How Trading Cliff Lee Could Work: Hypothetically

As the second day of the MLB Winter Meetings begin, Ruben Amaro Jr & The Phillies look like a franchise desperate for talent. Unfortunately, they have multiple needs and not a lot of obvious talent to trade for it. That was until reports this morning, courtesy of Buster Olney of ESPN surfaced. Olney said the Phillies were making it known they would listen on offers for Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

The likely scenario is that neither player is moved, but the idea is intriguing. Can the Phillies improve short and long term by moving one of their prized aces? It will be tough. On the surface, it would seem that Cole Hamels would be more valuable, but with upwards of $130 million still left on
his deal, any trade in which the Phillies don’t eat salary is likely to bring little back.

Cliff Lee moving does make sense in a certain scenario though. Lee has 3 years, $77 million left on his deal assuming he is not bought out for $12.5 million after 2015. This would appeal to a few teams looking to win now, especially the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In recent days, it’s become obvious Clayton Kershaw could test free agency next year and leave the Dodgers. It’s unlikely, but possible he leaves LA after 2014 in which it would make a lot of sense for the Dodgers to have an insurance plan. It’s hard to know what type of return Cliff Lee could bring back, but there is a scenario in which I think the Phillies can benefit from the move. It’s unlikely, but this chain of moves could improve this team for this year and beyond.

1. Trade Cliff Lee, eat $15 million of salary to Los Angeles Dodgers for OF prospect Joc Pederson and RHP Carlos Frias. Pederson projects as a strong future LH power bat who can play all 3 outfield positions. He could be ready as early as this season for the Phillies and would provide them with a defensive upgrade over Domonic Brown. Frias projects as a middle relief to set up guy in the bigs, and he is also major league ready. This move also clears tons of money for the Phillies to address the many needs that they have.

2. Trade Domonic Brown, Jesse Biddle, Jonathan Papelbon, and eat $17 million of the $26 million Papelbon is owed to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson. Jesse Biddle is a nice prospect, but in return you are getting a young, proven, inexpensive starter in Masterson who can help anchor your rotation for years to come. Brown is expendable and replaceable with Peterson now in the fold. You also gain $9 million in flexibility from Papelbon contract, while giving the Indians Papelbon for essentially 2yrs/ $9 million. Everybody wins in this deal. The Phillies need to cut their losses in Papelbon.

3. Sign Free Agent Closer Chris Perez to a one year, $8 million dollar deal. In the end, the Phillies will gain just $1 million in flexibility from Papelbon, but it’s addition by subtraction. Perez will come with something to prove after a strange season, and is pitching for a multi year deal next season. He is still effective enough to be a good option for the Phillies on a one year bridge deal so that they can hope one of their young arms can step into the role after this season.

4. Sign Bartolo Colon to a 1 year/ $12 million dollar deal. I can assume at this point you are rolling your eyes because of his age, but he is a good stopgap option to help stabilize the rotation. His stuff is still good, and he gives the Phillies the reliable starter they need. with this addition, the Phillies rotation all of a sudden looks pretty good without Cliff Lee.

Obviously, the chances of these moves happening are slim to none, but it shows there is a creative way to fixing this roster. This hypothetical situation would give the Phillies a chance to contend, yet helps them build for the future. They improve the depth of the rotation, the defense in the outfield, and give themselves tons of money to work with moving forward.

Possible Rotation:
1. Hamels
2. Masterson
3. Colon
4. Kendrick
5. Gonzalez

Possible Lineup:
1. LF Revere
2. 2B Utley
3. SS Rollins
4. 1B Howard
5. RF Byrd
6. CF Pederson
7. C Ruiz
8. 3B Asche

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A Different Perspective On The State Of The Phillies

The general consensus among Phillies fans recently has been simple; the Phillies are a clueless franchise stuck in 2008. Just about everyone in Philadelphia with an opinion right now points to Ruben Amaro Jr & says he’s a clueless General Manager hell bent on keeping the Phillies in a nostalgic fog. The truth though, is that the Phillies are not unlike just about every large market franchise in baseball right now. They are caught in a conundrum of expectations and have an ability to win because of their financial flexibility.

