You can't turn the page of an internet newspaper anymore without hearing about a Philadelphia Phillie at the center of a trade rumor.
THE CUBS WANT COLE HAMELS. PHILLIES TRYING TO TRADE RYAN HOWARD FOR A BAG OF BALLS AND SOME WEGMAN'S COUPONS. MARLON BYRD GETTING SIGNIFICANT INTEREST IN POWER-STARVED ENVIRONMENT. DOMONIC BROWN CRYING IN A HEAP ON THE FLOOR (sorry, no link for that one).
This all sounds pretty similar to the month leading up to the July 31 trade deadline doesn't it? I remember coming here every day in July, writing up a slew of Phillies Rumors pieces, none of which ever came within a football field of happening.
But times have changed. David Montgomery is out, Pat Gillick is in. Talk has transitioned from "we owe it to our fans to always be awesome" to "yeah we're gonna be kinda crappy for a couple years."
A message was sent to the veterans, one clearly heard by A.J. Burnett last week as he ran from Citizens Bank Park, tattoos on fire, his $12.75 million salary flying from his back pockets and into the street behind him.
And perhaps, with this new-found clarity of direction, the Phils decision-makers will not be asking quite so much for any players not named Cole Hamels this time around. But how many of these vets are actually going to go? Will we see the mass exodus some were predicting back in July? Or will the team continue to horde veterans like that weird guy at the end of the block who refuses to rake his leaves?
Below are a series of Phillies players, and in parenthesis are the percent chance of them being on another team in 2015.
COLE HAMELS (40%)
There is certainly a lot of smoke to the Cole Hamels rumors. All the national baseball writers want to see him ripped from our cold, dead hands, free of having to languish in this hellhole any longer. That being said, there are really only three teams that can swing a deal for Cole, maybe four, which seriously limits his move-ability.
The Cubs are the most ideal fit. They are getting ready to compete in the NL Central and, as noted today by Cormican, have a slew of young position talent available to trade away. Chicago also needs at least one big-name starter, possibly two. Hamels is financially cheaper than all of the top-tier free agents available, but also requires a team to give up highly-touted youngsters.
There are a lot of obstacles here, but the Phillies know they're probably not going to be really good until Cole is in his age 32 season, and can sell high on the best starting pitcher they've ever developed.
MARLON BYRD (75%)
His $8 million salary this year is awesome, basically signed as a 1-WAR player. Last year, his bWAR was 2.6 and he hit 25 home runs with an OPS of .757. He also struck out 185 times and walked just 35. He has flaws in his game, but outside of Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera, there aren't many established Major League power hitters on the market.
One snag is the $8 million vesting option for 2016, which is pretty easily attainable. However, the Phils are ready to absorb some of his salary, and one would think they are willing to accept a little less for him in terms of prospects this time around.
At least, one would hope.
RYAN HOWARD (90%)
I don't know if they'll be able to find a taker, but there are those like SB Nation's Marc Normandin who feel Howard can be traded. I remain skeptical, mainly because $60 million is a lot to pay for two seasons of a player with declining offensive production and a complete inability to field his position.
Between Larry Bowa's "Howard is strictly a DH" comments and the indications from all involved that they want to be freed of the PR negativity that his continued presence brings, it seems almost impossible to see a scenario in which he returns in 2015 to the Phillies.
I think a release is more likely, but either way, it's almost a certainty that Howard is not back in a Phillie uniform next year.
CHASE UTLEY (10%)
Chase has full no-trade rights, and he doesn't seem willing to relinquish them even if the Phils have made it clear he's going to be on a losing team for what are likely the last two or three seasons of his career. It's possible a team with a need at second base, like Oakland, Kansas City, or even the New York Yankees could convince Utley to waive his 10-5 rights and join a team with a chance at the postseason.
But I doubt it.
JIMMY ROLLINS (20%)
I don't know why, but I think there's a slightly better chance Rollins would accept a trade than Utley. Jimmy also has full 10-5 rights too, but now that he's set the team's all-time hits record, what is there left to play for in Philadelphia? Rollins had a productive season at shortstop, and could help out Oakland, the Yankees, Detroit Tigers and perhaps the Dodgers, who are losing Hanley Ramirez.
I think he stays, but both Rollins and Utley could be better bets to go in July.
CARLOS RUIZ (30%)
I think there is a better chance of Ruiz leaving than Rollins or Utley, mainly because catchers are extremely hard to come by. The Pirates are losing Russell Martin, the Dodgers' A.J. Ellis was unproductive, and the Red Sox and Tigers both need help, too.
Carlos has two years at $8.5 million each year, but when healthy, plays well enough to earn that paycheck. He still gets on base, although teams will mostly be picking him up to handle their pitching staff. He'd be tough to lose, because the Phillies don't really have a replacement in-house. But they'd move him if the price was right.
DOMONIC BROWN (15%)
In an interview with Kevin Cooney of the Bucks County Courier Times, president Pat Gillick said he wanted Brown to fail or succeed with the Phillies. Which makes a lot of sense.
The Phillies are currently hunting for low-money, high-risk bounce-back candidates that could give the team surprising production for little cost. If Brown were on another team, he's probably someone the Phils would target.
While I wouldn't guarantee him a starting spot next year, I would certainly move heaven and earth to sign Yasmany Tomas, trade Marlon Byrd, and put Brown in his more natural position of right field next year. Wins and losses don't matter in 2015 anyway, so the team might as well give him one more shot to be a productive player.
I think Gillick wants to ride things out with Brown, for better or worse. No sense in selling low.
BEN REVERE (5%)
Unless someone is willing to overpay for Revere, I don't see how the Phils move him, unless as part of a throw-in on a bigger deal. But there is no other center field option for the Phillies if they let go of Revere, unless they went out and signed Colby Rasmus. And despite the many limitations in his game, can be a productive player if he's hitting near the bottom of the lineup.
I don't think teams are clamoring for him, and I don't think the Phillies are antsy to get rid of him just for the sake of getting rid of him.
JONATHAN PAPELBON (25%)
The Phillies would desperately like to be free of him and his $13 million salary, but it should be noted, as Crashburn Alley did so well this week, that Paps had an absolutely terrific season in 2014. And since signing his deal before the 2012 season, he's been very solid overall.
But make no mistake, the Phillies are motivated sellers, and they'd like to give the closer's job to Ken Giles. They also apparently don't like Papelbon's influence in the clubhouse, although the young relievers there say he's been a great influence.
So, the key will be whether there is a team that will balk at the money New York closer David Robertson is going to want and give up a middling prospect for a closer that has learned to pitch with a declining velocity. Papelbon has one more year on his deal at $13 million, but an easily attainable vesting option for 2016 at $13 million looms as well.
The Phils want to sell, and the asking price for their players has almost certainly come down. They've also made it clear to their vets that they're not going to any World Series anytime soon.
If they want one more shot at a winner, it's going to have to be someplace else.