|Baseball's annual Winter Meetings take place this week|
As baseball’s Winter Meetings get underway this week in San Diego, the conferences, trade shows, and banquets will be a sideshow for the main event. That main event will be taking place in meetings behind closed doors, and in numerous phone conversations.
Player movement is what the average fan cares about, and Phillies fans are no exception. GM Ruben Amaro met with the Phillies front office staff last week in preparation for what could be a huge week in the team’s history. Or what could be a big nothing bust.
Amaro was asked to speculate on a possible trade of Cole Hamels. His response was telling, not just for Hamels, around whom trade rumors and speculation have swirled for weeks, but for any possible moves by the club.
As reported by Ryan Lawrence at Philly.com, Amaro stated: “I really can’t speculate. I don’t believe in speculation. I believe in reality.”
Actually, I have to say that this is one of the few statements made in recent months by the GM with which I am in complete agreement. I’ve never been big on wild speculation, and am more interested in reporting on and evaluating factual information and real events.
But with the Philadelphia Phillies these days, all we have is speculation. There is a publicly stated goal of getting younger, shedding salary, and moving on from the great 2003-12 decade of excellence.
This week, Amaro will continue to talk with rival GM’s, hoping to get back at least a couple of strong, young prospects in exchange for proven veterans, hoping to take the first steps forward in that rebuilding program.
Here is a look at a handful of the names on the Phillies trade block that are most likely to get moved this week:
MARLON BYRD: there has reportedly been a lot of interest in the Phillies 37-year old outfielder. He is signed for a relatively inexpensive $8 million next year, and a 2016 option at another $8 million vests if he reaches just 463 plate appearances. Healthy the last two years, he has set career highs with 24 and then 25 homeruns.
JONATHAN PAPELBON: there is interest, but the Phils would likely need to eat an unknown portion of his contract. That deal is for $13 million next season, still expensive for a closer, even in the current market. And there is an option for another $13 million which vests if he reaches just 48 Games Finished, a mark he has surpassed in all of his full seasons.
|LH reliever Antonio Bastardo is very marketable|
ANTONIO BASTARDO: he may be the single most marketable player the Phillies control. Just offered arbitration, it is likely that the 29-year old lefty reliever will make between $2.5-3 million next season. He is in the prime of his career, is healthy, is left-handed, and he strikes hitters out.
COLE HAMELS: any deal for Hamels will be complicated. He is a true Ace, a lefty, in his prime, and signed longterm at market value for his talent and experience level. You will need just the right combo of a team in contention, money to spend, and with multiple big prospects to give up. There are teams fitting the bill perfectly: Dodgers, Red Sox, Cubs. All of them have been in rumors. More possible, such as the Cardinals, Angels and Giants. There is no rush, and if the exact right offer doesn’t come along, Hamels would become a big target again in the 2015 season at the trade deadline. The decision of free agents like Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and James Shields may directly impact a Hamels deal.
JIMMY ROLLINS: don’t be surprised if a couple of teams jump up on the Phils all-time Hits leader. The shortstop has been a franchise icon for more than a decade. He can still play shortstop at a high level, and he still produces at the plate. But having just turned 36, the only way he waives his no-trade clause is for a perceived winner. The Dodgers and Yankees might fit the bill. He has already reportedly turned down a possible deal to the Mets, signaling he wants to win in 2015 if he leaves.
BEN REVERE: the Phils really don’t want to deal him. Revere is just 26 and goes to arbitration for the first time. He should be affordable, and a late-season ankle injury is reportedly healed. He hit .306 last year with 49 steals. And he is a really nice guy, the type fans will grown to love. All of which just makes him more marketable too.
THE FIELD: the team is on record as saying that anyone is gettable, but that is not likely true. Young players like Ken Giles and Maikel Franco are part of the future and going nowhere. The team would indeed trade Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz and Domonic Brown. But age or price or injury or production concerns make any deals involving these players unlikely. But you never know what another team might like, and Amaro will listen to anything.
Amaro gave this nugget to reporters over the weekend “I’m actually probably optimistic about what’s been going on, dialogue-wise, some of the things we’ve discussed externally and internally. It’s been a very, very active communication market so far…there’s been a lot of dialogue in a variety of areas.”
That is saying a very little in a whole lot of words, and I think that’s just how Amaro likes it. The Phillies will be quiet until they aren’t. Until then, a great deal of speculation will swirl around the club during these Winter Meetings. That’s all it will be, even from the “insiders” crowd.