The Philadelphia Phillies have arrived at their current last place position for a variety of reasons, as many seasoned opinions would surely agree.
Now that Philadelphia's baseball team is in this position, will an aggressive trading path be taken?
Pulling the strings
General manager Ruben Amaro, Jr. is widely recognized as a big spender. Everyone can decide for themselves if his three-plus season track record has been misguided, unfortunate, strong-willed, well-intentioned or some combination of these four characterizations.
If I were him, I would seek strong courses of action. Trying to exchange a few pieces and believing that the Phillies can then 'go for it' again next year would be tantamount to following a false dream.
A healthy perspective
Sports' fans are very passionate people. Sometimes their behavior is downright unhealthy. Everyone is advised to continue taking their blood pressure medication and not to smash their smartphones (or computer keyboards) as they peruse the following pieces of pure conjecture. The sun will rise again tomorrow, no matter what we read today.
All issues involving Charlie Manuel won't be addressed in this piece. Managerial control is an issue that has been covered many times before and will be again on another day.
Speculating that Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Juan Pierre are likely to be traded is hardly bold. Those moves also won't open enough payroll space, or yield the type of returns that can truly change this squad.
Okay, then who?
The Phillies have already committed approximately $137.5 million to nine players for next season. Those players are: Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Ruiz. Hunter Pence, who is making $10.4 million this year, is arbitration eligible for next season.
The luxury tax threshold for next season is $178 million. The Phillies, like all other major league teams, must include the salary of all 40 players on their major league roster, as well as bonuses, benefits (like health insurance) and reductions for buyouts when calculating their total payroll.
All amounts shown in brackets aside of player names below are 2013 salary amounts.
Hamels ($24 million) obviously isn't going anywhere and Ruiz ($5 million option for next season) seems very unlikely to be moved.
Every digital professor can pontificate about limited no-trade clauses all he (or she) wants. But, some of the other eight men that have been referenced could be traded.
If the Phillies believe that they will be contenders next season, they almost assuredly won't trade both Halladay ($20 million) and Lee ($25 million). If they can obtain a lower-priced starting pitcher, who has a solid career resume, they might gamble by trading one of them before next spring.
Papelbon ($13 million) basically just arrived from Boston. I think it's possible to creatively reshape the roster and thereby position the team toward playoff contention again next season. I don't take a mental leap to the Phillies then also becoming instant World Series contenders. However, I'm comfortable with keeping Papelbon's 30-plus save arm in the bullpen.
Kendrick ($4.5 million) is a relatively inexpensive and reliable middle-innings option. Why get rid of him?
Dealing Howard ($20 million) would make sense on some levels, but his current working recovery has surely reduced his maximum trade value.
Utley ($15.286 million) has been playing on a regular basis lately and has shown that he can still field his position. As to how much offense his knees will allow him to generate this season and next is totally unknown to everyone, including him. He is one of my all-time favorite Phillies, but I would deal him if something of value could be obtained.
Rollins ($11 million) is another old favorite, but I wouldn't have re-signed him in the offseason. That opinion holds even in consideration of how thin the shortstop market was at the time. I would deal him now if something of value could be obtained. Doing so would also finally allow the leadoff hitter slot to be filled in another manner.
With whoever the Phillies thought Pence could be, he hasn't been good enough this season. Point to all of the 2012 offensive numbers that you want, but watching his undisciplined act at the plate and in the field has been enough for me. Trade him.
By next spring I don't expect Halladay (or Lee), Utley, Rollins and Pence to all have been traded. My guess is at least one of them will have been dealt.
I would trade Pence, Rollins (or Utley) and Lee. Assume that Pence earns approximately $14 million next season, add Rollins $11 million and Lee's $25 million and we arrive at $50 million. Trade Utley, instead of Rollins, and an opened payroll amount of $54.286 million has been created.
I believe that Domonic Brown will be recalled very soon and play out the year in left field. Unless he totally flops, he will also be standing out there again next season for reasons of past investment, current lineup needs and previously noted payroll issues.
All of these transactions would help to fill the holes at shortstop (or second base), third base, centerfield, right field, within the starting rotation (Lee and Blanton's spots) in the bullpen and on the bench.
The game of baseball (and all related trade talk) has always been a source of enjoyment for family members, friends and for me. We have consistently found that balanced fans of every team share our baseball character traits.
Sean O'Brien's professional writing career began in 1990, when he first began working in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. He was a freelance sports writer for five years and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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- Jimmy Rollins
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- Jonathan Papelbon