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.