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.
Team that talked to #Phillies reports only way they'd trade Lee/Hamels is in "win-win" scenario. Take none of $. Get huge return. Unlikely
— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 10, 2013
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.