All Quiet on the Trade Front for the Phillies

Just like last year, the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching and the Phillies are standing motionless, arms akimbo, a plethora of marketable assets to either side. GM Ruben Amaro could have gotten value out of soon-to-be free agent Carlos Ruiz, third baseman Michael Young, outfielder Delmon Young, reliever Mike Adams, and bench players John Mayberry and Kevin Frandsen. It wasn’t until the final day of August, the waiver trade deadline that Amaro finally sprung into action, swapping Young for Dodgers minor league pitcher Rob Rasmussen and utility infielder John McDonald for Red Sox minor league pitcher Nefi Ogando.

Would the Phillies likely have received any franchise-defining players if Amaro had traded all of the aforementioned players? Probably not, but you always take a lottery ticket if it’s free. Instead, the Phillies released Delmon Young on August 14 and Frandsen at the end of spring training this year, getting nothing instead of something. Ruiz was signed to a questionable three-year deal and Adams stayed around only to suffer a predictable injury. The Phillies were actually hurt by Amaro’s statuesque performance at the deadline last summer.

It appears to be more of the same this year. Here’s ESPN’s Buster Olney:

The Phillies, just as they were last summer, are headed nowhere fast. They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by throwing all of the expendable parts overboard in an attempt to recoup some value out of a sinking ship. We should be seeing a flurry of moves. But instead, nothing.

The contract situations for many of the players, of course, complicates things, but it does not make arriving at a deal impossible. Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley have 10-and-5 rights. Perhaps they stick to their guns and refuse to waive them; perhaps a convincing argument can be made to them to agree to head to a contender. It’s worth a talk.

Jonathan Papelbon is owed $13 million next season and will likely be owed another $13 million in 2016 with an option that is likely to vest. He’s expensive and old — and, if you believe the peripherals and “velo”, declining. But a 34-year-old Vernon Wells was coming off of two seasons in which he combined to produce a .667 OPS between 2011-12 when the Los Angeles Angels managed to unload his hefty contract on the New York Yankees. Foolish by the Yankees? Yeah. But it shows that even the ugliest contracts attached to obviously-declining players can still be snapped up by another team.

The Phillies should be willing to throw in as much money as necessary to maximize the return. They have $128 million committed to a roster that is statistically very unlikely to be competitive in 2015. Losing 90-95 games with a $165 million payroll versus a $125 million payroll is a negligible difference. Losing 90-95 games while infusing your minor league system with some potentially franchise-altering talent, however, certainly is not negligible.

The trade deadline is on Thursday afternoon. Between now and then, if the Phillies’ front office knows what’s good for them, we should be seeing Antonio Bastardo, Marlon Byrd, A.J. Burnett, Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick, Roberto Hernandez, Grady Sizemore, and anyone else on the bench (except Darin Ruf, whose trade value is close to nonexistent) traded. The club should do anything possible to convince Rollins and Utley to waive their 10-and-5 rights. In August, we should see Cliff Lee head to a new city (or perhaps one he is already familiar with) as well as Papelbon if the Phillies can’t find a taker in the next few days.

Any hope of watching a contending team in the near future has flown out the window. Frankly, that moment occurred a couple years ago, and some instantaneous optimism was understandable, if mistaken. But now, thinking that this team has any hope of being competitive is not only delusional, it’s downright irresponsible.

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  1. Evan

    July 28, 2014 08:24 AM

    I have a feeling that this current team will be the same team that we see on Friday. And to quote Jay Sherman….”It stinks!”

  2. Matt

    July 28, 2014 08:34 AM

    My gut has been telling me all along that Amaro would do nothing of any significance at the deadline, and somehow I’ve been reluctant to believe it… but this article sums up my fears pretty well. How much longer is this guy going to be calling the shots? Unbelieveable.

  3. Matt

    July 28, 2014 08:36 AM

    “My accountant says I’m better off folding the team and taking a tax write off.”

  4. Andrew R.

    July 28, 2014 09:54 AM

    At this point, I honestly hope Ruben doesn’t make any moves. We’re becoming the laughing stock of baseball with him at the helm. I’m hoping he gets fired October 1st and someone else can come in and make the right deals. I just don’t trust Ruben to make any deals.

