Crash Landing: Bidding Farewell to Chooch?

The waiver trade deadline is less than a week away and the Phillies have still declined to make a single in-season trade this year. It’s been leaked that both Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz have cleared waivers, however, which is a reminder that this inactivity could change at any moment. It’s not a surprise either player cleared waivers as Howard is still owed ~$15M on his contract while Ruiz has ~$2M remaining and, although that’s not a prohibitive amount, it’s still a large investment for one to two months of a backup catcher. Now that they’ve cleared waivers, though, it’s possible to work out a trade, particularly if the Phillies are willing to provide a bit of salary relief.

I’m sticking with my unwavering predictions that Ryan Howard isn’t going anywhere. He’s been on an offensive tear lately and, while that’s great to see, he remains a one-dimensional player with extraordinarily limited value. None of the contending American League teams have a clear need for him and I just don’t see Howard ending his season anywhere but Philadelphia. Chooch, on the other hand, is rumored to have generated a bit of interest. Could we currently be in the final hours of his Phillies tenure?

This isn’t a fun question to pose. Although you would think the gradual departure of every core piece of the 2008 championship team would make these farewells easier, that really hasn’t been the case, at least for me. The Jimmy Rollins trade was an incredibly emotional time for Phillies fans, but that didn’t make the Cole Hamels trade or the Chase Utley trade any less emotional. No matter who has already left or how obvious that farewells to Chooch and Howard are imminent regardless of a change, the actual farewell itself is guaranteed to be emotional.

As for whether or not a trade is palatable, there’s something almost comforting about knowing the end is near and being able to put a clock on it. The final day of the regular season, that’s when we say goodbye. But the immediacy of trades generates a different and, arguably, less satisfying emotional reaction. A year ago Phillies fans were denied the opportunity to give Utley the farewell he would’ve received had there been an opportunity for a true goodbye. The final day of the regular season will give fans that opportunity, but a trade won’t.

This isn’t to say the Phillies shouldn’t trade Chooch. He’s been, by all accounts, a wonderful veteran in the clubhouse who provides real value even now that his playing time has been dramatically curtailed, but losing that for the final six weeks of the season won’t be a significant baseball loss. With that said, the actual baseball reasons for moving him are similarly minimal. Any prospect return is likely to be an extraordinary long shot to ever provide real major league value and it’s not as though Ruiz’s presence on the roster is blocking a prospect. If the Phillies want to bring up Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp when rosters expand in September, they’ll be perfectly able to do that whether Ruiz is here or not.

For me, I suppose that’s the unsatisfying aspect of these departures: there’s no real gain to be had in trading away Carlos Ruiz. Given that reality, I find myself hoping it doesn’t happen. I’d rather deal with all my emotions surrounding both Ruiz and Howard in one go at the close of the regular season. But whether the departure ultimately happens this week or six weeks from now, the positive thing is that it’s guaranteed to provide a wonderful opportunity to look back on the wonderful and somewhat underrated Phillies career of Carlos Ruiz as well as the remarkable career of one Ryan Howard. I may not be looking forward to the departure, but I am greatly looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate a couple of Phillies legends.

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