Are Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins even willing to be traded?

Are Chase Utley or Jimmy Rollins even willing to be traded?

Everywhere I go these days, people are asking me, “When are the Phillies going to blow it up? When is the fire sale?” The truth is, I don’t know. I don’t know because I’m not sure what the Philadelphia Phillies truly have to offer another team.

Ryan Howard is the immovable object. Cliff Lee, to my knowledge, hasn’t thrown a baseball in close to a month. Mike Adams just hit the disabled list. The Phillies would likely have to eat most of Jonathan Papelbon’s salary to be rid of that distraction. The wheels have come off for A.J. Burnett in recent weeks. And don’t get too excited, because the Phils are not replenishing the farm system by moving the likes of Carlos Ruiz or Marlon Byrd.

Of course, we all know who people really mean when they start hinting about the Phillies blowing it up—Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, two of the only real commodities this team has at the moment. The question is, though, can the Phillies trade either one of them?

Both Utley and Rollins have full no-trade clauses due to their 10-and-5 rights—10 years in the league, five with the same team. And while they can waive their no-trade clauses and agree to a deal, who’s to say they will?

Most folks seem to assume anybody would want out in Utley’s or Rollins’ situations because the Phillies are the Titanic right now. These are 35-year-old players we’re talking about, guys with few legitimate runs at a World Series left in the tank. How could they pass up a golden opportunity to win one somewhere else?

I’m not so sure it’s that simple.

Utley, in particular, doesn’t strike me as somebody who wants to move on. He signed an incredibly team-friendly contract just last summer to remain in Philadelphia, then afterwards went so far as to say he was happy to finish his career here no matter what.

"This is something that, no matter what happens, I'm not going to regret. I've talked to some guys that have played here and moved onto other organizations. The grass isn't always greener on the other side. I'm excited. I'm happy to be still a Phillie, and hopefully a Phillie for another five years."

Meanwhile, when Rollins was being pressed by reporters about a potential trade last summer, he admitted he had no intention of leaving until after he set some more franchise records. Now that he’s a mere five base knocks away from becoming the Phillies’ all-time hits leader, the thinking is he might be more susceptible to a deal.

Don’t get your hopes up. Many viewed Rollins’ comments as selfish at the time, but it seems that was just his way of saying he doesn’t want to go anywhere. He admitted as much in February.

“I’m not planning on waiving my no-trade clause,” he said during a sit-down with Marshall Harris on Wednesday. “My plan is to bring a championship back here, to be honest.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what would compel either of them to stay. Anybody can see the Phillies are bad and will likely continue to be bad for awhile.

Perhaps such a decision would be rooted in part in something other than wins and losses. Utley and Rollins have built homes and lives in the area, which at this stage of their careers might matter more to them than winning. They have a world championship, so they may not be that interested in leaving their comfort zone to chase another.

Don’t assume the organization is necessarily going to be complicit in your fire sale, either. While it’s plain to see this franchise is in desperate need of a rebuilding process, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has stated time and time again there is no blowing up the Phillies. There is only “retooling.”

Misguided or not, the organization seems committed to putting a winning product on the field every year. You can certainly envision how Utley and Rollins might still be useful if the roster could be retooled quickly. It's the same reasons other teams might find them valuable at the trade deadline.

So as long as the Amaro is telling players the Phillies are committed to winning, and those players are happy and comfortable where they’re at, are they even interested in waiving no-trade clauses? Only Utley and Rollins know the answer to that question for sure, but neither has given any indication they are willing to move.

Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

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Union transfer contract of Michael Lahoud to Miami FC

The Union have cashed in on Michael Lahoud.

After terminating his loan to the New York Cosmos on Tuesday, the Union recalled Lahoud and officially sold the 29-year-old midfielder to Miami FC of the NASL for an undisclosed amount.

“Mike always served the club in a professional manner during his time here,” said Union sporting director Earnie Stewart, who loaned Lahoud to the Cosmos this offseason. “We thank him for his service and want to wish him the best of luck in Miami and in his future endeavors.”

Lahoud, whose prorated $115,637.50 guaranteed salary comes off the Union’s salary cap, was acquired in 2012 in a trade with Chivas USA for defender Danny Califf. He made 58 appearances with the Union before being loaned out.

Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

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Eagles' left guard job is Allen Barbre's, but backups are pushing

Allen Barbre is the Eagles’ starting left guard.

For now.

The 31-year-old offensive lineman started all 16 games at left guard in 2015, and as of Tuesday at OTAs, he was still a starter for Doug Pederson’s new-look offense.

But that could change.

There are several players pushing for the left guard spot. Among them are Stefen Wisniewski, Malcolm Bunche, Isaac Seumalo and Andrew Gardner.

“I definitely am trying to start somewhere,” said Wisniewski, a free-agent signing. “I think I would be a good starting left guard.”

Wisniewski, 27, signed a one-year prove-it deal in early April to join the Eagles (see story). After being taken in the second round of the 2011 draft, Wisniewski has started 77 of 80 possible games in the NFL. He clearly views himself as a starter in the NFL.

For the last two weeks, he’s been working with the second team at guard and center.

“Yeah, it’s weird. It’s definitely weird,” Wisniewski said. “I haven’t spent much time with the twos in five years. Probably a week or two. So it’s definitely different, but I’m just looking at it as a temporary thing, though.”

This offseason, the Eagles added veteran Brandon Brooks to play right guard, taking over for Matt Tobin, but Barbre is still slotted on the left side. In fact, to hammer the point home, the starting offensive linemen have their lockers in a row in the deep corner of the locker room, from left to right: Jason Peters, Barbre, Jason Kelce, Brooks, Lane Johnson.