    • zengreaser

      July 28, 2014 10:29 AM

      That is the real dilemma here. We need to trade off as many players as we can in order to increase the chances that someone we get back can be a future contributor at the major league level. But all those trades are going to be executed by the same guy that traded a 31 year old Cliff Lee for next to nothing. (Quick side note: it still blows my mind how little we got back in trading an in-his-prime, former Cy Young winner… oh well, that dead horse has been beaten enough I guess). The problem in waiting is that our very old club will only be getting older if we wait to trade in the offseason or during next year. Certain guys like Marlon Byrd must be moved because their value is about as high as you could reasonably hope it to be.

      So knowing that the value of the players we need to move will only decline as time goes on, would you rather Ruben deal them or wait for an unknown GM with unknown abilities move the same pieces at depreciated values?

      • john mcguoirk

        July 28, 2014 10:51 AM

        The funny thing is the guy Benny Looper who is one of Ruben’s assistant GM’s came from Seattle said these guys are can’t miss prospects he still has a JOB how in the world could you be that wrong but still have a job. Beyond belief that’s how dumb and clueless this front office is

      • Kyle

        July 28, 2014 10:53 AM

        Mostly agree – but it’s tough to say we got next to nothing in the deal that landed us Harry Leroy Halladay III.

  5. john mcguoirk

    July 28, 2014 10:46 AM

    Phillies need to call boston Dodgers or Yankees and say pony up boys give me 4 players at least 1 ML ready 3 very top prospects for Cole Hamels best offer gets Hamels do the same thing for Lee but you want 1 Ml ready and 2 very top prospect done deals you can’t give away Bastardo over last 2 outtings Papelbon everybody would volunteer to drive him where he has to go Marlon Byrd I’d hate to see him go but I know he’d rather win then be with this team. I would sit Rollins and Utley down thank them for everything and say sorry guys it’s time to move forward without you guys here thanks for bringing us a championship but you now have to move on

  6. SLS

    July 28, 2014 12:23 PM

    It isn’t the bench that needs to be cleared out. It’s everybody. Not just Ruben. The entire front office. The entire scouting staff. Everyone involved in player development, down to the last coach in single-A. Everybody. Either that, or they all have to relearn the game from square one, and you know that isn’t happening. And, oh yes, will the new GM please hire Roy Halladay as a supervisor of pitching coaching before somebody else does?

  7. Phil Ease

    July 28, 2014 01:45 PM

    “Adams stayed around only to suffer a predictable injury”

    Since the injury was predictable, it is likely that the Phillies didn’t get offers worth taking.

    “They have nothing to lose and everything to gain by throwing all of the expendable parts overboard in an attempt to recoup some value out of a sinking ship.”

    Again, assuming they are offered something valuable. It’s hard to critique inactivity without knowing what offers are being made behind the scenes. Long and/or expensive contracts plus performance and/or age are likely making this (per TGP) a yard-sale situation.

    • Ryan

      July 28, 2014 04:26 PM

      Ruben signed these ridiculous contracts with easily attainable options for aging and injury-prone players, so he’s responsible for that as well. Time to clear them off the books even if it means paying option years or whatever to do so.

      • ASK

        July 28, 2014 06:47 PM

        Yes, RAJ deserves much more criticism for the horrible contracts that he gave out than for the fact that he is struggling to trade the players with those horrible contracts. I have been saying for weeks that Bastardo and Byrd are the only players that I expect to be traded. I don’t think there’s a market for Papelbon unless the Phils take back an equally bad contract (e.g. Andre Ethier) or for Burnett or Howard or Lee. If they only make one or two trades, I don’t think it will be for a lack of trying as much as it will be for a lack of desired assets.

    • ASK

      July 28, 2014 06:55 PM

      On your first comment, Bill is even further off base. Adams went on the DL in mid-June last year and never returned, so there was no way the Phils could have traded him last July.