Have the Phillies made some poor decisions? Absolutely. Trading Cliff Lee to Seattle for basically nothing in return hurt them drastically. Signing Ryan Howard to a preemptive extension when they could have let it play out set them back flexibility wise in recent years. Filling a clear void in RF after Jayson Werth & Hunter Pence were gone with a platoon led by Delmon Young was wishful thinking at best. The Phillies have made decisions that are definitely worth outrage and frustration. These events should not lead to a misunderstanding of the baseball landscape though, the Phillies are a large market team with high expectations; and that’s the way it should be.

It’s easy for small market GM’s like Billy Beane, Andrew Friedman, and Jed Hoyer to build a team. Small market teams will have a year here and there to contend, but expectations and pressure on them are low. If they develop a solid prospect, chances are once he’s arbitration eligible or due for a big pay raise he’ll be moved for more prospects. That’s the small market merry go round of operation. Their systems are always stocked, but they rarely contend to win it all, but just to have a chance. Billy Beane even admitted as much yesterday in trading for Jim Johnson saying it was a rare opportunity, “To go for it.” These teams can pick and choose when to go for it when the situation is right; the Phillies cannot.

Many Phillies fans recently have a shared a similar opinion; they want the Phillies to blow it up. They want all the aging veterans gone, and want the Phillies to rebuild and gain some depth in their minor league system to start over. Be careful what you wish for.

Simply put, this is not the NBA or NFL. A rebuild in baseball is not tanking for a year or two to get ‘that guy’ and get back to glory. It’s a 3+ year process that is more of a lottery ticket than anything. If you think the fan base of Philadelphia is patient enough for that, go back to the late 90’s Vet Days and remember how that went. Why rebuild when you can afford to develop and build at the same time? The Phillies do have young players with promise, and have more on the way in the future.

Yes, the mix of an aging roster, injuries, and two years of postseason-less baseball in Philadelphia has made us angry and frustrated. That should not turn to irrational thought though. With a two team wildcard system, some tweaks, and a healthy Ryan Howard, the Phillies can absolutely contend and go for it next year. Find a way into the playoffs & I’ll take my chances with Cole Hamels & Cliff Lee heading the rotation against anybody.

The Phillies have young talent. Dominic Brown, Ben Revere, Cody Asche, Maikel Franco, Jake Diekman, Miguel Afredo Gonzalez are all impact as soon as this year Major League Starters. Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, and Darin Ruf also have promise as at worst solid bench players this season for the Phillies.

The point? The Phillies have more talent on their roster than our frustration with recent results allows us to realize. Is this team perfect? Far from it. They have holes, and clearly if they don’t address them they will be a .500 team next season at best. It is early in the offseason though, and patience in the process should be there. There is a lot of burning left to be done on the hot stove.

The Winter Meetings are still a week away, and this will most likely be the Phillies best chance to upgrade their roster. It is likely that the Phillies shopping list of a set up type bullpen arm, right handed power bat in the outfield, and back end of the rotation starter are found in the next month or so. Until then, don’t trust the Phillies or Ruben Amaro Jr based on his track record and you’ll find good reason. You should though trust the process, and don’t let your frustration cloud the fact at hand that this team still has time to fill its’ holes. Judging this team right now is premature and emotional; let it play out. Not because you trust management or because you should give them the benefit of the doubt, but because this team is not as far off a playoff season as your emotional frustration may lead you to believe.

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What The Phillies Should Do Next.

    Our society today is made up of a bunch of second guessers. Everyone has an opinion in this new age of information sharing. Whether it’s on social media, or a Hot Stove special on MLB Network, the baseball offseason is under the microscope more than ever. Walk around Philadelphia this time of year and see how many times you hear the phrase, “If I was the Phillies General Manager I would ______.” Everyone thinks that if they were the General Manager they could fix the franchise in 5 minutes. Everyone wants to trade this guy, sign another, and always pitch their idea of a perfect trade that would single handedly fix the flawed team and save their franchise.

