Well, this question just won’t stop coming up, so I guess it’s about time we address it here. Instead of answering the general question of “should they sell?” let’s actually look at the individual pieces in question and judge their value based on the Phillies situation. I am strongly of the opinion that no one should ever be “untouchable” because there is a price for anyone, regardless of the situation in which the team finds itself. That being said, I don’t think the Phillies should be waving any white flags quite yet. This team is finally whole and can be as good as any team in baseball when going right, so, despite the immense hole they have dug for themselves, it’s NOT OVER. But, again, everyone has a price and that price has a lot to do with context and circumstance. So, I will set a price that I would need to see in return for each piece.
The biggest question on the table obviously surrounded the ace left-hander who was born and bred as a ballplayer in red pinstripes. Ace starting pitchers are so incredibly hard to come by that I hope Phillies fans (and management) aren’t spoiled into delusion by the “three aces” they currently have. Starting pitching wins in baseball and when you get an ace (even if you have two others), you HOLD ON TO HIM. Period. And, that’s exactly what the Phillies did this morning, signing Cole to a 6-year, $144-million contract. I may give a more thorough thought process on this deal in the coming days, but, for now, let’s just say that, while exorbitantly expensive, keeping a certifiable ACE (who probably hasn’t even reached his peak yet) on your staff for 6 more years is priceless.
The Hamels signing now begs the question: “What do they do now?” They have somewhere in the vicinity of $95 million tied up in FOUR players (Hamels, Lee, Roy Halladay, and Ryan Howard) for the 2013 season. Many people have theorized that Cliff Lee might be moveable to make room for Hamels. As for my opinion – see above on how I feel about ace pitchers. That being said, everyone has a price, and if the Rangers are willing to part with Jurickson Profar and/or Mike Olt, then I’d certainly listen. If it were me, I think I’d make the deal for Profar essentially straight-up, but I might need an additional piece with Olt. If they are willing to give them both in just about any deal, then, well, back up the truck because they might be the best SS/3B combination in the league in 3-4 years.
Victorino is a free agent at the end of this season and is looking for a decently-sized 5-year contract. Even if the Phillies were not strapped with these massive contracts, I’m not sure Victorino will be anywhere near what he is going to demand on the open market. Shane was a key piece to the ’08 title team and all 5 NL East championships in the past five years. However, it is no secret how insanely frustrated he makes me, so I probably can’t talk about this objectively. I’m not ready to give up on the season, and Victorino is – BY FAR – the best option the Phillies have in CF right now, so I would need something of legitimacy in return for him, but I wouldn’t mind shipping him out for a reliable middle reliever who is cheap and under control for a couple of years. As for the finances, I find myself ill-equipped to comment on that, but, from what I understand, the penalties are rather severe for exceeding the luxury tax in back-to-back years. They are on their way to doing it this year and, with the Hamels signing, it looks almost definitive that they will do it next year. So, to avoid the penalty this year, they do have to move some salary. If it happens to be Shane, then so be it – again, I’m in no position to condemn an ownership group setting limitshas been the most aggressively spending sports owners that this city has ever seen.
Heavy B is another World Series hero who will not be returning to the Phils after this year. And, interestingly, while I think Blanton is as underrated in this city as Victorino is overrated, I kind of think that if you just need to shed salary to get under the luxury tax – this is probably your guy. Plus, there is always a market for innings-eating starting pitchers, so you could probably get back something with, at least, a bit of value. And, honestly, as much as I love the guy, this Phils season will probably not be lost because of 6-7 starts made by Kyle Kendrick instead of Joe Blanton.
Polanco has a mutual $1 mil buyout next year, which the Phillies will almost certainly exercise, so he is essentially another expiring contract. I have no idea what the market would be for Polly, who looks kind of, well, done, but if there is any value out there, I wouldn’t mind getting some return for him. I love Polanco, and he will always be one of my favorite Phillies, but Father Time is undefeated.