      On your second comment, I agree. Without knowing what’s been offered if anything has been offered at all, it’s unfair to rip RAJ when the deadline is still three days away. Maybe teams are using RAJ’s poor track record against him and only low-balling the Phillies and offering deals that, if accepted, would get RAJ skewered on sites like this and TGP for not getting enough return. I’m as big of an RAJ critic as there is, but I have no problem with him doing nothing YET and I would sooner he hold onto assets and trade them in the off-season than accept subpar returns for them.

      • Bill Baer

        July 28, 2014 06:59 PM

        Just because the deadline is at the end of July doesn’t mean you have to wait until the end of July to make moves.

        On your second response, I agree.

      • ASK

        July 28, 2014 08:29 PM

        In mid-June last year, Adams was less than half a season into his 2 year, $14M deal when he went on the DL. At the time, the Phils were 35-37. I see no reason to knock RAJ for not trading Adams before he got hurt. If you want to bash RAJ for the Adams signing, I won’t argue, but I can’t agree that there was any point at which it’s fair to criticize RAJ for not trading him.

      • Bill Baer

        July 29, 2014 12:07 AM

        oh sure, it’s not like trading Adams and not trading Adams will be the difference between success and failure. I’m not trying to say it is. But the inaction overall does hurt and I hope July 31 doesn’t roll around the same crew is here.

        To quote Good Will Hunting, “You know what the best part of my day is? For about ten seconds, when I pull up to the curb and I get to your door, I think maybe I’ll knock and you won’t be there. No goodbye, no ‘see ya later’, no nothin’. You just left.”

      • ASK

        July 29, 2014 06:00 AM

        My main disagreement was with your inclusion of Adams in the article as, once they erred in signing (overpaying) the injury-prone Adams, there was never really a time at which they could or should have traded him. I agree that the inaction at last year’s deadline was bad and that more inaction this year will also most likely be bad. That being said, I’m not too optimistic that much will be done by Thursday’s deadline. Between no trade clauses, vesting options and extra years, I think the Phils have severely limited their ability to trade the likes of Lee, Burnett and Papelbon. I expect them to trade Bastardo and Byrd and not much else unless they practically give away KK or Hernandez to save a few dollars.

  8. Boo-urns

    July 28, 2014 09:19 PM

    Sorry, I just can’t see $40M as “negligible.”

  9. Cutter McCool

    July 28, 2014 10:23 PM

    Just cutting Ryan Howard would count as getting something done, in my book. That alone would constitute addition by subtraction. Any platoon they put at first couldn’t be any less productive.

  10. philly fan in NY

    July 29, 2014 09:31 AM

    Alright, so you’ve traded them all, and assuming there is nothing but prospects left, what do we have for 2015:
    CF – Revere
    LF – Brown
    RF – FA/Dugan/Perkins/Altherr
    SS – Rollins (he’s not going anywhere)
    2B – Utley (same)
    1B – Howard
    3B – Asche
    C – Rupp

    P – Hamels (no one’s going to pay a fair price)
    P – Who knows
    P – Who knows
    P – Who Knows
    P – Who Knows

    Bullpen – decent shape but young.

    Please explain how that is a better team in 2015 or 2016. You can’t! You have hopes and prayers that it might be a better team, that a prospect or two coming back could be a starter in a year or two, but you haven’t a clue and neither do the Phillies. Since teams are MUCH more reluctant to trade a surefire prospect anymore, you’ll get detritus or a whole bunch of “high-ceiling” lottery tickets. It is SOOOOOO easy to say trade this guy and trade that guy, but until you consider “Trade this guy for this prospect”, how can you evaluate what they should and shouldn’t do – you can’t. This blanket, just trade guys stuff is tiresome at best.

    • Tom

      July 30, 2014 12:24 PM

      It’s not a better team in 2015, but it’s also not much worse than what will be fielded in 2015 at the moment. Next year and most likely 2016 are losing years as of right now. The best we can hope for is to get some guys who might be able to contribute in 2016 or 2017. We need to look years into the future since the roster we currently have frankly sucks. Look at the 76ers, they have the potential to be quite good in a year or two and most fans have accepted that. We need to do the same.