    Unfortunately (or fortunately) depending on who you talk to, the ideas we all throw around are not going to happen. We pretend to understand the culture of baseball, but we are outsiders. To say Ruben Amaro Jr has been heavily scrutinized since the seasons end would be an understatement. The fans are fed up with the fact that a team with a payroll of around $160 million has had two below acceptable seasons. They seem to have closed the book on this version of the Phillies; who look closer to getting their retirement paperwork than to getting another World Series ring for Philadelphia. The Phillies need to find a way to bridge their aging roster with their young talent, and get a team with high expectations back to the playoffs.

    Though our ideas are usually unrealistic, improbable, and completely off base; they are fun to offer up. Every offseason, I try to pretend for at least a brief moment I have the power to make decisions for the Phillies. I think about what I would do if I was Ruben Amaro Jr. None of my ideas ever happen, but it is always fun to at least pretend for a few moments in time these moves could actually happen, because I do believe they would make the Phillies better.

Well without further adieu, here is what I would do if I was Ruben Amaro Jr:

A few key points to keep in mind:

–          Positions as of right now that seem set due to contracts, commitments, and common sense: Catcher, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B, RF. Ben Revere played adequate when healthy last year, but am I 100 % sold there isn’t a better option out there in CF? No. I’m keeping my options open. The same goes for Domonic Brown, who was good last season but is another left handed bat that plays below average defense and seems to have durability issues.

–          Maikel Franco could use some time at Triple A to continue to develop. No need to see him until he forces the issue. Bring him to Spring Training and let him play, but let him continue to get at bats every day at AAA. The Ideal situation is that he and Asche both get tons of at bats in 2014.

–          Locate areas of need:

–          1. Acquire/ sign a starting outfielder who is a power right handed bat.

–          2. Acquire/sign 7th/8th inning bullpen piece.

–          3.  Upgrade back end of starting rotation depth.

 

 

–              My first order of business is not to locate a player that I would want the Phillies to acquire, but to find the right team that has an abundance of what the Phillies are looking for.

–              The target team: The Oakland Athletics. Oakland has a surplus of outfielders. It would be unrealistic to expect the Phillies to be able to acquire Yoenis Cespedes because he is their best position player. Even if he was available, it would take Domonic Brown, Jesse Biddle, and probably two more top tier prospects. The target is 24 year old Right handed Michael Choice. Choice is a high on base percentage, fast, power offensive player who is the odd man out in the Oakland outfield as of now with Reddick, Crisp, and Cespedes in the fold. In his 2013 full season at AAA, Choice put up an impressive .302/.390 along with 14 HR & 89 RBI’s in 132 games. Choice can play all 3 outfield spots, but in a perfect world would play CF.

–              My proposal: The Phillies trade 2B Cesar Hernandez, Minor League Pitcher Adam Morgan, cash considerations to Oakland for OF Michael Choice. This trade gives Oakland infield depth and a guy in Hernandez who is capable of becoming their future every day 2B. Adam Morgan is a good prospect, but with Jesse Biddle already in the fold, the Phillies can afford to move LHP depth. The Phillies get their everyday CF with power in Choice, who will give the Phillies 4 really solid outfielders. Even if this deal took Jesse Biddle straight up for Choice, I would entertain it. The wildcard in this case is what Choice is worth to the A’s in a trade, but he is the kind of player the Phillies need to bridge this left handed heavy lineup while not locking into an old, high salary player.

 

–          2. Sign RHP Chris Perez to a 1 yr/$7 million dollar deal. Perez is coming off of a rough season and has had some off the field issues, but still has good stuff and is only a year removed from having back to back 35 plus save seasons. Motivated to sign a multiyear deal next off season, Perez is worth the risk of paying a bit more for one season.

