The trade deadline has come and gone, and Philadelphia Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. continues to frustrate Phillies fans. After winning the World Series in 2009 with a core of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels, Amaro assembled a team that figured to be a dynasty. Well, that ship has sailed, yet Amaro continues to hold on to the hope that these former All-Stars will get better with age and somehow repeat the 2009 season.
Sitting at 47-61 on July 31, it’s obvious that the dream of this core having another run is not going to happen. So, here is what should have happened, and what should happen going forward, if I was the general manager of the Phillies.
Let me preface this by saying that, as a Braves fan, I hate the Phillies and hope they suffer for years to come because of this stupidity, but I’m also a baseball fan, and I hate to see a team and its fan base subjected to this level of frustration because of the lunacy of a general manager.
Move #1 — This one is easy: Marlon Byrd should have been traded before the deadline. The Phillies signed an aging player to a bad contract, but lucky for them, he’s actually performing well and teams covet his services. The Phillies could have moved him for a B-level prospect and rid themselves of the $8 million he’s owed next year and the possible $8 million he’s owed in 2016. In 2013, the Mets traded Byrd in August for a team’s top 10 prospect, so there is still hope Amaro can get this done.
Move #2 — Jonathan Papelbon has got to go. He’s having an outstanding year, and there are plenty of teams that could use a proven closer in the postseason. The problem is no one wants to touch that ridiculous contract Amaro gave him. He’s owed $13 million next year and has a vesting option for another $13 million in 2016. The Phillies should be willing to eat $8-$10 million just to get rid of him, while also saving a little money.
Move #3 — A.J. Burnett should have been traded. He was brought in to fill the void behind Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels in case they found the magic. Now that we all realize that’s not happening, it’s time to move on. Part of the problem is Burnett has contemplated retirement and might not want to accept a trade unless it’s to a team of his choice. He has a mutual option for $15 million next year, which includes a $7.5 million option if the team declines the option and the player accepts the option. Some playoff contender would love his services for a B-level prospect.
Move #4 — Move number 4 was to trade Cliff Lee and eat as much money as they have to, but as I was typing, he left Thursday’s game with an elbow strain, which had him on the shelf for two months earlier this season. Lee’s season is probably done, and the Phillies are most likely stuck with this expensive contract. He’ll get paid $25 million next year before his deal ends.
Move #5 — If you were going to move Rollins, it would have behooved you to do it before the deadline. He has veto rights, so that makes things difficult, but he’s broken every Phillies record, and I would think he’d accept a trade to a contender, which would save the Phillies roughly $3-$4 million this year, and possibly $11 million next year — depending on whether or not his vesting option would have kicked in.
Move #6 — We just saw a similar scenario with the Atlanta Braves having to cut ties with Dan Uggla, and I think it’s time the Phillies made a similar move with Ryan Howard. The Braves only had to pay around $20 million to let Uggla go, while the Phillies would have to fork out over $60 million to cut Howard! That’s a steep price, but the guy is doing nothing but taking up playing time for someone who could produce now and in the future. If they were able to find a suitor for Howard, the Phillies should be willing to eat $50 million of that $60 million.
I definitely don’t envy Amaro Jr. He’s in a difficult situation trying to unload old players with bad contracts, but these guys are still productive and could be of use to other teams. Also, there have been signs of this decline for a couple of years now, and Amaro did nothing to help the Phillies organization prepare for the future.
So, let’s consider the impact of these moves:
- Move Byrd, free up $8 million for next year and get a back-of-the-rotation prospect in return.
- Move Papelbon, save $6 million for next year, get an outfield prospect in return.
- Move Burnett, save a possible $15 million for next year, get an outfield prospect in return.
- Hope Lee doesn’t have to have Tommy John surgery and you can move him during the offseason or before next year’s trade deadline.
- Move Rollins, free up $11 million for next year. Take anything you can get in return.
- Dump Howard, hopefully save $5 million for the following two years.
If Amaro is wise enough to make these realistic moves, the Phillies could free up $45 million for the 2015 season. That would create enough money to spend on free agents during the offseason to help turn the ship around. The Phillies are in bad shape, and everyone knows it, but this could have been prevented by a general manager who’s a bit more forward-thinking. It’s time for Amaro Jr. to quit looking to the past and realize it’s time to let these guys go, before he’s let go.