It's important to remember that, with just three days until the July 31 Trade Deadline, a lot of what you hear is bunk.
Teams are floating things out to the national baseball writers in the hopes of getting other teams to move off their current positions. Teams are transmitting misinformation in the hopes of misleading other potential buyers or sellers. And teams are not exactly honest with their intentions, in the hopes of maybe cornering a market or trying to scare other teams off from doing things.
In other words... everything is lies. Lying liars and the lies they tell.
That said, if this is to be believed, then there is something seriously wrong in the Phillies' front office.
Some teams that are dealing with the Phillies say they are having difficulty gaining traction in talks;not sure if PHI committed to dealing.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
One rival exec says that if he were operating the Phillies, he'd run it like a yard sale and make it clear: Some stuff is going to be sold.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 28, 2014
If your immediate reaction is WHAAAAAAAA???? you would not be wrong.
Now, four important caveats must be stated here.
1. We don't know who Buster Olney has talked to, and we don't know who this "one rival exec" is. Perhaps it is a team that is looking to buy one of Ruben Amaro's trade pieces on the cheap and is trying to put pressure on Amaro to sell him for pennies on the dollar.
Sure, with many of the players, the Phils are only going to get dimes on the dollar, but that is still better than mere pennies. A lot of times, "baseball execs" say things like that, especially at this time of year, in order to get a team's public to put pressure on the general manager to make a move, for the sake of PR.
2. You don't want the Phillies conducting any kind of "yard sale." I just had a yard sale this weekend at my house, and it went well (I still can't believe we got rid of that broken coffee table). However, we sold basically everything for 70-80% off what we originally bought it for because, you know, that's the nature of a yard sale. Sure, the Phils are going to have to take less for their players, but it's not a smart negotiating stance to "put out a sign" that says "yard sale" and tell teams to "come and get 'em."
3. Because of how terribly most of their contracts are structured, Amaro may not be feeling the pressure to move players within the next three days. Most of his players will make it through waivers next month and Amaro probably doesn't feel as motivated to deal by July 31 because he knows he can still make a lot of deals in August.
Of course, there are players that probably wouldn't make it through. Chase Utley, Antonio Bastardo, and perhaps Cole Hamels would probably get claimed by someone. But everyone else - Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, A.J. Burnett, Cliff Lee and Marlon Byrd - would probably make it through.
4. It's possible Amaro isn't "committed to dealing" because the offers he's gotten back have been garbage. However, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo on Sunday reported this about the Phils' conversations so far...
Around the industry, the Phillies are being perceived as asking too much for their players. The Phillies are saying "make us a fair deal."
There is a fine line between asking for too much and the subtle art of negotiation. However, if the Phils really aren't "committed to dealing," asking for too much is a great way to make it look like you're active when you're really not.
We simply don't know the type of offers Amaro has gotten, which makes it tough for us to evaluate the virtues of action or inaction here. We have to trust that Amaro is doing the right thing, and given many of the moves the general manager has made over the years, that trust does not come easy.
It's not a stretch to believe that the Phillies' front office is being unreasonable. Part of what got the team into the mess they're in has been a continual and erroneous over-valuation of their own talent. In the last three years, management has continuously felt their players were better than/worth more than what the market felt. If that mindset hasn't changed, and they are asking for too much as a result, than the Phillies are going to stay bad for a very long time.
But there's a lot going on behind the scenes, and a lot of the public talk is nonsense. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.