The Phillies are going be sellers this month. That much we know.
As CSNPhilly's Jim Salisbury has reported, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. says it's not going to be a complete and total roster reconstruction that takes 3-5 years to complete.
"I can't blow this team up for five years and expect us to be [crappy] for the next five or six years," Amaro said before the Phillies opened a 10-game road trip against the Marlins on Tuesday night.
"I don't think that's the right way to go about it for our fans, our franchise, our organization. I think we owe it to a lot of people [that] if we do have to go into a transition, it's going to be a shorter one than that.
"There's ways to do it. You have to make shrewd moves, make intelligent moves and try to continue to do that so that the drop-off isn't long term. So if we have to go a step backward for a year or two to move forward then that's what we'll try to do."
Based on Amaro's recent comments about moving forward, it's difficult to see exactly what he is envisioning for the future of this franchise and how he plans to make the team competitive without a full rebuild. Nevertheless, he is the GM, and he's going to do it his way, so howling at the moon will only make you hoarse.
Whatever Amaro decides to do, it's clear he will listen on any and all of the players listed below. What this list will assume is that all of the players in question would agree to a trade to the right team. That means Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, A.J. Burnett, and any other player that has no-trade rights on their contracts would agree to move to the team with which I have matched them up. It also will assume that the Phils will eat enough salary in order to get a deal done.
CHASE UTLEY (.292/.351/.446, fWAR 2.7)
It's hard to imagine Utley agreeing to a trade to Kansas City or Cleveland, so we'll cross those two off the list. New York and Baltimore would both be relatively close to his current home in Philadelphia, and both teams are either at .500 (Yankees) or above (Orioles), in prime playoff position. New York is running Brian Roberts out there, while Baltimore's young prospect Jonathan Schoop has struggled so far since being called up. St. Louis is a perennial World Series contender, and their young prospect, Kolten Wong, ranks 27th out of 30 MLB second basemen in fWAR (minimum 150 PAs).
The two options Utley would most likely consider is Oakland and San Francisco, with the chance to play on his native West Coast. Oakland has the best record in baseball and, so far, hasn't really been hurt by their black hole trio at second of Alberto Callaspo, Eric Sogard and Nick Punto. However, Utley would represent a massive upgrade for the A's, and general manager Billy Beane certainly isn't averse to making a trade deadline deal, especially when Utley's contract is relatively team friendly. Meanwhile, San Francisco is currently locked in a death struggle with the Dodgers for first place in the NL West, and Brandon Hicks is killing them at second. His .166/.286/.327 slash line is borderline criminal.
In the end, I think the Giants make the strongest push for Utley, although, I don't think any club offers the Phillies enough to part with their franchise's Derek Jeter.
Most Likely Destination: San Francisco
JIMMY ROLLINS (.248/.330/.386, fWAR 1.8)
Jimmy's numbers have fallen off quite a bit after a hot start, and wouldn't be a whole lot more of an upgrade for any contending team except for these four. Again, we can probably rule out Seattle and Milwaukee as possible destinations, because Rollins likely wouldn't accept a trade there. So, that leaves us with Oakland and Detroit.
Initially, it seemed as if the Tigers would have the greatest need at shortstop, but young Eugenio Suarez has done quite well at the position since being called up. In 24 games he's hitting .296/.375/.493 and an fWAR of 0.9 already. That's just 0.9 fWAR less than Rollins has accumulated all season. However, Detroit is a World Series contender and may not want to go into the October Wars with a rookie at such an important position. They may prefer a veteran with playoff experience, like J-Roll. It's unclear whether Rollins would be open to playing for the Tigers, although my guess is he'd resist a trade to Detroit.
So once again, focus turns to the A's, who have gotten minimal production from Jed Lowrie (.226/.319/.337 fWAR 0.8) and Punto this year. It's unlikely they'd give up anything terrific for Rollins, but a trip home to the Bay Area is probably one of the few places to where Jimmy would accept a trade.
Ultimately though, I think Rollins decides to stay in Philadelphia.