 

–          3. Sign former Met Mike Pelfrey to a 1yr/$9 million dollar deal. Pelfrey is coming into his second year removed from Tommy John, and though he’s had an up and down career he is another pitcher with something to prove so he can sign a multiyear deal next offseason. At the back end of the rotation, he provides some talent, and upside as a really good 4th starter in this rotation. Pelfrey has enough talent and enough to prove to wind up the biggest steal of the unheralded free agents in 2013.

 

 

–          2014 Opening Day Roster

Starting Rotation: Hamels, Lee, Gonzalez, Pelfrey, Kendrick.

Bullpen: Papelbon, Adams, Perez, De Fratus, Diekman, Rosenberg, Bastardo.

Starters: Ruiz, Howard, Utley, Rollins, Asche, Brown, Choice, Byrd.

Bench: Revere, Galvis, Rupp, Ruf,Frandsen. 

It’s time to shake things up. My 2014 Opening Day Lineup:

1. SS Rollins 

2. 2B Utley 

3. RF Byrd 

4. 1B Howard 

5. CF Choice

6. LF Brown 

7. C Ruiz

8. 3B Asche 

9. P Hamels  

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What Just Happened? The Ninth Inning.

       The Phillies had gotten 24 outs going into the 9th inning against the Braves tonight, and a sweep seemed all but a certainty. The Phillies looked like they would close to within 7 games of the Wild Card and sweep the Braves in Atlanta giving them a boost going to Cincinnati. With three outs to go, Charlie Manuel brought Jeremy Horst out to start the 9th. Horst struggled and with 2 base runners on, Charlie went to Papelbon. Two things were very clear right away: Papelbon was not mentally ready to come in and did not have any location of his pitches. A walk to Micahel Bourn, led to a ground ball to Third Base hit by Prado which should have ended the game, but it didn’t. Kevin Frandsen tried to play it from the side and it went off his glove and into the outfield. As I was watching the Prado at bat,      I realized with Papelbon’s location the last person I wanted to see was on deck was there, Chipper Jones. As Jones came to the plate, it was as if an enormous black cloud of unmet expectations, losing, and frustration hung over the Phillies, it was labeled 2012. It was a gut check for this team. Would they find a way to lose? Or would they show that this team was different than the one before the Trade Deadline. Then Chipper hit a Matt Stairs- like bomb and it was over.

       Blame could be put on Charlie, Fransden, or Papelbon. They all had their part, but maybe it is deeper than that. Does a championship caliber team lose that game? No. Sure, all teams make mistakes but good teams find a way. Someone makes a play, someone makes a pitch, everyone on that team knows they are gonna win somehow. I have played alot of baseball in my life, and I have found one common thing. Good teams when bad things start to happen take a deep breath, recollect themselves and take it to another gear to finish it off. Bad teams have something bad happen to them and all goes wrong because they know it will. Why, because baseball is all mental. Sure, the blame could be spread around tonight, but the Phillies have done this all season. It was their destined fate.

       For whatever reason beyond talent, experience, and the will to win, the Phillies just can’t hold the levees when something bad happens this season. They hope to win, but don’t see it as a formality like past seasons. Injuries are seen as barriers, not hurdles to their success. Errors are not a chance to wake up, but a play which will haunt them. Most importantly like tonight, for the first time since 2006, the teams that play the Phillies see them as beatable. It’s almost parallel to when Rocky is fighting Drago and Drago gets cut. Everyone realizes he is human, and he can be beat. Teams playing the Phillies duing their run saw them as possibly the toughest team in baseball, because they didn’t lose these kind of games. It’s just that kind of season for the Phillies. One swing encapsulated an entire season.

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The Missing Ingredient To The Phillies.

