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

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

Wayne Simmonds gets engaged during Flyers' bye week

So far, 2017 has been a pretty big year for Wayne Simmonds.
 
In addition to being named to his first All-Star team this year, Simmonds clearly had big plans on how to spend his bye week away from hockey, before returning to play the New Jersey Devils on Saturday. He popped the question to his girlfriend, Crystal Corey, and she said yes.
 
Simmonds announced the engagement on his Instagram.

11,700 feet and she said YES! I Love you @cryscorey 💛#SimmondsandSimmonds

A photo posted by Wayne Simmonds (@wayne17simmonds) on

Simmonds is the second Flyer to get engaged this season after Claude Giroux popped the question in December.
 
Congratulations, Wayne!

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

2017 Eagles Cost Analysis, C: Cash money or Kelce?

Time to talk everybody's favorite Eagles whipping boy, or one of them in Jason Kelce, who's viewed very differently by fans than he is his peers. Case in point, it might surprise some readers to learn Kelce was named a second alternate to the Pro Bowl for 2016, which means a lot of NFL players and coaches must've been voting for him.

We know Eagles fans weren't coming out in droves. Yet if we were to go off of only the respect people around the league have for Kelce, he's considered one of the top eight centers in football. That ranking also happens to be roughly commensurate with his salary cap hit for 2017, which is currently 10th at the position, according to OverTheCap.

That's still going to be high for many critics that say Kelce is too undersized and has become too frequently penalized in recent years. It's especially high when you tell some of those same people the Eagles could save nearly $4 million by going in a different direction.

The trade or release of Kelce would free up $3.8 million to be exact, although once again, that's before we consider the cost of replacing him. And unlike other areas of the Eagles roster, there really isn't a young prospect waiting in the wings to take over, even somebody who is maybe only a year away from being ready to take over.

So if the Eagles were to get rid of Kelce, they would have to pay somebody to replace him. Granted, only 14 centers carry a higher cap number, and many starters make half of the six-year veteran's money, so there are cheaper options available — although, what kind of quality is the offense getting for that price?

Kelce is a perfect example of when the grass isn't always greener. There are some big, mauling centers around the NFL, like the Pouncey brothers, and who doesn't love that? But while Kelce isn't necessarily going to rip anybody's spine out at the point of attack, there probably isn't a better center in the league at pulling or blocking at the second and third levels. He's a unique player from that perspective, something people tend to forget.

The Eagles are not going to upgrade the position by going significantly cheaper. Kelce can hold his own in pass protection, and he's elite when the play design allows him to get into space. There's also something to be said for his knowledge of the offense, in addition to the rapport he's building with Carson Wentz.

Best case scenario, the Eagles are probably replacing him with Stefan Wisniewski, who the club paid $2.76 million in 2016. Figuring a raise, that's most of their cap savings right there, and Wisniewski is not nearly as decorated or so widely respected by his peers. There must be a reason for that.

Kelce is pretty good.

CENTERS UNDER CONTRACT

Jason Kelce
Age: 30*
Cap Number: $6,200,000

The bigger issue with Kelce is he's approaching his 30th birthday this year, although many centers enjoy lengthy careers, especially the guys who play more of a finesse game. And if the Eagles do want to start thinking about the future, it might help if they begin developing his replacement now. Kelce will be much easier to move on from in 2018 in terms of the salary cap, so if the Eagles draft somebody this year, theoretically they could move on next season. Keep in mind, Kelce was a sixth-round pick, and the club got a lot of mileage out of him, so it doesn't have to be a major investment. Plus, if that doesn't work out, renegotiation could be on the table, with Kelce's cap hit reaching $7.2 million in '18, but only $1.2 million of prorated signing bonus left on a contract that runs through 2020. The Eagles will be looking to reduce their costs, while Kelce will want some financial security.

Josh Andrews
Age: 26*
Cap Number: $615,000

Andrews joined the Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State in 2014, and after a few years of clinging to the practice squad and on the 53-man roster as a reserve, finally saw his first action on offense this season. He played one snap at center against the Ravens in Week 15. Andrews can also line up at guard and has played special teams, though spent most of '16 inactive. He seems like a bit of a Chip Kelly outcast at this point, although it's difficult to put him in a box with so little actual experience. Is Andrews somebody who simply hasn't been given an opportunity and could fill in capably for Kelce, or will the Eagles feel the need to find competition for his roster spot?

Aaron Neary
Age: 25*

Neary originally joined the Broncos roster as an undrafted rookie, but found his way to the Eagles practice squad following his release. The Eastern Washington prospect was a two-time All-American at the Division I-AA level. At 6-foor-1, 305 pounds, Neary is considered undersized, like Kelce, which suggests this organization wants nimble centers like that. While he's probably a ways away from having any impact, the Eagles signed Neary to a futures contract at the conclusion of the season.

* Age as of 12/31/2017