This answer is going to have more of an editorial comment attached than any analysis of Juan Pierre’s usefulness as a Phillies. There is no doubt that he has far exceeded even the front office’s expectations this year. But, I say if you can get anything for him, you do it. And, the main reason I say this is because I would find it absolutely indefensible if Dominic Brown doesn’t get at least 100-150 PAs in the bigs this season. I don’t care what his AAA numbers look like – get this guy to the big leagues and let him play – NOW. If he’s as bad as everyone thinks he is, then we can move on without any danger of “what if,” but I have never seen a guy go from “the future” to “non-existent” so quickly in baseball.
This one is actually VERY intriguing. And, not because I have soured on Pence (I actually was never that “sweet” on him to begin with), but because with another year of control, I think that Pence could actually bring back a rather decent return. He’s due a pretty substantial raise next year (probably to about $14-15 million), and after next year, he will want a pretty hefty long-term deal. I don’t see Pence signing a long-term extension here and his trade value will never be greater than it is right now. Again, I’m still holding out hope that this team makes a run, and I do like what Pence provides, but let’s say you can get a good, young 3B or CF that can step right in for next year’s departed (with a low price tag), it actually might make a lot of sense. But, the return has to be there – and it has to be someone with legitimate talent, years of control, and a small dollar figure.
I am not going to give the “general consensus” on this one because I have always seemed to value Rollins a whole lot more than the “general consensus.” What if I told you that Jimmy Rollins was #3 on the ALL-TIME LIST of fielding percentage at shortstop? And, he’s still got it. So, all of you who are in love with Freddy Galvis‘s glove (and I am one of them), let’s go thinking that he’s an upgrade even just in the field. And, we all saw the .254 OBP that Mr. Galvis posted as an every-day player this year. Rollins is still one of the best offensive SS’s around, so I think he’s essentially irreplaceable. That being said, we should talk about it because (a) everyone has a price and (b) he’s been rumored to be on the market. Anything short of a sweetheart package that includes his replacement probably shouldn’t be considered – but that’s just me, and I love Jimmy.
-Cringe- This should not – and will not – happen. Chooch has a $5 million team option (which might take 8 seconds to exercise) for 2013 and then he’s a free agent. And, with the season he is having and the position he plays, there is a chance that good ole Chooch wants to take a shot on the open market. This is the only reason I would even entertain the thought of moving him. But, honestly, it makes very little sense, because he’s one of those guys that is a lot more valuable to the Phillies than he might appear to other teams, so the return will not be anywhere near even being worthy of discussion. But, I had to bring it up because if he wants the big bucks after 2013, he might be in another uniform, and it’s never too early to start planning for these things. But, it would take a LOT more than anyone would be willing to give for a 33-year old catcher having a career year.
Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon
It’s not even worth looking up whether or not they have “no-trade” clauses in their contracts because they are not going anywhere because of (a) their value to the Phillies and (b) their contracts.
John Mayberry, Laynce Nix, Ty Wigginton, Mike Fontenot, etc…
Sure, though I think Mayberry’s value is probably at an all-time low right now, so maybe we should not exactly “sell low” there. But, the others, sure…
I still believe that this team can make the playoffs. And, to get to that one-game playoff and have a guy like Halladay (or Hamels or Lee) on the mound means that anything can happen. They look like the team we thought they would be with Utley and Howard back. I know it took two late comebacks to beat a bad Brewers team these last two nights, but wins are wins, no matter who it is. Obviously, it’s a longshot, but I still believe that there is plenty of time for this team to get back in this thing. The Cardinals were 10.5 games back of the wild card last year in the last week of August. We are still in July and the Phils are sitting 9.5 back. And, yes, they have a lot of teams that they would have to catch, but there are only two teams ahead of them that I think have even a chance to pull away – Atlanta and St. Louis. Everyone else ahead of them is rather flawed…