      Let’s go back to 07 and 08, and even the 09 seasons, there was always one common theme: Hungry players. The Phillies were not the THE team to beat, but a team that had been beat way too often in that last 15 years. Respect was to be earned, not attained and the names we now consider household like Howard, Utley, and Rollins were on their way towards building that reputation. Watching the Philies over the last three seasons, even in their amazing regular season run last year, something in my mind was always missing with those teams. Two straight years in a row, they lost to underdog teams, the Cardinals and Giants who seemed to be mentally tougher than them. Both teams seemed to have this presence of invincibility to them, like the Phillies had in those 07-09 teams. They seemed to have this attitude of not excepting to win because of their talent or because of their reputation, but because they would find a way. This has been missing with the Phillies the last few seasons.

      Watching the game last night, I watched two Phillies players who bring a totally new attitude to the team; Erik Kratz and Kevin Frandsen. Sure,they aren’t the greatest players. In a perfect world they aren’t even starters, but they bring a focus on every pitch, every play that the Phillies as a whole have missed over the past few seasons. These guys have brought a level of energy and appreciation of baseball to the Phillies which has in part helped put them at least within shouting distance of the Wild Card race. Sure, the Phillies at this point would need a ridiculous run and more than alot to happen in front of them to even come close to the playoffs, but I think they have found something in the second half of this season that goes beyond what we can physically evaluate with this team. The Phillies need to recapture that energy, that approach, that focus which brought them to the point of becoming the class of National League. There is something to be said for having hungry, under appreciated guys on the roster who want to prove themselves.

Remember, Jayson Werth, J.C. Romero,Chris Coste, and Shane Victorino were all those kind of players on that championship team. Moving forward, maybe Erik Kratz is a backup, maybe Kevin Frandsen is a UTIL guy, but the Phillies need to bring in more players and pieces who are hungry like them that are playing to prove themselves and their team. Look at the last two world series winners. The Cardinals and Giants had this ingredient, and it’s becoming obvious it is needed. The championship formula goes beyond great pitching, great bullpen,  plus some power. It has alot to do with the clubhouse, and the combination of attitude, team mental toughness, and a belief that no one is better than “Us.” That mix has been missing and it’s time to address it. Your move Ruben.

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A Look At The Phillies Upcoming Series With The New York Mets

After sweeping the best team in baseball in an all around impressive fashion, the Phillies start a crucial three game series with the New York Mets on Tuesday. The Mets have dominated the Phillies this season, going 8-4 in their season series, and 5-1 on the Phillies home turf at Citizens Bank Ballpark. 9.5 games out, the Phillies need to not focus on the margin behind in the Wild Card, but on just continuing to win the games in front of them. A sweep of the Mets would be great, but at least taking 2 of 3 is necessary for the Phillies to carry the momentum they gained this past weekend forward. Here’s a look at the matchups for the series.

– Tuesday: 7:05 Vance Worley (6-9 4.06 ERA) vs. Chris Young(3-7 4.44 ERA)

–    This will be a good test for the Phillies, as Chris Young has looked like the San Diego version against them this season. Young is 1-1 against the Phils in 3 starts, but sports a 1.86 ERA. On the other side, Vance Worley has had a roller coaster season, and the Phillies will need him to be better than he has of late. Worley’s last three starts he has an ERA of 5.63. Overall, I’d give the advantage in this game to the Mets, given the Phillies struggles against the soft throwing , movement driven Chris Young. As we have seen though, the key catalyst is always Jimmy Rollins. Over the past 4 wins, Rollins is 6-12. His numbers lifetime against Young lifetime though are 2-15. This is the key matchup to watch, and it may be a huge deciding factor in what happens in this game. I say Jimmy has big game, he always does against the Mets.

 Prediction: Phillies win: 6-4.

Wednesday- 7:05 Cole Hamels (14-6 2.99 ERA) vs. Matt Harvey(2-3 2.75 ERA)

With the way Cole Hamels has been pitching of late, everytime he is on the mound the Phillies expect to win. Pitching for the Mets is an interesting name though, hard throwing strikeout machine prospect Matt Harvey. Hard to know what the Phillies will do against Harvey, but with Hamels on the mound I give the Phillies a slight edge. Prediction: Phillies win: 3-1. 