Most Likely Destination: Oakland
MARLON BYRD (.271/.324/.497, 16 HRs, fWAR 1.0)
Teams in Need: Royals, Mariners, Cardinals
Fangraphs does not like Byrd's performance in right field defensively this year, and Byrd's 28.2% K-rate is certainly high, but those 16 HRs this year prove his 2013 season was no fluke. His wOBA of .355 is only slightly below last year's .364 mark, and he's on pace for 30 HRs, which would be six more than the 24 he hit last year. And since the start of 2013, Byrd has hit .284/.331/.506 with 40 HRs, 54 2Bs and 137 RBIs in 919 PAs, with an fWAR of 5.0.
Seattle could use a power-hitting outfielder, although they're not as desperate for power as other teams. They could trade for Byrd and possibly move him to center and keep Michael Saunders in right, supplanting their current starting center fielder James Jones. Or they could move Saunders to center, although Saunders' defense in right field has been terrific this year. At the end of the day, that fit doesn't seem right.
St. Louis has an established player in right field already in Allen Craig, however, there has been talk of benching him as of late. Craig is hitting .255/.305/.366 with just 6 HRs and an fWAR of 0.3. It's possible they could look for an upgrade there, especially when you consider they've hit the second-fewest home runs in baseball.
Kansas City seems like the perfect fit. They've hit the fewest home runs in all of baseball, with Lorenzo Cain and Nori Aoki combining for three home runs out of the right field position so far this season. In all, the Royals have gotten just 13 homers from all three outfield positions, which would make a target like Byrd a perfect fit for them.
With San Deigo re-signing outfielder Seth Smith, Byrd is the best outfield power bat on the market, and I think he ends up getting traded.
Most Likely Destination: Kansas City
CLIFF LEE (4-4, 3.18 ERA, 2.89 xFIP, 1.7 fWAR)
COLE HAMELS (2-5, 2.98 ERA, 3.32 xFIP, 1.7 fWAR)
There are lots of playoff contenders that could use front-line starting pitchers like Lee and Hamels. Of course, both pitchers are expensive and, in Lee's case, there are injury issues to be concerned about. The Brewers, Mariners, Pirates and Royals could all use an arm like Lee or Hamels, but all four teams likely cannot afford either player and it's unlikely any of those teams are on either Lee's or Hamels' lists of teams they'd waive their limited no-trade clause for.
I've grouped Lee and Hamels together here because any team that would be interested in one would probably be interested in the other. Hamels is the more expensive of the two; he's owed about $7.5 million after July of this year and about $110 million through the end of his deal in 2019 (which includes a buyout or vesting options being triggered). Of course, Hamels is just 30 and, if a team is looking to acquire a bona fide #1 starter for the next few years, his deal is actually quite reasonable.
Lee will be trickier because of his age (35), his remaining money (up to $53 million through 2016, with club options and buyouts), and the elbow injury concerns. Lee will pitch for Clearwater on Sunday in the first start of a rehab assignment and, if all goes well, could join the Phillies in time to make three or four starts before the July 31 deadline. However, it's likely teams will want to see more of him before making a substantial enough deal to interest Ruben Amaro, making a trade in August or over the winter a more likely scenario for him.
I think there's virtually no way either pitcher goes anywhere this month, but in the minuscule chance a team blows the Phillies away with an offer, I think the two teams in L.A. have the prospects and the financial resources to make a deal happen.
Most Likely Destination: L.A. Dodgers (Hamels), L.A. Angels (Lee)
A.J. BURNETT (5-7, 3.92 ERA, 4.04 xFIP, fWAR 0.8)
KYLE KENDRICK (3-8, 4.22 ERA, 4.30 xFIP, fWAR 0.7)
Teams in Need: Brewers, Mariners, Pirates, Royals, Indians, Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees
The list of teams with potential interest in Burnett is longer, because he is affordable and has had stretches where he's pitched very well; although he's had some pretty bad stretches, too. Burnett is pitching with a hernia, and no one knows how that could affect him as the season wears on. No general manager wants to give up a prospect for a starter that might not make any starts come September or October.
