June 14, 2014
By Steve Bohnel
Just when the Fightin' Phils give you a reason to believe, they give you yet another example of why GM Ruben Amaro Jr. should be looking to trade whoever he can before the MLB trade deadline on July 31.
The Phillies had just completed their second series sweep of the year, defeating the San Diego Padres three times in a row, which is a team they should be beating if they want to make any sort of run following the All-Star break.
But instead, the Chicago Cubs beat the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Friday 2-1. The highlight of the night (and perhaps one of the biggest highlights in the season thus far) was Jimmy Rollins tying the Phillies' franchise record for most hits at 2,234 hits. Oh, and Roberto Hernandez was ejected for hitting Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro in the sixth inning, despite no prior warning by umpire Mark Ripperger.
All in all, the loss just is another small chapter to add to what has been a terrible campaign thus far for Ryan Sandberg's team, as they sit in dead last in one of the worst divisions in baseball at 28-37, 6.5 games back of the Braves.
As the All-Star break nears, Amaro is on the hot-seat to start making trades. Nobody is untouchable, according to the Phillies GM.
But is it really time to "blow it up"? Probably. When you look at the assets the Phillies have, the key factor in preventing these trades are the contracts, although Amaro indicated that the team is willing to eat money if it has to.
The most marketable piece right now is probably Chase Utley. He is easily going to be the most-voted-for second baseman for the NL All-Star Team, barring something catastrophic happens to his stat line of a .314 BA, .871 OPS and 31 RBI (as of June 14). He is in the first year of a two-year, $27 million contract extension but many teams wouldn't mind having that production at his position, including the Oakland Athletics.
Heck, it might be time to part ways with Cole Hamels. Many contending clubs wouldn't mind having a pitcher of Hamels' caliber (3.07 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3.18 K/BB rate), and with Cliff Lee nursing a strained left elbow, along with A.J. Burnett's ERA being almost a run higher than last year up to this point, Hamels is probably Philadelphia's most marketable starter. The 2008 World Series MVP is slated to make $23,500,000 this year, but when given any run support at all, Hamels is still one of the elite pitchers in the game today.
Other than that, the Phillies could deal anyone from longtime catcher Carlos Ruiz to newly acquired right fielder Marlon Byrd. Philadelphia has the third oldest team in the game, while also building a payroll that is third highest in the game. That formula may work if you're the Yankees, but not for many other teams.
But this is Philadelphia, a team that has won two championships in the game since 1883, 18 years before the Yankees were founded. If Amaro wants any chance at keeping his job, he should be listening to any team that might be interested. But unlike past deals, he might want to get some value from them, like the recent Hunter Pence blunder.
Either way, the Phillies still do have a chance to make some miracle run if they decide to play up to what the potential of this team is. The problem is that with how much older this team is getting, perhaps the best long-term goal is trading away the core for some prospects in the next few years to come.
(Photo taken by Howard Smith for USA Today Sports and from Section 215)