Quiet trade deadline comes and goes for Phillies

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Quiet trade deadline comes and goes for Phillies

As late as 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Michael Young was telling people he believed he’d be traded.

But when game time arrived 4 ½ hours later, Young was in the Phillies’ starting lineup.

The 4 p.m. non-waiver trade deadline came and went Wednesday without Young, long rumored to be on the move, going anywhere.

Texas? No.

Boston? No.

New York? No.

Young said he would have waived his no-trade clause to go to more than one destination, but the Phillies did not pull the trigger on the 36-year-old infielder who, by the way, is in the final year of his contract and quite expendable because the team wants to watch young Cody Asche play third base for the final two months of this lost season.

So why no deal?

The offers for Young were lackluster and the Phillies simply don’t want to give him away. He could still be traded in a waiver deal in August if the demand for him increases.

“I guess the bottom line is we didn’t find anything that was satisfactory,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Nothing that we thought was going to improve us. We asked for certain players we thought would be helpful for us now and in the future. Teams weren’t willing to give up what we wanted, so we decided not to do anything.”

Amaro, who has been very active at the trade deadline in recent seasons, made no deals this year, and that’s actually a sad commentary on the state of the Phillies. A couple of weeks ago, he tried to land an outfielder and some bullpen help, but the Phils’ minor-league system is so thin he could not afford to meet the prices of other teams. When the Phillies turned into sellers on their recent 1-8 road trip, he couldn’t get enough in return to even move his aging players. In addition to Young, catcher Carlos Ruiz stayed put. Closer Jonathan Papelbon drew little interest because of his recent poor performance and high salary ($26 million over the next two seasons.) Cliff Lee stayed put because no team would part with the huge amount of young talent it would take to get him.

“Sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make,” Amaro said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to stop trying to do them. It’s not that the trade deadline means no more trades. We’ll continue to try to improve the club. That can happen after the deadline. It’s just a little more difficult.”

Players must clear waivers in order to be dealt after July 31. Sometimes that happens. The Phillies acquired Matt Stairs and Jamie Moyer in waiver trades. They also shipped out Joe Blanton in a waiver trade. But there’s also a possibility that trades get blocked by waiver claims. In that case, the Phils can pull the player off waivers if they choose.

It’s likely the Phillies will float a slew of their players on waivers now that the deadline has passed. It’s a way to gain trade flexibility in case a good deal comes down the pike. It’s also a good way to gauge which teams are interested in your players for future deals. Teams that make claims acknowledge that they are ready to take on a big contract if they are awarded that player. That’s why it will be interesting to see what happens if/when the Phils put Papelbon on waivers. He has worn out his welcome with some folks in the organization and $26 million of payroll flexibility might come in handy. Then again, as Amaro pointed out, there is value in having a proven closer like Papelbon, especially with the Phils hoping to rebound next season.

Though Amaro will continue to look to deal some of his older players now that the non-waiver trade deadline has passed, his next order of business might be hammering out a contract extension with Chase Utley. For the first time, Amaro acknowledged Wednesday that the two sides are negotiating.

“Hopefully, we can get to the finish line,” he said.

Utley will play at 35 next season and has a history of knee problems, but Amaro said, “He’s out there playing like a 28-year-old right now.” Utley makes $15 million this season. A two-year extension similar to Carlos Beltran’s two-year, $26 million contract with St. Louis would seem to make sense.

Over these next two months, the Phillies will look at Asche at third base and Darin Ruf will continue to get reps at first base as the team assesses what it has going into the offseason. At some point, Roy Halladay (shoulder) and Ryan Howard (knee) will return, as well. Domonic Brown (concussion) is expected back in a week or so (see story).

Young, acquired last winter to play third base, could lose playing time to Asche, but he said he was not troubled by that. He is confident that manager Charlie Manuel will continue to find him at-bats for the rest of the season or until he is moved in a waiver trade.

“I told Ruben all along if nothing happens, I’m happy to stay here in Philly,” Young said. “If they couldn’t make a deal that wasn’t going to help the team, I wouldn’t expect them to.”

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick hit by pitch twice, removed from rehab start at Triple A

Howie Kendrick experienced a painful rehab start on Thursday night.

Rehabbing with Triple A Lehigh Valley, Kendrick was hit by a pitch twice before being removed after the sixth inning of the IronPigs' 8-4 loss to Indianapolis at Coca-Cola Park.

Both times Kendrick was plunked in the upper left arm, according to Tom Housenick of the Morning Call.

There was no update on if Kendrick was injured or taken out for precautionary reasons. Thursday marked Kendrick's second rehab start as he recovers from an oblique strain that has sidelined him since April 15.

The Phillies' leftfielder started at third base Thursday. At the beginning of his rehab assignment, Kendrick was expected to play four games and see time at third and first base, as well as in left field.

Kendrick made a throwing error at third on Thursday and finished 0 for 1 with a run scored. In his two games, he's 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

Kendrick hit .333 with four doubles, a triple and five RBIs in 10 games with the Phillies prior to landing on the DL.

When he returns, he could see time at third base instead of left field if Maikel Franco continues to struggle (see story).