David Montgomery on Phillies, Utley, Rollins, and Tanking

Mike Zarrilli

The Phillies team president had some interesting things to say on Wednesday about Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and the possibility of a Houston Astros-like rebuild.

Listening to David Montgomery, it sure sounds like the Phillies are more open to trading Jimmy Rollins than Chase Utley, although their arguments for both are a bit mystifying.

Montgomery, the team's president and spokesman for the team's ownership group, spoke to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Matt Gelb on Wednesday, and indicated the team would not rule out trading one or both members of the best double play tandem in franchise history.

"Is that something we are prepared to do? If that's the best thing for us, of course. Of course," Montgomery said.

However, the rationale for trading Rollins or Utley was a bit nebulous. Speaking about Utley, Montgomery said...

"The way he plays the game and everything, I'd love for him to to be wearing that uniform 20 years from now in some capacity. Jimmy will be in music, or who knows what? But Chase is a baseball guy. I'd want Chase thinking along with us how to improve this place for the next 10 years. He brings a lot to the table."

Say, what?

Is Montgomery saying that Utley deserves to be a career Phillie more than Rollins because Utley cares more about the game than Jimmy, and feels as if a transition to a post-playing career is more likely for Utley than for Rollins? And even if that is true, would the Phillies really prefer to deal one player away more than the other because of a job one of them might have with the team 20 years from now?

Montgomery's quote implies a belief that Jimmy Rollins is not "a baseball guy." If he isn't, then I'm confused as to what he's been doing for the last 15 years. Yes, maybe J-Roll wouldn't be a fit working for the Phillies organization after his playing career is over. And yes, there are probably other things Jimmy would rather do with his post-baseball career. But what does that have to do with trading him now?

You know, as Ryne Sandberg has shown, it's entirely possible to come work for the team again after you've left as a player and played somewhere else. You don't take a blood oath to some other god when you join another franchise.

Of course, Rollins and Utley will ultimately decide whether they leave the team, thanks to their 10-5 rights. And even though Jimmy said last weekend that he'd be open to moving elsewhere if the team "blew things up," Montgomery indicated the Phils were not interested in going all Houston Astros on the place.

"We don't like being in last place in the National League East," Montgomery said. "We don't think that's where we belong. We don't think that's what our fans expect of us.

"In some places, they do that intentionally in order to speed the process. But, at the same time, there has to be the types of deals [beneficial to us]. I mean, I listen to the expectations of people of what we can get for our veterans.

"For another year or two of a solid veteran player, somebody is going to give us what? And take the salary to what extent? So realism, for us, creeps into the picture."

Don't look now, but the Astros and Phillies currently have the exact same number of wins, and Houston has a lot more young talent about to hit the Majors than the Phils do. A lot of that talent is former Phils prospects, by the way.

This team may ultimately not have the stomach to do the kind of rebuild it takes to truly get better, which is only going to hurt attendance more and cause more angst among the fans who Montgomery says won't stand for a long rebuild process.

At the end of the day, at least it appears the Phils are willing to listen to trade offers from other teams.

"We're not so stubborn and blocked in our thinking that we won't do X," Montgomery said. "Was it exciting to have Jimmy get all those hits for this franchise? Was it exciting when you have players like Schmidt and Rollins, who played their whole careers in one place? I think it's exciting, and I think it's exciting for fans. But it doesn't happen much anymore."

The smart money is on neither of these players going anywhere at the trade deadline. The Phils do not appear likely to blow anything up, and the ownership still plans on trying to be competitive in 2015 and beyond.

We'll see how that goes.

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