching deals this one is the one that I think really hurt the team the most. He then turned him over to the Giants and got very little in return. Do we really want to give the keys to the car to this guy and trust him to get anything in return? If this is the case to what end will blowing up the team do?

  14. CK

    June 03, 2014 03:01 PM

    I think we do have some players with trade value. Burnett, assuming he pitches decent til the deadline could bring a prospect in the 75-100 range, using the recent Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster trades as examples. And Byrd, Papelbon (if we eat some money), Adams and maybe even Kendrick and Roberto could bring something of value. Lee is tough. Even if he was healthy, it would be tough to get much back unless we ate a a lot of money. Remember that in the Halladay and Oswalt trades, Toronto and Houston ate money to get better prospects, but I think in Lee’s case the money remaining is too much. In any trade, I think one key is not to worry about getting major league ready prospects.

  15. Brian

    June 03, 2014 05:44 PM

    If they do go this route, they better eat as much salary as possible. They’re not going to be signing any FAs anytime soon so they don’t need the $, they’re flush with new TV money, and it’ll get them a better prospect return.

    If you’re gonna do this, you can’t be cheap.

  16. Rob

    June 04, 2014 10:26 AM

    Until RAJ is gone this is all hopeless. I can’t get behind any sell offs because that could postpone the RAJ firing. It’s like I have to keep hoping it gets worse and worse and that finally it will be so bad that he gets fired. What’s the point of moving some not very valuable assets – at best this just postpones the house cleaning that needs to arrive.

    The Phillies are just depressing. I can’t get behind them at all until RAJ is gone, and especially when you see how well run organizations (Eagles and Sixers) do things. Even the Sixers, who were REALLY bad this year were so much interesting than the Phillies because they had a smart plan.

    So I guess my point is I hear you, sure it makes sense to sell, but shouldn’t I be rooting for Amaro to actually buy? I am beyond any hope of thinking he is the right person for the job long term.

    • awh™

      June 04, 2014 01:14 PM

      “…when you see how well run organizations (Eagles and Sixers) do things.”

      And how many championships do those organizations have under current ownership?

      Be careful as to what you define as “well-run” until they actually produce results. It would come back to bite you.

    • Duane

      June 04, 2014 04:20 PM

      There was NOTHING interesting about the Sixers aside from MCW and how many games they would lose.

  17. awh™

    June 04, 2014 01:00 PM

    “Still, the club has to position itself to be competitive down the road, and that means pawning off any player who won’t be around for that era.”

    Bill, that is a matter of opinion. If they’re not going to get a player back who will be useful in the future, what’s the point of just “pawning” off players?

    Seems to me like you advocate dumping players for the sake of dumping them, without any regards to what’s gotten in return – especially if we accept your premise that they won’t get a top 100 prospect for any of them.

    You’ve obviously seen this Joe Posnanski article about the A’s over at Hardball Talk.

    Do you agree with their strategy, or not?

    • Chris S.

      June 04, 2014 01:52 PM

      Well their strategy is working. The Phillies are like the anti-A’s! Looking at the results seems like they need to change course. Not that the A’s are perfect but boy does Zaidi sound like a great future GM and I could only hope that the Phillies would fire Amaro right now for him after reading this interview.

      • Bob

        June 04, 2014 03:44 PM

        Zaidi would never work for the Phillies. Their philosophies differ too much and the Phils’ brass wouldn’t give him the controls necessary to implement the full-scale changes he’d probably want.

  18. tony454tiger

    June 08, 2014 09:14 PM

    I just hope the current GM is not solely responsible for orchestrating ANY trades. RAJ just isn’t competent enough in my opinion.

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