Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Dom Brown all available for trade apparently

Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Dom Brown all available for trade apparently

Word out of Major League Baseball’s winter meetings is no piece is untouchable for the Philadelphia Phillies right now, including the aces up general manager Ruben Amaro Jr.’s sleeve.

Buster Olney for ESPN reports the Phillies would be open to trading either Cole Hamels or Cliff Lee, two of the three highest-paid players on the team and arguably their best two players. Meanwhile, CSNPhilly.com’s Jim Salisbury writes the club is shopping All-Star slugger Domonic Brown, whose development was one of the lone bright spots for the organization this year.

For what it’s worth, talk of trading either Hamels or Lee is just that—talk. Jayson Stark followed up for ESPN, Tweeting the Phillies would only trade either of them under optimal conditions, meaning they would take on none of the salary from the pitchers’ huge contracts, yet still fetch a nice package in return. Good luck.

The Phillies just re-signed Hamels to a six-year deal worth $144 million in 2012. Lee is signed through at least 2015 at $25 million per, and he can guarantee his option for ’16 by reaching certain milestones over the next two seasons.

Dealing either of them sounds like it could be counterproductive though alongside Salisbury’s report on Brown, who the Phillies would likely move in an effort to bolster their pitching staff. Amaro told our CSN insider the front office is focusing on bringing in starting pitching depth “more than anything else.”

Salisbury examined some of the potential options if the Fightins were to swap Brown.

Trading for a starter is quite possible. The Phillies are thin on prospects so it’s doubtful they could put together a package for Tampa Bay’s David Price. They might be able to build a package around Domonic Brown to get in the hunt for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija, who played minor-league ball under Ryne Sandberg when he managed in the Cubs’ system. Other starters who could be had in trades include Oakland lefty Brett Anderson and Boston right-handers Ryan Dempster and Jake Peavy. All come with fine print. Anderson has had multiple health issues the last couple of seasons and Dempster ($13.25 million in 2014) and Peavy ($13.25 million) are expensive.

As reported here throughout the winter, the Phillies are willing to move Brown in the right deal. An executive from a rival team confirmed that Monday and speculated that Brown would be attractive to some teams.

“He’s available,” the executive said. “They could get value for him. He’s young, inexpensive, under control (contractually) and he had a great year.”

We suppose Jonathan Papelbon is on the trade block too, as reports mention. But then, Papelbon has been on the trade block for going on a year now. The Phillies would undoubtedly have to eat some of his salary in a potential deal, and even then it doesn’t sound as if he would net much of a return.

It all sounds a little desperate to be honest, which of course it is. Amaro backed his club into a corner with all of the huge contracts that were awarded over the past bunch of years, and it’s really handcuffed the front office this offseason and last.

The only way to shake up this roster is either get some of these deals off the books—which in several cases would be next to impossible—or send away young assets, which the Phils don’t have many.

My money is on Hamels, Lee, Brown, Papelbon and the rest of the gang all being back next year. There are seldom any quick fixes out there, so we're probably stuck riding this out.

>> Brown, Papelbon in play as Phillies eye pitching
>> Examining the Lee, Hamels trade rumors

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

Howard homers, embraces the moment, looks forward to final salute Sunday

BOX SCORE

The New York Mets and a slew of their supportive fans took over Citizens Bank Park on Sunday afternoon. The Mets posted a 5-3 win over the Phillies and streamed out of the dugout like school children at recess to celebrate clinching a National League wild-card playoff spot on the penultimate day of the season (see Instant Replay).

As the Mets players congratulated each other on the diamond, several thousand of their vocal fans cheered in the stands while Phillies fans headed to the exits longing for those days when their team used to have celebrations on the field.

There was a moment in the game, however, when it did feel like the good ol’ days at the ballpark, a moment when Ryan Howard owned the place like he used to and the Phillies fans drowned out the Mets fans with ease.

It came in the fifth inning when the Phillies were down by two runs and Howard came to the plate and turned on a pitch from Bartolo Colon and sent it into the right-field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Phillies fans had seen Howard hit homers like this before because many of the 382 he has hit in his career have been clutch shots that have come in big moments, and though the Phillies have long been dead in the standings, this was an important game and thus a big moment because the Mets had a lot to play for and no competitor worth his salt would let another team walk on him.