So, as of late May, Barbre is still the starter.

“I really like where we're at. I like the depth at that position right now,” Pederson said last week. “But yeah, Allen Barbre is my guy and he's our starter.”

Wisniewski is the most accomplished of the backups pushing for that starting left guard spot, but he’s not alone.

Bunche, who was on the Eagles’ practice squad in 2015 after going undrafted out of UCLA, has been working with the second team at left guard during practice. And the second-year player thinks he has a shot at the starting job too.

“Oh yes. But not just that one,” Bunche said. “Throughout the season, anything can happen. That’s one thing that [offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland], he talks about it a lot, you never know when you’re number is going to be called. You just gotta stay in tune with what’s being called, the play-calling, the different techniques going into certain games. I feel I have an opportunity to take that spot if I wanted to. My mindset it to come in and get better each and every day.”

Another possible starting left guard isn’t with the team right now. Third-round pick Seumalo, from Oregon State, is back at school because of the NFL graduation rule and Oregon State’s quarters system. He would be a logical choice to compete for that starting job, but he’s missing valuable time at OTAs.

Meanwhile, Barbre, who had started just eight total games in his seven-year career before 2015, is trying to stave off his competitors. The veteran knows the team brought in a bunch of new offensive linemen this offseason (they have 17 on the roster). He just doesn’t care.

“Honestly, I wasn’t really worried about that,” Barbre said Tuesday. “Honestly, I thought I played fairly decent (in 2015), if you studied the film and you understood what went on. There was a lot of stuff that was tough on the O-line, so it made it kind of tough on us.”

The criticism of the offensive line last season was loud, especially criticism of the guard positions, but Barbre did his best to avoid it.  

“I don’t even read it,” he said. “Honestly, I don’t even care. You guys got your jobs and I have my job. We all have different things we have to do.”

Right now, Barbre’s job is to hold onto that starting spot, while Wisniewski and the rest try to steal it away.

Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

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Jim Schwartz already gushing about Malcolm Jenkins, Rodney McLeod

Anyone who follows the NFL knows to avoid reading too much into spring workouts. You don't gain valuable insight into a player's game-day ability by observing his speed in shorts or run-stuffing technique when tackles aren't being made.

First-year Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz sidestepped several questions after Tuesday's OTA about how specific players are fitting into his defensive scheme, but he made an exception for one position group in particular: his starting safeties.

The Eagles this offseason spent $35 million apiece to extend Malcolm Jenkins and sign Rodney McLeod away from the Rams. Jenkins got $21 million guaranteed, McLeod got $17 million, and they rank fifth and ninth among NFL safeties, respectively, in annual average salary.

"That was money well spent," Schwartz said Tuesday. "I'm sort of violating my rule of judging too much into this time of year — saying linemen need the pads on before we can judge, rookies let's not judge yet — but both [Jenkins and McLeod] are veteran players. And you can see that right away that both are multi-dimensional. They communicate very well, cover a lot of ground. They can blitz, they can play man (coverage), they can play zone. I'd be very surprised as the year went along if they're not one of the better safety tandems in the NFL. They've been very impressive so far."

Jenkins, who has emerged as the Eagles' most vocal leader, is coming off two terrific seasons. He set career-highs last year in tackles (109) and forced fumbles (three), intercepted two passes and returned one 99 yards for a touchdown. He graded out as the best safety in the NFL by Pro Football Focus. 

McLeod ranked 10th, eight spots ahead of Walter Thurmond, Jenkins' partner last season.

"I think we all believe that," Jenkins said when asked about the safety duo's chances of being one of the NFL's best. "The way that practice has been going so far and just what Rodney adds to the secondary, I think we're real excited about that tandem and what we'll be able to do. Both of us are very versatile, both of us know the defense and can get guys lined up and can problem-solve. All the rest of it we can do, but when you have guys that can quarterback the defense and problem-solve, it gets you out of a lot of bad looks."

Jenkins had watched McLeod on tape so he knew the type of player the Eagles were adding. What stood out most to him was how "violent" McLeod played in St. Louis, how he played much bigger than his 5-10/195-pound frame. But what's impressed Jenkins most in OTAs with McLeod is how he sees the field and reads situations. Those instincts are what Jenkins thinks can make the pairing special.

"Now playing next to him, you really start to see the smarts and his football IQ, knowing different defenses, ways to adjust things, having the ability to use tools for different situations," Jenkins said of McLeod. "He's an extension of a coach on the field. Talk about a guy being able to quarterback your defense on the field, he's somebody who understands the totality of the defense and has that ability to communicate and get guys lined up. It's just good to have two guys back there now that can do that.

"I think from what he brings to the table and what I bring to the table from a football standpoint, I think our talent level can put us in that conversation (of the NFL's top safety tandems). But once we really get in tune with each other as far as calls, tools that we can use ... when you got two guys with high football IQs, you can really be special."

Jenkins and McLeod have been playing left and right safety interchangeably so far in practice. McLeod says that this voluntary workout period for the safeties has been about figuring out which of them does what better. He'll have a better idea of their specific roles once training camp comes.

Jenkins and McLeod were in constant communication on the sidelines after coming off the field for certain plays at Tuesday's practice. Jenkins was doing a lot of the talking and McLeod a lot of the listening. McLeod would explain what he saw and why he broke the way he did, and Jenkins would coach him up and advise him what to do next time they see a certain look. 

"Big competitor, man. Just from Day 1, offseason drills and things like that when we compete, even in the weight room you can just see how he gets after it," McLeod said of Jenkins. "It carries over into the field, big trash talker. He carries a swagger about him. Very smart and instinctive player.

"Me and Malcolm, I think we're gonna build something great here and you can see glimpses of it in practice now."