Thursday- 1:05 Kyle Kendrick(7-9 4.12 ERA) vs. Jonanthon Niese(10-7 3.51 ERA)

Kyle Kendrick has recently looked more like Greg Maddux of late, changing speeds, throwing strikes, and working his change up and cutter for alot of success. Jonathon Niese is also having a solid season, and could be just what the doctored ordered for the Mets in what could be the Phillies chance to sweep. Prediction: Kyle Kendrick finally lands on earth and the Phillies struggle against Niese. Mets win: 7-3. 

Looking at the matchups, this series should be a win for the Phillies. If the bullpen can continue its’ stable state from this past weekend, it leaves the Phils in good shape. Another key will be Jimmy Rollins. When Jimmy goes so do the Phillies, and if he can keep reaching base this series , we should see the Phils continue their improbable run.

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Can the Phillies Do It? A Look At The Wild Card Race.

After an impressive sweep of the Nationals, The Phillies rose to a 61-67 record, and are now 9.5 back of the final wildcard spot. Many people are starting to question if the Phillies can actually do what the Cardinals did last season; Make a dramatic September run. If any team was built to make a run, it is the Phillies. They have 3 pitchers in Halladay, Hamels, and Lee who are capable of shutting down anyone and any team. Also, the recent emergence of a really strong Kyle Kendrick gives the Phillies 4 solid starters down the stretch. The offense has actually been productive of late, Utley and Howard are starting to produce, and the recent hot bats of Frandsen, Kratz, and Mayberry give the Phils some extra pop they have been missing up till this point. The key to the Phillies making any kind of run will be the bullpen though. IF, and its a big if, the Phillies bullpen can have performances similar to what we saw this weekend, there is no reason the Phils can’t at the least make things interesting down the stretch. I would say they need to get within 6/ 6.5 by the first week in September to actually have a shot at it. Time will tell, but one thing is for certain. If the Phillies start to get close those teams in front of them will feel the heat, and the thought of an experienced team breathing down their necks will be alot of extra pressure.

Here’s a look at the remaining schedules of the Phillies and the rest of the teams in front of them in the Wild Card race.

PHILLIES: 6 vs. NYM, 6 vs. ATL, 3 vs. CIN, 3 vs. COL, 6 vs. MIA, 6 vs. WAS, 4 vs. HOU. 

Arizona:   9 vs. SF, 3 vs. CIN, vs. COL 4, vs. SD 6, vs. LAD 6, vs. CHI 3. 

Pittsburgh- 3 vs. STL, 6 vs. HOU, 6 vs. CIN, 4 vs. NYM, 3 vs. ATL, 6 vs. MIL, 7 vs. CHI. 

Los Angeles – 1 vs. MIA, 6 vs. COL, 6 vs. ARZ, 6 vs. SD, 6 vs. SF, 4 vs. STL, 3 vs. WAS, 3 vs. CIN.

St. Louis-  3 vs. PIT, 6 vs. HOU, 4 vs. CIN, 7 vs. WAS, 3 vs. NYM, 3 vs. MIL, 3 vs. SD, 3 vs. CHI, 4 vs. LAD. 

Atlanta-  1 vs. SF, 3 vs. SD, 6 vs. PHI, 4 vs. COL, 6 vs. NYM, 3 vs. MIL, 3 vs. WAS, 3 vs. PIT, 4 vs. MIA. 

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What Today’s Possible Blockbuster Trade Could Mean For The Phillies.

      Various news outlets and credible baseball writers are reporting that a blockbuster deal is close between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers. In the deal, the Red Sox would be trading Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett, and Nick Punto to the Dodgers for James Loney, Jerry Sands, Allen Webster, and Ivan De Jesus. Most importantly, the Red Sox would be clearing alot of $$ off of the books and would be able to get out from under some long term contracts. Approximately $261 million to be exact, but how much the Dodgers absorb is yet to be seen. This deal will obviously change the landscape of baseball, and easily propels the Dodgers into the conversation for the team to come out of the National League this October. From a Phillies point of view, if this deal happens it may be seem in some ways irrelevant, but make no mistake this trade has MAJOR implications for the Phils.

