Scouts to see Lee reiterate Phillies' need to sell

Scouts to see Lee reiterate Phillies' need to sell
July 22, 2014, 9:00 am
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Cliff Lee allowed six runs in a 7-4 loss to the Giants Monday night in front of many scouts and it only reiterated Ruben Amaro Jr.s has to blow up the Phillies. (AP)

They were in the press box and the stands. They loitered in the hallways. A bunch of them spilled out of the dining room together just before the game began. They were everywhere.

Citizens Bank Park was overrun by scouts Monday. It was a scout convention. If they booked their travel and hotel accommodations together, they could have gotten a pretty good group rate.

It seemed that any team looking to acquire pieces at the trade deadline dispatched a representative to Philadelphia. Cliff Lee was on the mound at CBP for the first time in a long while. It might have been the last time, too -- or, rather, the last time in a Phillies uniform. Lee came off the 60-day disabled list just in time to throw some pitches for all those potential suitors. Lee didn’t pitch very well in a loss to the Giants -- 12 hits, six earned runs over 5 2/3 innings -- but at least he showed he’s healthy enough to grip a baseball and fire it toward home plate. That’s something, however small.

Lee has to be gone. Or at least he should be gone. He’s done some excellent work in Philadelphia, on two different tours of duty, but the best way for Lee to serve the Phillies now is for Lee to serve someone else. The Phillies need youth. They need prospects. They need to start over. This is a recording.

The question -- and it is a big one -- is whether Ruben Amaro Jr. and the organization will admit the era is over and move on. That is something they have been reluctant to do over the last few years, despite the declining wins and attendance. It was a good run -- all those seasons with all those playoff appearances -- but it is over. The smart play here is to pack the remaining able-bodied survivors into various escape pods and jettison them out into the Major League Baseball cosmos. Perhaps they can still save themselves before the Phillies completely burn up on their reentry to a much lower and less exclusive baseball atmosphere. (I just watched Gravity. Space is scary.)

The other question -- and it is equally large -- is what the Phillies can get in return for their crew of underachievers. Former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden outlined several potential trade scenarios that involved several players. In Bowden’s overactive hypothetical trade universe, he had Lee going to the Yankees, Cole Hamels to the Dodgers, Chase Utley to the Athletics, A.J. Burnett and Jonathan Papelbon to the Orioles, Marlon Byrd to the Mariners, Jimmy Rollins to the Tigers and Antonio Bastardo to the Braves. All of that obviously won’t happen, and that wasn’t Bowden’s point. His piece was an exercise in possibilities, a look at what those players might yield (varying levels of youth and talent) and which teams might be good trading partners.

The Phillies could certainly use some prospects. The pitching staff of the future sounds pretty grim. The same goes for the outfield. That last unit has been particularly disappointing, so much so that the Phillies are giving Grady Sizemore -- who was out of baseball for two years and then washed out with the Red Sox earlier this season -- a real look. That’s how bad Dom Brown and Ben Revere have been. As indictments go, they don’t get any bigger unless they come complete with arrest warrants and officers wielding handcuffs.

While Bowden’s stuff was largely optimistic about the potential haul the Phillies could receive, Ken Rosenthal presented a gloomier view. He reported that the Phillies are willing to eat some contract money in order to make their “high-priced veterans more attractive to prospective suitors,” which would basically help the Phillies “buy prospects.” So that’s good. Not so good: Rosenthal wrote that “the strategy is not certain to produce major dividends” because -- and I’m paraphrasing here -- other teams don’t want to trade their shiny new toys for rusty broken down parts. Oh, and Rosenthal also reported that Papelbon is “generating little interest.” Rosenthal is a buzzkill. He’s uninvited from what was turning out to be a pretty fun Trade Everyone Right Now theme party.

If he’s willing to do it, Amaro has quite a bit of work ahead. He’s got to figure out a way to trade a bunch of old guys for a bunch of young guys. Before Monday’s game, someone asked Ryne Sandberg if, after he was with the Cubs for a long while, he ever had his name pop up in trade rumors.

“I never was,” Sandberg said. “I retired just in time, I guess.”

He should have returned to the Phillies at the end of his career. They would have let him squeeze out another season or two at least.

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