Sizing up the Phillies' trade options

Posted: June 11, 2014

BARRING A MIRACLE - a major miracle of the proportion of, say, unearthing Honus Wagner, Babe Ruth, Cy Young and Shoeless Joe Jackson - the Phillies should be highly motived sellers in 7 weeks, when baseball's July 31 trade deadline approaches.

Since the gory details are on display on a daily basis, either on your TV screen or here in the paper or online after each game, there's no need to waste space on explaining why the Phillies will be sellers, beyond the obvious fact that they are the worst team in the National League. They're playing poorly, and, unlike the team with baseball's worst record, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Phillies have a veteran-laden roster with one of the game's highest payrolls (third, behind the Yankees and Dodgers, if you're scoring at home).

So the obvious answer is, "Sell! Sell! Sell." Right? Well, sure.

But here's the kick-you-while-your-down note to that completely logical game plan: It won't be very easy to hold a fire sale with the makeup of the Phillies roster.

Take reliever Mike Adams, for instance.

Two weeks ago, he looked like the kind of shutdown setup man he was in his prime in San Diego, and thus, looked like a guy who could fetch the Phils a prospect from a contending team in the next month or so. But then Saturday, he was placed on the DL for the fourth time in less than 1 1/2 years in a Phillies uniform, and no one is trading for an injured pitcher owed around $3.5 million for the remainder of the season.

But Adams is only one of the many veterans who are difficult to trade. In fact, there really aren't any veterans easy to trade on the Phillies roster:

Cliff Lee. See the above two paragraphs about Adams, add the total of about $65 million over the next 2 1/2 seasons. Lee got hurt on May 18. No one is trading for an expensive, injured arm.

A.J. Burnett. Burnett nearly retired this past winter because he wanted to be with his family, and chose the Phillies in large part because of the proximity to his home in Maryland. He has a limited no-trade clause. And he's still owed upward of $18 million on the 2-year, $22.5 million contract he signed in February. And he's pitching poorly (he entered yesterday leading the big leagues with 41 walks, has a 7.25 ERA in last six starts). And he needs hernia surgery.

Cole Hamels. He is owed a minimum of $107.25 million over the next 4 1/2 years. While he has an obviously strong postseason resumé (2008 World Series and NLCS MVP), Hamels had a bout of arm trouble within the last year. But the salary is still the most prohibitive part of a possible trade. Only a deep-pocketed team could take on Hamels. And when teams take on large contracts (see: the Los Angeles Dodgers, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, etc.) they seldom have to part with premium prospects.

Jonathan Papelbon. Perhaps the player most likely to go, because the Phillies will be highly motivated to move him more than any other player. A team that won't be contending in the next 2 years has zero need for an effective-yet-expensive closer with attitude issues. Papelbon is owed a minimum of $19.5 million through the 2015 season, and that number is upped to $32.5 million through 2016 if he finishes 55 games next year or 100 games in 2014 and 2015. But most modern general managers have figured out you don't have to spend that much on a closer, so the Phils would have to eat cash if they hope to get any kind of prospect back.

Kyle Kendrick. From an opposing team's standpoint, Kendrick could be attractive, since he's in a walk year with just under $4 million remaining on his current, 1-year contract. Think Joe Blanton of 2008 - not the headline-worthy deadline deal, but perhaps impactful. But that works only if Kendrick wasn't pitching poorly. And he's pitching poorly (5.02 ERA in last six starts and, dating back to last season, 5-16 with a 5.25 ERA in his last 30 starts).

Roberto Hernandez. Not really worth discussing. He's been average and doesn't give you innings. He will not net you a prospect in a trade.

Antonio Bastardo. An interesting name, because he shows flashes of brilliance, and a change of scenery could bode well. He'd be owed about $1 million for the remainder of this season and is arbitration-eligible this winter, so even the smaller-market contending teams could take him on.

Marlon Byrd. On the surface, he would appear to be a very moveable piece, as a somewhat productive outfielder on a short-term contract. But, Byrd's 2-year, $16 million contract did include an easily attainable vesting option for a third year, a year when he turns 39. Byrd is more than a third of the way from seeing that option vest (he needs 600 plate appearances this year, or 1,100 between '14 and '15). When that vests, he's owed $20 million through 2016. That's a lot of money for an old outfielder with a PED past.

Carlos Ruiz. He's owed just under $22 million through 2016. He turns 36 in January. Those facts make him difficult to deal. The Phils also have no one to take over regular catching duties, and would probably like to keep him around, because he's a hard-working, model citizen who does all the right things, which rub off on younger, impressionable teammates.

Ryan Howard. Along with maybe Matt Kemp and Prince Fielder, one of the most difficult players in baseball to trade when you put health, production and salary together. So, he's not going anywhere.

Jimmy Rollins. Yes, he's five hits away from passing Mike Schmidt and claiming the franchise hits record. But don't bet on his willingness to waive a full no-trade clause, regardless. Rollins is heavily rooted within a Phillies organization he joined 18 years ago this month. He owns an offseason home in the New Jersey suburbs. And he'll be owed $16.5 million through the end of the 2015 season, once his vesting option arrives (he needs only 176 more plate appearances this season). Perhaps Rollins will grow tired of the losing in the next month. But since he holds a full no-trade, he controls his destination. Since he's owed a decent chunk of salary, not every team will be willing to take on that money and trade away a prospect or two.

Chase Utley. He's become the national media trade-deadline darling among Phillies players, for obvious reasons. Utley is having an All-Star season at a premium position, and his intangibles (tireless work ethic, role-model teammate) make him incredibly attractive to contending teams. But. Would Utley, who holds a full no-trade clause, want to leave? He signed his current contract less than 3 months before he could become a free agent. He signed that contract when the Phillies were in the midst of losing 14 of 16 games, 11 games under .500 (as they are now) and a whopping 18 games back in the National League East standings. So if he didn't want to leave then, why now? And then there's the viewpoint of ownership and the front office, who also appreciate his intangibles, which as with Ruiz, make him valuable to impressionable, younger players during a rebuilding process. Utley will not be given away. Unless Oakland says the name "Addison Russell" or the Dodgers whisper "Joc Pederson" or the Giants offer two of their top pitching prospects, the Phillies aren't even likely to listen. And, again, that's only if Utley is willing to listen, too, which is debatable given his stance when he re-signed here 10 months ago.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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