The Comcast SportsNet tweet at 8:07 this morning read: “ICYMI: The #Phillies lost yesterday, but their 5-2 road trip could be a turning point.” The road trip referred to here involved the sub-.500 Phillies’ somewhat surprising three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves and a four-game split with the NL Central powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals. This followed a Phils’ 4-2 home stand against the woeful San Diego Padres and Chicago Cubs, including two losses to the Cubs. Nonetheless, nine for the last thirteen games is not too shabby.
So – turnaround?
Anything’s possible, but more likely what Philadelphia fans just witnessed was the last hurrah of the World Champion Phillies of 2008. Of course, only six players on the current Philadelphia squad were on the ’08 team, but all of those players have central team roles, and most have been tied up into their middle thirties by expensive contracts – or more properly, the team has been tied up by those deals.
Whether this Phillies team should buy or sell at the trade deadline and their overall potential has been debated here by the Delaware since week one of the season. At that point a friend asked for my predicted win total for the team, and I decided 75 is the answer. The question right now is whether or not the remaining six players from the ’08 team will even be on the team by August. This morning local sports-talk radio station WIP even took up the shocking suggestion of a Cole Hamels trade. Hamels is contractually owed the rough equivalent of the Czech Republic’s annual GDP, but he’s only 30. His ERA is 2.76.
Thus, it says here that, following a predictable letdown by this inconsistent team after their recent success, the Phillies will have to consider moving the following players (with pertinent salary information): Domonic Brown (earning $550,000 this year; arbitration eligible in ’15, barring demotion), Cliff Lee (owed $50 million, ’14-15), and the six remaining ’08 champions, Hamels (guaranteed $112.5 million, ’14-18); Ryan Howard ($75 million, ’14-17); Kyle Kendrick ($7.675 million this year, third-year arbitration eligible next year); Jimmy Rollins ($22 million, ’14-15), Carlos Ruiz ($25.5 million, ’14-17), and Chase Utley ($25-75 million – $25 guaranteed, ’14-15).
Trading many of these players would clearly be difficult, considering total contract value and options in six of their deals, ten-and-five status and limited no-trade status for three of them, and everybody’s age but Brown’s and Hamels’, but if you can dream about this currently flawed team continuing to play 8-5 or 9-4 ball for the rest of the season, I can dream about ideal trades to rebuild.
Therefore, after the coming two stumbling weeks – not supporting Hamels when he pitches, giving the ball to Roberto Hernandez and Kyle Kendrick to start four more times, and about 40-50 strikeouts by Howard and Marlon Byrd – trading four of the above eight players must happen. How this will occur without eating some salary is a puzzle, but here’s a reasonable trade based on the notion that Cliff Lee’s elbow is basically just fine. Send LHSP Lee, OF Brown and SS Rollins to the San Francisco Giants for minor league RHSP Kyle Crick and SS Brandon Crawford. (Rollins would have to accept the trade; as much as $5 million a year of his salary might have to be eaten.)
From the playoff-bound Giants’ point of view, Lee would be an upgrade over Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, and Tim Lincecum as those players are currently performing (you could look it up); Rollins and Crawford are putting up similar offensive numbers, but Rollins is better defensively. (Brown is there to convince the Giants to take on a lot of Lee’s salary; if he is deemed insufficient, give the Giants Kendrick too. Kendrick could then become a relief pitcher and spot starter, which is how he should be used.)
From the Phillies’ perspective, Brown could be replaced “for the moment” by Ben Revere or John Mayberry, and eventually by Darrin Ruf in left field, and they would gain a 21-year-old pitcher with a combined minor league ERA of 2.64. (He’s currently at double-A Richmond, and is rated by Baseball America as Frisco’s top prospect.) And the Phillies would become “for the moment” several years younger and $5-10 million a year cheaper at shortstop.
The Giants become better for the stretch run and playoffs; the Phillies buy a piece of the future and save maybe $35-40 million.
In any event, as to the ’08 Phillies, Roy Orbison said it best: “Golden days before they end / Whisper secrets to the wind…It’s over, it’s over, it’s over.”
(Except for Hamels – he should stay. Eventually, another batch of Phillies will hit for him.)