ATLANTA -- The trade deadline is getting closer. You can hear it in the answers that Ruben Amaro Jr. is giving to questions.
“I'm not going to go through a trade deadline discussion every day,” the Phillies' general manager said before Saturday night’s game against the Braves at Turner Field. “The only thing I can tell you is we're going to try to do what we can to improve our club. That's my standard answer; I'll probably end up saying it 30,000 times. That's it. That's all I've got.”
Intrepid reporters pressed on, asking Amaro if he’s had any productive talks with rival clubs.
“That's all I've got,” Amaro said. “We're trying to improve the club.”
Veteran Amaro observers know that when the GM clams up, there is often something getting hot.
“If getting hot means we're trying to improve the club, then we're getting hot,” Amaro said.
The non-waiver trade deadline is 12 days away, and Amaro clearly has a lot of lines in the water with Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, Kyle Kendrick, Jonathan Papelbon, Antonio Bastardo, Marlon Byrd and others available in deals. The Phillies are in listen mode on Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels, but Utley and Rollins have full no-trade rights and Hamels is more likely to stay as a building block. To get him, the Phillies would have to be blooooooown away.
Papelbon is on record as saying he’s ready to go to a contending team and his 17-team no-trade clause will not be an impediment. Papelbon did offer one caveat on Saturday: If he can control it, he won’t go to a team that doesn’t plan to use him as a closer.
A potential landing spot for Papelbon disappeared on Friday as the Los Angeles Angels acquired closer Huston Street from San Diego.
Amaro was asked if the Angels’ acquiring Street would affect his ability to move anyone.
See above for his answer.
The Tigers, Giants and Orioles could still be in the market for a closer. Papelbon is owed the remainder of $13 million for this season, another $13 million next season and has a reachable option for another $13 million in 2016, so he is not cheap. Amaro is on record as saying he would eat some salary to move certain players. Papelbon is likely one of them. The team, sources say, was willing to eat up to half of Papelbon’s salary in the offseason. Papelbon is having an excellent season so it’s unclear whether the Phillies would still be willing to eat that much.
Byrd is coveted by teams looking for a right-handed power bat. Seattle and Cincinnati fit that description. Byrd has a no-trade clause to Seattle so he’d likely want his $8 million option for 2016 guaranteed to go there. Byrd’s 2015 salary is already guaranteed at $8 million.
Cincinnati is not on Byrd’s no-trade list and the Reds do have interest in him. Sources say they also have interest in lefty reliever Bastardo. The Reds have scouted the Phillies recently.
The Yankees and Blue Jays are both looking for starting pitching, but sources say they are cool on Burnett. Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be possibilities, but first there might have to be more movement on the starting pitching market as teams wait to see what happens with Lee and David Price. Lee returns to the Phillies’ rotation on Monday night.
The Phillies are not of a mind to trade for the sake of trading. They want value in return and, as mentioned, would pick up salary to ensure that.
“All we're going to try to do is improve the club,” Amaro said.
Is he confident he can do that?
“We'll try our hardest,” he said. “That's our job, whether it's July 31, August 15 or September 30 or November 15.”