Phillies rumors: Amaro says team is realistic

Mitchell Leff

Despite winning five in a row (before losing last night to Washington), Ruben Amaro says the team will take a realistic approach to the trade deadline.

So, the Phillies won't sweep the Nationals this weekend. After losing Saturday night in 10 innings, 5-3, the Phils will not enter the All-Star break on a seven-game winning streak, and they will not be any closer than 8 games out of first place in a mediocre National League East.

That the team should focus on trading away valuable pieces in exchange for prospects who could help them in the coming years seems clear to just about everyone. However, before Saturday night's game against Washington, there was the obvious speculation.

What would happen if the Phils swept the Nats? Would the team hold off on selling some of their more marketable pieces in an effort to try and get back into the race?

In a piece by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman Saturday, general manager Ruben Amaro confirmed that one little five-game winning streak isn't likely to change the team's plans this month.

"We have to be realistic," Amaro said. "We won five in a row before and went into the tank."

Amaro several times said in a phone interview Saturday they are keeping their eyes and ears open. And more importantly, he also noted that they are "keeping our minds open."

The Phillies GM understandably says they're "still assessing" their situation, in light of their second five-game win streak against top teams, just in case. He understands they could transition to the full-fledged sellers folks are expecting. Or they could hold on a bit longer.

"I would assume based on the standings we'd be a seller. But that could change in a week," Amaro said.

Despite that little bit about "things could change in a week," it appears the wheels are still in motion for the Phils to be sellers. And, as Heyman noted in his piece, there is substantial interest in many Phillies players by general managers around the league.

Executives who've talked to the Phillies suggest, barring a turnaround, the Phillies will listen on almost anyone. One person with Phillies ties believes anyone but Chase Utley could go.

Amaro, seeing the dynastic team lose for a second straight year, sounds like he's willing to take it a step further, which is the right way to approach it. "I'm open to anything," he said.

Heyman also speculated the Phillies could move one, or both, of their aces.

Amaro, for his part, seems unafraid to pull a trigger on a big one, maybe even one or both of the ace pitchers -- Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. They both have limited no-trade clauses, which allow them to decline deals to a majority of teams, and that could complicate matter. The guess is that Lee might be less apt to invoke the clause than Hamels, who like Utley and Rollins has always been a Phillie and seems to love it there.

Folks familiar with the situation hinted the Phillies would want multiple big pieces back if they were to trade Hamels, with the acquiring team taking the whole contract, which calls for a $24-million average salary. That would seemingly limit potential buyers, perhaps only the Yankees (who might not even have the pieces to do a deal) and Dodgers.

And, there was this little nugget from Amaro, which is a bit eye-opening.

...the Phillies seem to understand it could be time for drastic measures and don't convey a fear of losing a cornerstone piece. "Someone had to replace Ruth and Aaron at some point, didn't they?" Amaro said.

So, with one game left before the All Star break, Amaro is talking like a seller, which is smart. After all, Fangraphs still has the Phils' odds of making the playoffs at 0.2%, which according to my math, is pretty low.

The Phillies' biggest asset is Hamels, who is guaranteed $106 million through 2018. But Heyman says the Phils would want "significant players" back (as they should) and would want the acquiring team to assume his entire contract. In other words, Hamels is really only in play for the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers, and New York doesn't have the prospects to make a Hamels deal happen.

Lee could go, and will likely get three starts before the deadline to show his elbow is healthy. He may be a more realistic option for a team like the Yankees, Orioles or even the Cardinals, although there is a lot of money attached to him as well. Not only that, Lee has the Yankees on his no-trade list, and it's unknown if he'd be willing to accept a deal there, or to Baltimore or St. Louis.

Heyman says one guy not expected to move is Chase Utley, who wants to retire a Phillie. Jimmy Rollins, on the other hand, could waive his 10-5 rights and approve a deal to the right place. However, that's unlikely, too.

In all, there are a lot of logs on the fire, but not a ton of smoke yet. Expect action to pick up during the All Star break, and especially after teams begin the unofficial second half of the season on Friday.

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