Phillies trade deadline tracker: Pitchers 2.0

Phillies trade deadline tracker: Pitchers 2.0
July 2, 2014, 11:30 am
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From left to right: Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett. (USA Today Images)

It's July, and that means it's trade season. The Phillies could be the majors' most aggressive seller, as they are one of the few teams out of contention that actually has difference-making parts to sell off. As July 31 approaches, we'll take a weekly look at the tradability of the Phillies' pitchers and hitters. 

Here's Version 1.0. Today, a second look at the pitching staff:

Cliff Lee
Age: 35
2014 salary: $25 million ($8.3M after July)
Contract after 2014: At least $37.5M, at most $52.5M through 2016 (club option with buyout)

It's looking more and more like the Phillies won't be able to move Lee until either August or the offseason.

Lee could make a rehab start Sunday in Clearwater, which would put him in line to make three or four starts before the deadline.

Teams will still call about Lee this month. But will they be willing to part with the type of prospect haul the Phillies require to move him? The thought here is that opposing GMs will be willing to take on Lee's contract but will be more hesitant to part with top-tier young talent with the uncertainty surrounding Lee's elbow.

On the one hand, Lee has never had serious elbow issues, and he's aged well. On the other hand, this was supposed to be a minor injury, but it's lasted seven weeks.

The Phillies did not find the return they were looking for with Lee last July, and they probably won't this July. If he were healthy all season, he'd command a hefty return.

Lee is one of the top three pitchers on the trade market, right there with David Price of the Rays and the Cubs' Jeff Samardzija. And what makes Lee more attractive is his remaining salary. A team won't be on the hook for $100 million-plus, the way it would if it dealt for Price and Samardzija and had to negotiate a long-term extension.

The Yankees may come calling. Keep an eye on the Dodgers, Angels, Blue Jays and Orioles too. But it's looking more like a December move.

The Phillies cannot sell Lee for pennies on the dollar as they did in December 2009.

* * *

Cole Hamels
Age: 30
2014 salary: $22.5M ($7.5M after July)
Contract after 2014: At least $96 million, at most $110M through 2019

Ruben Amaro Jr. told CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury on Tuesday that he doesn't want the Phillies' rebuild to be lengthy (see story), that it would be a few years, not five.

That seems to imply that Hamels is staying put. He would be the centerpiece of any successful Phillies rotation two or three years from now, so unless the Phils are absolutely blown away, he'll be staying put.

Maybe they do get some Godfather offers. But it would take a team's three best prospects, probably. And even those offers can be scary. Think about this: Last year at this time, the Phils' top two prospects were Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle. That duo could have landed the Phils many solid-to-star veterans in a trade. This year, a team would need way more. That right there shows the volatility of prospects.

The gut feeling is that Hamels is staying put. If the Phillies wanted to trade him, they should have done it two summers ago.

* * *

A.J. Burnett
Age: 37
2014 salary: $7.5M ($2.25M after July)
Contract after 2014: $15M mutual option in 2015 ($1M buyout) or player option worth $7.5M to $12.75M based on starts made in 2014

Burnett said after Tuesday's loss that he's not yet thinking about trades. But he could be an attractive and inexpensive mid-rotation starter for teams like the Blue Jays, Orioles and Yankees.

Burnett has a 3.92 ERA. Meh. But he's pitched well lately, which is what matters most heading into the deadline. Over his last five starts, Burnett has a 2.89 ERA, a .210 opponents' batting average and a very impressive groundball rate.

A team that trades for Burnett would be on the hook for only $2.25 million this season. And knowing the Phillies, they would likely be willing to pick up most of his 2015 option to gain a better return.

After Lee, Price, Hamels and Samardzija, Burnett may be the best available pitcher. It would make more sense to trade for Burnett's inexpensive contract than to trade a group of prospects for the Indians' Justin Masterson.

* * *

Kyle Kendrick
Age: 29
2014 salary: $7.675M ($2.56M after July)
Contract after 2014: Free agent

Kendrick will make some money in free agency because of his durability and consistency. He's on pace to pitch 200 innings at a 4.20-4.30 ERA this season. That has some value.

But trade value? Nah. No team would give up much for Kendrick, even if that same team did have interest in signing him to a three-year, $24 million deal after the season.

* * *

Jonathan Papelbon
Age: 33
2014 salary: $13M ($4.3M after July)
Contract after 2014: $13M in 2015, $13M vesting option in 2016

Papelbon has reestablished his value and is a prime trade candidate this July. The Phillies have enough bullpen depth behind him to move him.

He's been lights-out all season and has picked up miles per hour on his fastball. Most importantly, he's relied more on offspeed stuff, which is a necessity at this point in his career. He has a lengthy track record of success, too, with 2013 looking like the fluke.

The Tigers and Orioles stick out as suitors. Maybe the Phillies can interest Detroit in a package of Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins. The Tigers have one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and Pap would provide insurance in case Joe Nathan continues to struggle.

The Orioles are trying to contend with the inexperienced Zach Britton closing games. Baltimore will make a move somewhere, and Papelbon would cost less than a top-tier starting pitcher.

* * *

Mike Adams
Age: 35
2014 salary: $7M ($2.3M after July)
Contract after 2014: $6M club option (guaranteed with 60 innings in 2014)

Adams had built his own trade value by reverting to his dominant Padres form before hurting his shoulder.

Adams was transferred to the 60-day DL Wednesday, meaning he won't be eligible to pitch again until early August, after the non-waiver trade deadline. It's very unlikely the Phillies can get anything for Adams.

Before the injury, the Phils could have brought back a starting pitching prospect.

But now, it looks like an August trade for salary relief and a prospect at the low levels of the minors will be the Phillies' best bet. Teams will see the Phils have no leverage because Adams is going to hit free agency after the year.

* * *

Antonio Bastardo
Age: 28
2014 salary: $2M ($666,666)
Contract after 2014: Third and final year of arbitration in 2015

Teams will inquire on Bastardo because he's young and extremely cheap for the duration of 2014.

Lefty relievers are always hot commodities around trade deadline time, and the bet here is that outside talent evaluators see more in Bastardo than do Phillies officials and fans.

He has swing-and-miss stuff and can retire hitters from both sides. Walks are always a problem. Strike-throwing early in the count is always a problem.

But Bastardo has a 3.00 ERA with 94 strikeouts in 81 innings the last two seasons. That'll be hard to look past for a contender in need of a second lefty for the 'pen.

Wouldn't be surprising to see the Braves, Nationals or Yankees inquire. All three of those teams lack hard-throwing lefty relievers.

Later in the week, we'll revisit at the tradability of the Phillies' position players.

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