Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said, "We’ll continue to try to improve the club" after not making any moves at the non-waiver trade deadline. (AP)
As late as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Michael Young was telling people he believed he’d be traded.
But when game time arrived 4 ½ hours later, Young was in the Phillies’ starting lineup.
The 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline came and went Wednesday without Young, long rumored to be on the move, going anywhere.
New York? No.
Young said he would have waived his no-trade clause to go to more than one destination, but the Phillies did not pull the trigger on the 36-year-old infielder who, by the way, is in the final year of his contract and quite expendable because the team wants to watch young Cody Asche play third base for the final two months of this lost season.
So why no deal?
The offers for Young were lackluster and the Phillies simply don’t want to give him away. He could still be traded in a waiver deal in August if the demand for him increases.
“I guess the bottom line is we didn’t find anything that was satisfactory,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Nothing that we thought was going to improve us. We asked for certain players we thought would be helpful for us now and in the future. Teams weren’t willing to give up what we wanted, so we decided not to do anything.”
Amaro, who has been very active at the trade deadline in recent seasons, made no deals this year, and that’s actually a sad commentary on the state of the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago, he tried to land an outfielder and some bullpen help, but the Phils’ minor-league system is so thin he could not afford to meet the prices of other teams. When the Phillies turned into sellers on their recent 1-8 road trip, he couldn’t get enough in return to even move his aging players. In addition to Young, catcher Carlos Ruiz stayed put. Closer Jonathan Papelbon drew little interest because of his recent poor performance and high salary ($26 million over the next two seasons.) Cliff Lee stayed put because no team would part with the huge amount of young talent it would take to get him.
“Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make,” Amaro said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to do them. It’s not that the trade deadline means no more trades. We’ll continue to try to improve the club. That can happen after the deadline. It’s just a little more difficult.”
Players must clear waivers in order to be dealt after July 31. Sometimes that happens. The Phillies acquired Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer in waiver trades. They also shipped out Joe Blanton in a waiver trade. But there’s also a possibility that trades get blocked by waiver claims. In that case, the Phils can pull the player off waivers if they choose.
It’s likely the Phillies will float a slew of their players on waivers now that the deadline has passed. It’s a way to gain trade flexibility in case a good deal comes down the pike. It’s also a good way to gauge which teams are interested in your players for future deals. Teams that make claims acknowledge that they are ready to take on a big contract if they are awarded that player. That’s why it will be interesting to see what happens if/when the Phils put Papelbon on waivers. He has worn out his welcome with some folks in the organization and $26 million of payroll flexibility might come in handy. Then again, as Amaro pointed out, there is value in having a proven closer like Papelbon, especially with the Phils hoping to rebound next season.
Though Amaro will continue to look to deal some of his older players now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, his next order of business might be hammering out a contract extension with Chase Utley. For the first time, Amaro acknowledged Wednesday that the two sides are negotiating.
“Hopefully, we can get to the finish line,” he said.
Utley will play at 35 next season and has a history of knee problems, but Amaro said, “He’s out there playing like a 28-year-old right now.” Utley makes $15 million this season. A two-year extension similar to Carlos Beltran’s two-year, $26 million contract with St. Louis would seem to make sense.
Over these next two months, the Phillies will look at Asche at third base and Darin Ruf will continue to get reps at first base as the team assesses what it has going into the offseason. At some point, Roy Halladay (shoulder) and Ryan Howard (knee) will return, as well. Domonic Brown (concussion) is expected back in a week or so (see story).
Young, acquired last winter to play third base, could lose playing time to Asche, but he said he was not troubled by that. He is confident that manager Charlie Manuel will continue to find him at-bats for the rest of the season or until he is moved in a waiver trade.
“I told Ruben all along if nothing happens, I’m happy to stay here in Philly,” Young said. “If they couldn’t make a deal that wasn’t going to help the team, I wouldn’t expect them to.”