    1. The Impact on Shane Victorino- When the Phillies traded Victorino this trade deadline, it was for a number of reasons. A huge gap in negotiations definitely played a part after Victorino’s agent threw out the idea of an Adam Jones’ type contract, but the trade was more about getting a return which could help the Phillies in the future. The Phillies did not want to let Victorino walk for a compensation pick. In other words, the Phillies didn’t trade Victorino for reasons that were connected to their view of him as an effective outfielder. The Dodgers, if this deal happens will have Either, Crawford, and Kemp next season in the outfield leaving Victorino out on the free agent market. Watch out for Shane to be back with the Phillies. Obviously, if some team gets desperate and gives Victorino a huge deal, the Phillies won’t overpay to get him. I will say this though, I have it on good authority the Phillies want him back if they can make it work on a reasonable number for both sides. From a source I trust to have first hand knowledge, within the Phillies organization it has been made known to plan for him to possibly return. Without getting into details, certain things are done after a player leaves assuming he won’t be back, these “things” were not done, and all involved were lead to believe his return was very realistic. Yes, that was very cryptic and strange, but I can promise you what I was told would point to him being pursued seriously. So all I’m saying is don’t be shocked to see him back. Don’t hold your breath on Michael Bourn though, his asking price goes up daily, and the Phillies will not get in a bidding war for him. 

2. Cliff Lee- If this trade goes down, it may eliminate the Dodgers from being a suitor for Cliff Lee, but the Red Sox emerge as a strong possibility. This assumes Ruben Amaro put his poker face on while saying he had no interest in trading Cliff this upcoming offseason. Though the Red Sox will have money to spend, the free agent class is weak, and with that Cliff Lee would emerge as a strong name for them to consider. Beckett will need to be replaced, and Lee’s deal will look somewhat affordable with a few years already under the hood paid by the Phillies. Two names the Phillies could look to acquire from Boston in any deal: OF prospect Bryce Brentz and SS/3B ander Bogaerts. Both are close to being big league ready, and RH + power bats, something the Phillies are certainly looking for. 

    

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Should the Phillies Move Jimmy Rollins This Offseason? Why It Could Make Sense.

At his best, Jimmy Rollins is an elite defensive shortstop who has the ability to be a .260-.280 hitter with occasional power. At his best is the key term. Coming into tonight, Rollins is batting .238 in what would be considered a disappointing season on alot of fronts for him. His hustle, focus, and will to still be a leader have all been questioned this season. Jimmy Rollins was brought back last off season on a  3 year/ 33 million dollar deal with an option for a 4th year at another $11 million. In other words, the Phillies have Jimmy for at least the next two seasons barring a trade. The Phillies gave Jimmy about market plus a year for his services, making him somewhat tradeable  if they were to pursue it in the off season. Should the Philies trade Jimmy Rollins? I think they should explore it.

Trading Jimmy Rollins would be reliant on two main factors; Freddy Galvis and money. First, if the Phillies trade Jimmy Rollins, in my opinion you HAVE to dump the entire salary, not part of it. Trading Jimmy only makes sense if the Phillies gain financial flexibility to put towards other areas like the bullpen, center field, and 3rd base. Second, the Phillies evaluation of Freddy Galvis’ offense, which is the key. In his short season, Galvis proved he can play shortstop and that he possesses the necessary baseball IQ to be an everyday player, but his offense is still a question mark. IF the Phillies scouts and baseball people really believe Freddy Galvis can be an average(.250 or above), offensive player then this is a no brainer. Sure, myself included I love Jimmy for everything he has done, and he in some ways will be irreplaceable, but lets compare the options. $11 million  next season for Jimmy Rollins, the deteriorating SS, or Freddy Galvis at virtually no $$, with money to spend on other areas, while getting at least this seasons offensive Jimmy Rollins.

