In his latest column for FOX Sports, Ken Rosenthal made the argument that the Phillies needed to make more moves over the off-season, describing their winter as a “major fail”. He notes that the San Diego Padres made an aggressive offer to the Phillies for starter Cole Hamels before signing James Shields to a four-year, $75 million contract. Rosenthal says the Phillies “need to face reality”. He went on, saying, “The Phillies refuse to accept that they might not get exactly what they want.”
Now that James Shields’ requests of his realtor are more specific than “I need a new home somewhere in North America”, the list of remaining free agents is finally looking sparse. Pitchers and catchers will report next week and the majority of major leaguers know whether they’re bound for the Grapefruit League or the Cactus League, but a few interesting players still remain unsigned. Although the self-proclaimed rebuilding Phillies have been largely quiet in the free agent market this winter, they still lack roster depth in a few areas that may be worth fortifying. Here are a few free agents still likely to be signed to major league deals that may be on their wish list:
Last week, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported that GM Ruben Amaro “covets” San Diego Padres starter Andrew Cashner, a relevant piece of information as the Padres are one of the handful of clubs still actively pursuing Cole Hamels. The Padres are also one of the few teams who have the minor league talent the Phillies are looking for, including a top catching prospect in Austin Hedges.
A recurring theme in Phillies analysis over the past year or two has been that Ruben Amaro‘s unrealistic demands in trade negotiations have prevented him from making deals. I like to think his ability to move Jimmy Rollins, Marlon Byrd, and even Antonio Bastardo for well-regarded returns this winter has put a bit of a dent in that common assumption, but it may be a reputation Amaro is unable to shake as long as Cole Hamels and (if healthy) Cliff Lee remain Phillies. Never mind the fact that standard negotiating practice dictates that you start with a high asking price or that the one thing Amaro absolutely cannot do is fail to secure the best available return if he trades Hamels, his one elite trade chip.
While I find this particular criticism to be overstated and misguided, I do understand it. Patience is boring. Action is exciting. There is one topic for which the “Amaro’s asking price is too high” critique is unequivocally meaningless though: Jonathan Papelbon trade rumors.
Well, that was unexpected. At the beginning of the season, do baseball players consciously plan on playing every day? Do elementary school kids decide in September that they’re going to have 100% attendance that year? I foolishly thought I would start my own Baumann/Ripken streak and rattle off weekly Crashbags. Hey, maybe I still can. But it’s not as easy as running in the ball from the 1-yard line on second down with Marshawn Lynch.
Baseball season is currently wiping the sleep out of its eyes and deciding whether to hit snooze again, or maybe think about getting out of bed. There’s a tastefully small amount of the offseason left. The Best Shape of His Life stories are stacking up, and the stack is getting bigger each day. Before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the back fields in Clearwater. So let’s get to work.
The Phillies announced on Twitter that they’ve signed pitcher Chad Billingsley to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million. Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports that Billingsley’s contract includes performance incentives which can bring his salary all the way up to $8 million. To make room for Billingsley on the 40-man roster, they designated Cesar Jimenez for assignment.
Last week, we learned that the Phillies were in serious trade talks with the Milwaukee Brewers regarding closer Jonathan Papelbon. The conversation eventually stalled as it couldn’t be agreed upon exactly how much money the Phillies would send along with Papelbon for his 2016 vesting option in such a deal, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
The Toronto Blue Jays were also reportedly in the mix, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki says both teams are still talking to the Phillies about a potential deal. Rosenthal added today that the Jays’ interest is “extremely limited”.
There are reports that Jonathan Papelbon could be on the move soon. A closer making $13M a year is a luxury item that a team without reasonable postseason hopes like the Phillies has no business employing. Unfortunately, the Phillies didn’t foresee the rapidity of their decline into irrelevance when they signed Papelbon to a 4-year/$50M contract in 2011 — the largest contract ever for a relief pitcher — which has left them unwittingly stuck with a player and contract that doesn’t mesh with their rebuilding goals.
The decision to trade Papelbon should be an easy one then, right? The Phillies don’t need him, he engages in inappropriate crotch grabs, and at age 34 with decreasing velo, his decline could arrive like a baby to a 9-month pregnant woman — any day now. Of course, if GM’ing were that simple anyone could do it. *insert Amaro joke here* *think to self, “gosh, self, that was a good one”* *wait for the laughter to die down* In reality, there are actual drawbacks to moving Papelbon. Do the cons outweigh the pros? Maybe not, but let’s at least think about the move from all angles before asserting it’s a no-brainer