  11. Bob

    July 29, 2014 12:02 PM

    If the Phillies eat most of the salary on these contracts, they might be able to retool quickly. For example, tell teams that they’ll pay all but $1 million per year of Byrd, Papelbon, Burnett, Rollins, Utley, Lee, Ruiz deal in exchange for a team’s top prospect or prospects who are close to MLB ready. By paying almost the entire salary, the Phils might be able to entice teams to part with more or quality talent. The Phillies can eat the dead money on the deals in exchange for six or seven top prospects who will be making MLB minimum. If they trade Hamels for two to three other upper echelon prospects, they could at least provide hope for the future with up to 8-10 highly-rated guys who are MLB ready. By the time the prospects get to the end of arb years, the salaries of the above will be cleared off the books along with some infusion of talent from Franco, Nola, Biddle, and hopefully a couple others.

    This is how the Phillies should use their money advantage by subsidizing cheaper teams with the veterans on the Phillies at a reduced cost to the other teams because Phils eating the money.

    • Cutter McCool

      July 30, 2014 01:07 AM

      That would work if it weren’t for A) those top prospects are cheaper than 1MM/year for a subsidized veteran, and 2) any prospect worth trading for is better than any of the Phillies veterans. Thus better to stick with the better hand they have than to trade hands with the lackluster Phillies.

      Hard to trade expensive junkets that nobody wants.

      • Bob

        July 30, 2014 10:38 AM

        (a) The $1 millions was an arbitrary figure. I could care less the number so long as it entices the other team to make a deal. If they want Byrd, Rollins, Hamels, etc. for free that’s fine – as long as we get the other teams best prospect/s.

        (2) That’s not true if you want to win the WS this year. A prospect who is in the minors isn’t going to help your team win the WS this year. There’s a reason he’s in the minors and hasn’t been called up. Maybe it’s because he needs more time to develop, maybe he’s blocked by a better player, or maybe management doesn’t care about winning anyways. But there are some teams who value winning the WS this year. Tigers, Angels, Dodgers, Giants – heck even the Cardinals were in on Price and who’d’ve thought that the A’s would make a blockbuster move. While the Phils’ players are in decline, they can provide an upgrade for some current teams. And if the hold up is the contract $$$, the Phillies must eat as much money as possible to get value in return.

        Of course, if even after offering to eat the money we still aren’t getting the cream of the crop prospects, I agree that there’s no point in giving away our players for nothing or for minor leaguers who have no shot of being major leaguers. The hold up, however, should not be us unwilling to eat money on our bad deals.

  12. edwin

    July 30, 2014 07:00 AM

    Unless a prospect is a top 20 prospect there is a low percentage chance they will succeed in the majors. Prospects that fall below the top 20 almost never make it. So if you are going to trade what are you going to get? Probably nothing of any value which basically means trading for the sake of trading is foolish. Yes it shows the fans that something is happening in the front office. Ask yourselves this,’ what are you going to get if you build a team around if you throw everything away on prospects that are likely not going to make it?’ The answer is pretty simple: probably not much.

    • Tom

      July 30, 2014 12:26 PM

      So what should happen? Keep all these guys and lose 90 games again next year? I’d rather have a bunch of young guys with potential lose 90 games than a bunch of run down 35 year olds do the same.

      • edwin

        July 30, 2014 05:37 PM

        Not saying that at all. The stats on prospects is pretty clear: most never make it out of the minors. Look at the Cliff Lee deal, or the Hunter Pence deal – both ends. Aumont has tons of potential, Tommy Joseph has tons of potential but chances are they are never going to help anyone let alone the Phillies. Draft better and jettison the Kendricks and the Bastardos. Then build through better drafting, waiver trades and FA signings if possible. It might be a while before they contend again but like it or not we are stuck with a bunch of geriatrics for the time being. I am not content to sit and watch any team lose 90 games this year or next. If I were I would be happy in Houston. Also remember who is in charge of making the deals. All the GMs out there want to get the most for the least. Unfortunately there is not a lot to trade which means till get nothing in return.

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