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.”

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

Blue Jays 10, Phillies 4: Aaron Nola hit hard in final Grapefruit start

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- The Phillies got the good health they were looking for from Aaron Nola this spring.

But the overall results weren't so good.

Nola struggled in his sixth and final Grapefruit League start Tuesday night. He was roughed up for seven hits, including two home runs, and five runs and did not make it out of the second inning in the Phillies' 10-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Nola finished the Grapefruit League portion of his spring with an ERA of 8.38 after giving up 18 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings. He gave up 28 hits, walked seven and struck out 23.

"People say it's spring training but nobody wants to go out there and give up runs," Nola said.

While he wasn't happy with the numbers he put up in camp, Nola was pleased with his health. He missed the final two months of last season with an elbow strain. He said that is completely behind him.

"I feel good," he said. "The ball is coming out of my hand really good.

"Tonight was the best I've felt all spring. I just left some balls up and they took some good swings. It was a tough night."

Manager Pete Mackanin weighed in on Nola's spring.

"One thing I like is that his velocity is way up," Mackanin said. "I think his arm is healthy and that's good to see more than anything.

"He hasn't shown the command that makes him a good pitcher, but I think that will get there."

Nola gave up home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Melvin Upton Jr.

Nola lines up to pitch the fifth game of the regular season a week from Saturday in Philadelphia.

He only threw 51 pitches Tuesday night so he has room for a good bullpen session and another start before that outing. The start will come at the minor-league complex on Sunday. He will then join the team in Cincinnati for Monday's season opener.

Murray injured
Reliever Colton Murray ran his scoreless string to 10 1/3 innings before allowing a two-run homer in his third inning of work. Murray left the game with what looked like a lower back injury. He fell to the ground in pain after throwing a pitch. Earlier in the day, Murray was told that he would open the season in Triple A.

Minor matters 
Infielder Cole Stobbe, 19, the Phillies' third-round pick in last year's draft, and 18-year-old righty Sixto Sanchez were named winners of the Bill Giles and Larry Rojas awards for their standout work in minor-league camp. Both are among the organization's most highly touted young prospects.

Up next
The Phillies will split the squad and play two games on Wednesday. One team will go to Lakeland to play the Tigers. The other will go to Bradenton to face the Pirates.

The battle for one of the final spots in the bullpen will take center stage as Luis Garcia starts in Lakeland and Joely Rodriguez in Bradenton.

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

Brock Stassi appears headed for big leagues as Phillies' roster comes into focus

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Busy, busy day of roster moves in Phillies camp.

Let's try to put it all in perspective.

First, the facts:

Veteran infielder/outfielder Chris Coghlan was released from his minor-league contract.

Right-handed pitcher Alec Asher was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for a player to be named later or cash.

Infielder Pedro Florimon and relief pitchers Cesar Ramos, Hoby Milner, Pat Venditte and Colton Murray were all informed that they will not make the opening-day roster, but they remain in big-league camp as non-roster invitees.

OK, what does it all mean?

Let's start on the position-player side. The starting eight is set, but there are still openings to fill on the bench before the team's charter flight lifts off from Tampa International Airport early Friday evening.

Barring something unforeseen, infielder Andres Blanco, outfielder Aaron Altherr and catcher Andrew Knapp will all make the 25-man roster. That leaves two openings on the bench.

Coghlan, a former National League Rookie of the Year and member of last year's World Series-winning Chicago Cubs team, asked for his release after the club raised the possibility of him signing an advance consent form. Advanced consent gives a team more control of a player and also allows a team to release a player with no further financial commitment up to 45 days into the season. Coghlan decided to move on, as was his contractual right, and is expected to land with another club.

Coghlan's departure reduced the field of candidates for the two bench jobs to three -- Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava and Jesmuel Valentin.

All signs point to lefty-hitting first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi being rewarded for his excellent spring with a spot on the roster. The 27-year-old from the Sacramento area, the team's 33rd-round draft pick in 2011, has never played in the majors.

With Stassi looking good, the final spot on the bench is down to Nava and Valentin. They are two very different players. Nava is 34 and has five years of big-league service time. He is in camp on a minor-league deal, essentially looking to keep his career alive. Valentin, on the other hand, is 22 and very much a prospect. The team must decide if it wants to go with the veteran outfielder or the young second baseman for the final spot on the bench.

"With the way Stassi, Nava and Valentin are playing right now, one way or another we're going to be making tough decisions on the bench," general manager Matt Klentak said.

With Asher off the 40-man roster, the Phillies have the space to add Stassi.

They would need to create one more spot, probably by waiving a player, if they want to keep Nava.

Valentin is already on the 40-man roster so the team would not have to lose a player to keep him, but doing that would cost the young player the development opportunity that would come with regular at-bats in Triple A.

"I'm not opposed to starting that way if he wins the job and that's how we open," Klentak said of Valentin. "If we concluded after a few weeks that playing time just isn't there and we need to send him back down and get somebody else up, we can do that. That's the beauty of roster flexibility and having players on the big-league club with options. We can make those decisions in real time throughout the year."

So let's move on to the bullpen.

Five spots are set with Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Edubray Ramos, Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek.

It's likely that the team will go with seven relievers. That means there are two open spots with three candidates -- Adam Morgan, Joely Rodriguez and Luis Garica -- still standing. All three are on the 40-man roster, so that makes the personnel mechanics a little easier. 

The team probably needs a long reliever and Morgan profiles as that guy.

Rodriguez and Garcia are both scheduled to pitch in separate games on Wednesday, so their performances will be worth watching, though Klentak said not all roster decisions are based on spring performance. 

Garcia has had a number of chances in the majors the last four seasons. He has recently added a splitter and team officials are intrigued by that, so he has remained in the mix.

There is a slim chance the team could carry all three of these relievers and go with an eight-man bullpen and a short bench, but that would be tough to do in the National League. When the decisions are made, look for a five-man bench and a seven-man bullpen.

But, remember, things can change quickly on a 25-man roster once the season begins. Ender Inciarte was on the Phillies' opening-day roster in 2013 and gone a day later. Cedric Hunter was there last year and gone two weeks later.

"We have to make sure we're disciplined to the notion that the end of spring training is not a finish line," Klentak said. "The end of spring training is the starting line for a long major-league season. Whatever we can do to preserve as many assets and players and different possibilities as we can, we need to factor that in as we're making out our opening-day roster."