But what these two hurlers have going for them is they're cheap. Burnett's deal will cost only about $2.25 million after July (according to CSN Philly's Corey Seidman), and the Phillies would likely pick up much of Burnett's $15 million option next year if the acquiring team parts with a worthwhile prospect.
Kendrick would bring the Phillies much less in terms of prospects, mainly because he's probably a #5 starter on a contender and is a free agent after the season. However, for a team looking for a cheap rental (he would cost about $2.5 million after this month), he'd be a cheap pickup along the lines of what Joe Blanton was for the Phils in 2008.
Pittsburgh is said to have interest in Burnett (he played for them last year) and Baltimore was on his radar during this past off-season when he was a free agent. Both are close to his Maryland home and both are likely on the list of teams to which he'd accept a trade. With Kendrick, I just threw a dart at one of those teams and landed on Toronto.
I think there's a good chance both could be traded this month.
Most Likely Destination: Pittsburgh/Baltimore (Burnett), Toronto (Kendrick)
JONATHAN PAPELBON: (2-1, 1.39 ERA, xFIP 4.15, fWAR 0.9)
Teams in Need: Orioles, Tigers, Angels
Everyone keeps waiting for Papelbon's velocity to be reflected in his stat line and, so far, it hasn't happened. Although, that 4.15 xFIP would seem to indicate his 1.39 ERA won't stay that low much longer. Still, Papelbon has gotten the job done this year, blowing just two saves while locking down 18 for a last-place team that obviously doesn't need him anymore.
Of course, we all know the impediments to trading Papelbon. There's the velocity, his age (33), and the fact no one pays $13 million a year for a closer anymore. He's owed just over $4 million after July, but still has $13 million on his deal next year and another $13 million in vesting options for 2016. If the Phils move him, they're going to have to eat a lot of salary. The good news is Ruben Amaro seems to understand that and seems more willing to do so if a half decent prospect comes back to the Phils in return.
There are only three teams that really could use a reliable closer and also might be willing to spend a little to get him. The Orioles have the inexperienced Zach Britton closing things down for them, although he's done quite well so far with a 1.45 ERA and 11 saves. The Tigers have long been talked about as a possible destination, and they are still riding Joe Nathan and his 6.16 ERA in the closer's role. Finally, the Angels have Joe Smith pitching the 9th for them and could look for a more established closer, but so far he's 9-for-9 when being given a 9th inning save opportunity, with a 2.78 ERA.
At this point, I think it's 50/50 Papelbon is on the move.
Most Likely Destination: Detroit
ANTONIO BASTARDO: (4-3, 3.66 ERA, 4.13 xFIP, 0.4 fWAR)
Of all the players likely to move in the next few weeks, Antonio Bastardo could be the first to go. The emergence of Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands makes Bastardo expendable, and there are a handful of teams that need a hard-throwing lefty in their bullpen, even one who has walked 5.49 batters per nine this year (4.42 BB/9 career). Of course, that 11.21 K/9 number this year is pretty gaudy (11.21 career as well), and he's still just 28 years old.
He's also cheap, making just $2 million this year, and should be on the radar of Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, Washington and New York. Expect him to go.
Most Likely Destination: New York
The Phillies will of course listen to offers for Ben Revere, Domonic Brown, John Mayberry, Carlos Ruiz and Ryan Howard as well, but no one is going to offer anything for a currently-concussed Chooch or an underachieving Howard. Many people want to see Brown shuttled out of town, but selling low on him now would be unwise, and it's unclear what kind of return Revere would generate.
Mayberry definitely could be on the move, however. He has once again killed left-handed pitching this year .271/.364/.583 with an ISO of .313 and OPS of .947 in 55 PAs, and would make a nice right-handed power bat off the bench for a needy contender looking for some cheap outfield help. Teams like Kansas City and Seattle, who may not want to pony up the prospects and cash for a player like Byrd, could turn to Mayberry, who can also play center field in a pinch.
The bottom line is there are teams with needs, and the Phils have players who could fill them. But extenuating circumstances - namely contracts, age and injury - could make getting deals done difficult.
Ruben Amaro has a tough job ahead of him this month.