Charlie Manuel today said of Galvis, “I’ve said it before… Freddy Galvis knows more, he is the best baseball player as far as knowledge, and how to carry out an assignment on the field, that I’ve seen in a long time. We talk about Trout and we talk about Harper, Freddy Galvis has more natural instincts, more knowledge of where to go, to carry out assignments, and fundamentally play the game than any kid I’ve seen in a long time.” That has to at least carry some weight. Take your emotions out of it, the Phillies may be better off and may be a better team without Jimmy Rollins next year.

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Why It’s Time To Start Paying Attention To Darin Ruf.

        Every year, throughout Professional Baseball, there is that one guy who scouts, executives, and talent evaluators scratch their heads about. A player who puts up monsterous numbers, yet they don’t remember their club passing on him in any recent drafts. This season, that’s Darin Ruf of the Reading Phillies. Undrafted until his senior season at Creighton, Ruf has a baseball resume that combines success, consistency and a winning attitude; that is impressive. The problem is that scouts have always labored over whether his ability and tools would translate to the next level. He started every game of his 4 year college career at Creighton, putting up solid, consistent numbers against what many saw as mediocre college competition. His sophomore season at Creighton was the strongest, batting .374 with 8 HR’s and 57 RBI’s in 61 games. The combination of playing in a weak conference, having solid but not stellar numbers, and being a 6-3, 220 pound guy, many saw him as being able only to play first base. These stigmas made Ruf an unlikely name to see in Major League Baseball once he made it to the minor league ranks. Even within the Phillies organization, it is safe to assume many saw him as no more than an organization stuffer who could fill a roster spot.
        Baseball is different than many other sports, in that the most important aspects of whether a player can play at the next level are determined by two factors. Factors; which are not fault proof by any means; projection and ceiling. Scouts do not go by what they see generally, but what they can envision if “their organization” can work with a player, develop, and create into a Major League player. Sure, there are the Bryce Harpers’ and Mike Trouts’ who have “can’t miss talent”, but generally scouts are choosing the amount of growth they see a player having after they develop and refine their skills. Athleticism and versatility are virtual gold mines to scouts, two things which are questioned in Darin Ruf’s toolbox of talent. In Ruf’s case, he was a good baseball player, with a high understanding of baseball who continued to master hitting past what scouts thought was his “ceiling.”
        The age of Darin Ruf seems to be the biggest problem people have, but don’t let it be the determining factor on him. He is not a 26 year old drafted at 18 who has labored through long bus rides, cheap motels and crappy beer for the last 8 years. He was a 4 year college player who is in his 4th year of minor league ball on a fairly average ascension through the ranks. His eye popping season in Double A is nothing short of spectacular, and is just the continued progression of a player who has grown as a baseball player every year since joining the Phillies Organization. Ruf is batting .312 with an .402 OBP/.591 SLG/ .993 OPS. He has 29 HR’s and 83 RBI’s in 423 at bats, and is challenging for the Eastern League Triple Crown. The Phillies have also begun to play Ruf in the outfield, yielding surprisingly good results. Ruf does not have the strongest arm or the best speed, but his instincts are said to be very good and he looks like with a little fine tuning, he could become an outfield option down the road. Bottom line is those same scouts who didn’t even recognize his name are starting to take notice.
       Whether Darin Ruf is just a guy who is having his career year or a guy who is a late bloomer with major league production potential, it all remains to be seen. What is not in question is whether it is warranted to actually pay attention to a 26 year old in AA putting up Triple Crown numbers, because it is. Ruf by all accounts is a smart, instinctive, baseball player who’s work ethic and drive to get better is second to none. Those close to Reading have nothing but positive remarks about Ruf, and think this season is a sign of more to come. Reading Manager Dusty Wathan said of Ruf, “He’s a very professional guy. He’s level headed, whether he goes 0-for-4, 4-for-4, hits a couple homers or struggles, which I think is a huge asset of his.” A professional, hard working attitude who has baseball instincts and a lot of power. I can think of an organization about an hour east which lacks in those areas. It’s time to pay attention.
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