The game didn’t stay tied long as reliever Patrick Schuster allowed a hit and a wild pitch in the top of the sixth before David Hernandez surrendered a two-run homer to James Loney as the Mets went up for good.

But at least Howard gave the Phillies fans in the house something to cheer about for a short while.

“It was cool,” Howard acknowledged after the game. “I was able to hit the home run, tying the game up. I tried to spoil it for them today a little bit, but they got us, and you’ve got to congratulate those guys because they scratched and clawed and did what they needed to do. That’s a good ball club.”

Howard’s home run, of course, was cool for another reason.

It might have been his last as a Phillie.

This is the veteran slugger’s final weekend with the team he helped win the 2008 World Series and a little love-in has developed between him and the fans. They gave him a standing ovation after the homer – his 25th of the season – and he responded with a curtain call.

“It was awesome,” he said. “To be able to hit the home run in the first place and then get the curtain call. To have the fans show that kind of appreciation is a great feeling.”

The Phillies will not pick up Howard’s contract option for 2017. On Sunday afternoon, he will play his final game for the Phillies. First pitch is at 3 p.m. The team will make an on-field presentation to Howard at 2:30.

Howard doesn’t know what the team has planned.

“I’m just going to show up and see what happens,” he said. “You know, I think it’ll be something cool. We’ll see what it is. Whatever it brings, I'll embrace it and take it and enjoy it."
 
Howard had spent the previous few days stiff-arming the attention that has come with his final days as a Phillie.

He put his guard down a little after Saturday’s game.

“I’m just taking the weekend as is,” he said. “I’m just trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace everything and take it as is. I’m not trying to look too much into anything. Actually, I’m just trying to go out there and win these ballgames. I mean, I’ve said it before, things will hit you when they hit you.”

The Phillies have not been to the playoffs since 2011, their last of five straight trips to the postseason. If anyone needed a reminder of what it used to look like around here, it was on the field after the game in the form of the Mets’ celebration.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did not watch the Mets celebrate. He’s waiting to experience a celebration of his own.

“There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get back where we need to be and we’re going to be one of those teams, just like the Mets are now,” Mackanin said.

Howard will turn 37 in November. He is the elder statesman on this club and he’s embraced that role in his dealings with younger players.

He used the Mets’ celebration as an opportunity to pass on some advice to the men who are his teammates for one more day.

“You never want to see somebody else celebrate on your home field, but for these young guys it's something where once you’ve seen it, you want to be those guys," Howard said. "When you see the other team out there, you want to be that guy next year. You want to be out there celebrating on your home field or somebody else's field.

“It's tough, but you take that and find a way to use that as motivation.”

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

North Dakota appears to be Eagles country

It appears that Carson Wentz' fanbase in North Dakota is still pretty strong. Before North Dakota State’s game against Illinois State Saturday afternoon, fans were seen walking around the parking lot in Carson Wentz Eagles’ jerseys. 

Wearing Eagles gear at the tailgate was not all, however. A large group of people begun chanting “Carson” over and over to show their love and support for the Eagles quarterback. 

Wentz, along with Eagles practice squad cornerback C.J. Smith, a fellow Bison alum, showed up to North Dakota State's homecoming Saturday.

This is not the first time we have seen North Dakota State fans showing how much they adore Carson Wentz. Going back to the NFL draft, fans were seen on the red carpet wearing North Dakota State Wentz jersey’s and waving flags.

On Sept. 19, when the Eagles played the Bears, North Dakotans traveled to see Wentz play in person.

Clearly, Wentz has a lot of love from his fans back at home, but it is safe to say that Eagles fans love him just as much after he has led them to a 3-0 start.  

It doesn't hurt that Wentz' cousin, Connor, plays for North Dakota State. Connor is a redshirt junior tight end.

John Clark with Connor Wentz

A photo posted by Rob Kuestner (@rkuestner23) on